Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blomquist Art Exhibit: Where Art Meets Nature

by Erika Zambello  

This past weekend Duke Gardens hosted its "Art and Nature: Artwork Inspired by the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants" exhibition in the Doris Duke Center. Open to visitors Friday evening and throughout Saturday and Sunday, the exhibition highlighted the artistic abilities of local artists -- including Duke Gardens' staff, volunteers, and the surrounding community -- while drawing inspiration from the beauty of the Blomquist Garden. You can still see it online.

"Cardinal Flower and Hummingbird," by Ali Givens
I arrived at the exhibit Saturday morning. Kirby Horton Hall was filled with bird sounds, as the calls of different species played over the sound system and instantly brought me closer to the natural world. The artwork was set up on vertical displays and on cloth-covered tables around the room, and against one wall a large screen portrayed photographs of the Blomquist Garden's flora and fauna.

Wild ginger vase by Sasha Bakaric
Drawn instantly to a draped, brightly colored fabric, I found myself in front of of Jacqueline Ridley Key's silk print and accompanying watercolor painting. I was amazed. She had taken a beautiful photograph of flowers from the Blomquist Garden, turned it into a small watercolor, and used Adobe Photoshop to create a repeating pattern that was then printed on silk. The effect was both colorful and intricate, and absolutely reminded me of the Native Plant Garden.

"Ginger," by Jacqueline Ridley Key
Recycled materials played an important role in some of the exhibit's pieces. In "Little Sweet Betsy," Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, used hammered and cut recycled copper to create a realistic portrayal of Trillium cuneatum. 

"It is so satisfying to work with media that would otherwise be labeled as 'scrap' and create a piece that I can enjoy year-round in the garden," Holmes wrote in the artwork's description.

In another piece, titled "A Sense of Place," Sally Boesch used tin from a broken barn roof to create a mirror frame depicting native plants.

Three works won judges' awards: "Over Our Heads," by Linda Carmel, won Best in Show; Sally Sutton's "Connected" was first runner up; and Angela Burr's "Flying Through the Blomquist" was second runner up.
"Little Sweet Betsy," by Jason Holmes
As I moved from piece to piece, I saw the garden represented in ink, paint, pencil, copper, cloth, collage and ceramic. Each work of art was unique, capturing different elements of the wooded Blomquist Garden. 

When I left the exhibit and walked into the garden itself, I paid more attention to the shafts of light streaming through the tree branches, the birds calling back and forth to each other, and the colors and shapes of the plants, the trails, the bridges. The gardens inspired the artwork in the exhibit, and the artwork stirred within me a deeper appreciation of the garden.

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

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