Bedford Gallery exhibit celebrates plant life
By Lou Fancher
Like a vine with deep roots, plant life winds its way through centuries of art history.
Blooming from paintings of 16th and 17th century Flemish masters and swayed by the stylized approach of Post-Impressionists the 21st century manifestation of Mother Nature in art is on display through Sept. 6, at the Bedford Gallery's "Botanica: All Things Plant Life."
The juried exhibit features approximately 200 works of art from 132 national, California, and local artists.
Nature's abundance comes in many forms -- from Natalie Novak's "The Emperors," a wool on cotton-warp wall hanging of two silhouetted trees -- to Karen Clark's "Oasis," a cell tower/palm tree digital photo collage on gloss aluminum.
Bridging the expanse from ancient weavers to the Photoshop era, there's the more traditional watercolor, pen and ink expression of Carrie Di Costanzo's "Dahlia," and Sean Talamini's bearded figure in acrylic on wood in "Be Still So That I May Grow."
The works of 38 East Bay artists are among those included in the show.
Artist Joy Broom's eight watercolor studies are of flora found during wanderings in Oaxaca, Mexico.
"I try to combine the heady beauty of biological and botanical systems with the order of icons," says the Martinez-based artist, who had a childhood habit of filling her pockets with tidbits of nature, and who later studied the realistic illustrations of Albertus Seba's plants, animals and insects.
Using a beeswax coating to bind the elements, Broom says the collected flora sat in her studio for a year before she mounted them on handmade paper and added dried leaves and corn husks. Each item is arranged centrally on separate, lined squares of paper to attract attention to differences in form and texture.
Concord artist Marcos LaFarga has a more graphic piece of red roses and word, "Bloom," and tiny squares and x's sprinkled on raw wood.
"This piece is a further extension of the cutout wood forms that I have been experimenting with. The roses and type are painted with acrylic, my usual medium," he says.
Capturing realism is his goal, but his work is inspired by past travel experiences, world history, and his interpretations of graphic design standards and traditions. But the realistic painter admires impressionists. "An artist I often look to is Claude Monet."
Bridgette Thornton grew up in Moraga, where hikes in nearby Canyon resulted in photographs of mushrooms, wildlife and wildflowers. The latter worked their way into her "Two Lips," a pair of tulips created as a cyanotype.
The process uses light-sensitive paper and results in the object's shadow appearing in ghostly, soft form.
"Flowers represent life's major events. They are used to celebrate new life, death and the many moments between," she says. "The flowers in 'Two Lips' imitate the interaction of two bodies."
San Francisco artist Christine Aria Hostetler says about her submission to the exhibit, "Honestly, for me it's always about people first, and other elements, in this case the botanical, after or within that."
" Orchid," a life-size watercolor, pen-and-ink painting of a flower delivery man she spotted in New York City, is a visual story she says is found in a furrowed brow, wrinkled clothing -- and the manner in which the man held his potted plant.
"He smiled a little when I asked to photograph him for a painting," she says, "then struck this nonchalant pose, orchid carefully cradled in his arms."
Hostetler is a city dweller without access to a field of wildflowers or a garden and has come to value nature. If there is one thing held in common by the artwork in the exhibit it is a devotion to preserving and celebrating nature's bounty.