One of the planet's most important and beautiful resources—its trees—will be spotlighted in a traveling exhibition of contemporary botanical artworks, on view May 19-Aug. 27, 2018, at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA. "Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens" is organized by The New York Botanical Garden (where the exhibition is on view now through April 22) and the American Society of Botanical Artists. It is their third triennial exhibition.
"Out of the Woods" highlights the role public gardens and arboreta play in engaging visitors with trees and their ecological and utilitarian roles. It also underscores the conservation, research, and scholarship being undertaken by these public institutions.
The juried show includes 43 artworks, selected from a field of more than 200 submissions, each one depicting a tree cultivated in a public collection in locations spanning five continents. Specimens from small county arboreta are displayed alongside those from some of the world's most renowned botanical gardens, including The Huntington (as well as its nearby neighbor, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia).
Working in watercolor, oil, graphite, colored pencil, and ink, these international artists have depicted everything from seedpods to bark to an entire forest floor.
"By bringing these subjects to life through their work, this extraordinary group of botanical artists creates new pathways for communicating the beauty and value of plants to contemporary life," said James Folsom, the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens at The Huntington. "I can't think of a more critical time than now to be hosting this show and talking about this topic."
While historically botanical illustration served the scientific purpose of helping to identify and categorize plants, today it plays a significant role in educating the public about the importance of conservation. It's an increasingly urgent subject: worldwide, trees are being destroyed by deforestation, development, and the effects of climate change. The urgency resonates locally, as well: trees throughout Southern California-including many on the grounds of The Huntington—are being lost in alarming numbers to invasive pests and diseases. Botanical gardens and arboreta are at the forefront of the fight to save them. (To cite just one example: The Huntington's staff is working closely with other experts to collect data on a tiny but destructive beetle, the polyphagous shot hole borer, and collaborating on ways to address that threat.)
The planet's own well-being relies heavily on its trees: they help clean the air and moderate temperatures, provide habitat and food for animals, absorb storm water and prevent erosion, and contribute to the health of the environment in countless other ways.
"With our growing understanding of global climate issues, trees' importance to our very survival is becoming clearer," said Carol Woodin, director of exhibitions for the American Society of Botanical Artists. "Trees breathe life into us both literally and figuratively. Botanical artists are responding to this, with many in this exhibition professing a particular connection with their subjects."
A number of the trees depicted in "Out of the Woods" are familiar species that viewers will recognize from their own neighborhoods and home gardens, such as the California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), by artist Deborah Friedman, who created her detailed study of the tree's leaves, flowers, seed balls, and bark from a specimen at The Huntington. Others are more exotic, such as the Screw-Pine (Pandanus utilis), by artist Margaret Best, captured in the Bermuda Arboretum in Devonshire, Bermuda; or the Soursop Tree (Annona muricata) by Wendy Hollender, from the McBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden in Koloa, Hawaii. Even the bonsai form is represented: the show's Gold Medal winner is a stunning oil painting of a Black Pine Half-Cascade-Style Bonsai (Pinus nigra), by artist Asuka Hishiki, from a tree in the collection of the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama, Japan.
"Out of the Woods" opened at the New York Botanical Garden (Nov 18, 2017-April 22, 2018) and will travel to three other venues around the country following its stop at The Huntington: Foundry Art Centre, St. Charles, Missouri (Oct. 5 - Dec. 28, 2018); Tucson Botanical Garden, Tucson, Arizona (Jan. 25 - April 13, 2019); and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota (May 9 - Aug. 13, 2019).
The exhibition will be on view during regular public hours in the Flora-Legium gallery in The Huntington's Brody Botanical Center.
Exhibition Catalog: "Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens" is accompanied by a full-color catalog published by the New York Botanical Garden. 60 pages; paperback. $12. Available in the Huntington Store. www.thehuntingtonstore.org.
Related program: Drop-in family activities centered around botanical art will be offered in the Brody Botanical Center every afternoon from noon to 4 p.m. throughout the run of the exhibition. The activities will be facilitated by members of the Botanical Artists' Guild of Southern California (BAGSC), a chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists. An adjunct exhibition, "Amazing Trees," featuring works by BAGSC members, will be on view in an adjacent space in the Botanical Center.