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Fabulous Flora

The Beauty of Botany on Exhibit at the Ratner Museum

Nature is an inspiration for many kinds of art, but for certain artists it is the inspiration and the art itself. Seven of these local artists will participate in a botanical art exhibit, “From the Earth,” starting November 2 at the Dennis & Phillip Ratner Museum in Bethesda. 

According to Karen Coleman, one of the seven artists in this exhibit, “Botanical artists are working today in a genre that dates back many centuries, probably to the medieval ages, with monks identifying herbals. Botanical art is depicting a plant in a particular stage, from seed to flowering to fruit, in very great scientific accuracy, with each artist giving a pleasing aesthetic view of the plant.”

The artists are showing a combination of traditional botanical art, botanical illumination and nature art. Botanical illumination, explained Coleman, is an art form based on techniques used in medieval times, mostly in monasteries initially, where the monks used things like real gold and gold ink to embellish the traditional botanical art, to enhance the light of the painting. The gold would reflect the spiritual light. Nature art, Coleman added, “is just a broad term used for art that depicts anything from the natural world.”

The artists—Diane Berndt, Kathy Brahney, Judy Brown, Tina Thierme Brown, Coleman, Lee D'Zmura and Kandy Phillips--are all members of the Botanical Art Society of the National Capital Region (BASNCR). Some of the women not only have studied botanical art but teach it. Many just spent the weekend at the annual conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA)

Tina Thierme Brown’s botanical drawings fill two books on Sugarloaf Mountain, coauthored with Melanie Choukas-Bradley. Phillips specializes in nature illustration, illuminated text and medieval painting techniques, among other things enchantingly weaving together flora and fauna with the alphabet.

Judy Brown’s work ranges from bird of paradise flowers to bird-on-the-wings. Berndt thinks fungi are fun, and teaches how to paint them. Coleman’s medium is colored pencil.   Brahney has lived in Latvia and Indonesia, where she has exhibited her work, and enjoyed the orchids that are part of her painting portfolio, a counterpoint to the native specimens in her home now in Virginia. D’Zumra’s inspiration includes flowers from the Eastern Shore, where she maintains a studio in St. Michaels. 

There will be 94 works displayed in the Ratner exhibit, in media including watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, graphite, combinations of these, and embellishments of gold leaf, gold and silver ink.

The exhibit runs from November 2-28, 2011 at the Ratner Museum, with a Meet the Artists reception Sunday, November 6, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. 10001 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, 301- 897-1518.  The exhibit will be open during museum hours: Monday-Thursday 12–4 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; closed holidays.  Admission is free.

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