Weird, Wild and Wonderful Exhibition Opens at the New York Botanical Gardens

by Deb Shaw

The American Society of Botanical Artist’s (ASBA) contemporary botanical art show, entitled “Weird, Wild, & Wonderful” will open on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in the Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). The exhibition will be on display to the public from April 19 – September 21, 2014, and admission is included in any all-garden pass.

The Second New York Botanical Garden Triennial invited artists to seek visually unusual plants and create works of art that celebrate the bizarre, yet beautiful flora of the world.

Jurors Lugene Bruno, Curator of Art, Hunt Institute; Jean Emmons, Botanical Artist; and Marc Hachadourian, Manager of the Nolen Greenhouses, NYBG, pored over the 240 entries, selecting 46 artworks by 45 artists from the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Japan and the United Kingdom. Shirley Sherwood, D. Phil, Caroline A. Wamsler, Ph.D., and Jean Emmons form the Awards Jury, which will meet on April 16 to select recipients of The New York Botanical Garden Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals. Recipients of The New York Botanical Garden Medals will be presented by NYBG CEO Gregory Long at the opening reception.

More information about the exhibition, including the complete list of accepted artists can be found on the ASBA website. The exhibition catalog is available in The New York Botanical Garden’s shop in the garden, or online from ArtPlantae. ASBA members receive a discount on the catalog.

Five BAGSC members had works accepted into the “Weird, Wild, & Wonderful” exhibition: Margaret Best, Akiko Enokio, Joan Keesey, Lisa Pompelli, and Deborah Shaw.


Margaret Best, Tillandsia bulbosa, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.

Margaret Best, Tillandsia bulbosa, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.


Margaret Best had her watercolor of Tillandsia bulbosa accepted. Margaret wrote that she wanted to send thanks to Leslie Walker, Debbie Friedman and Deborah Shaw for helping her access Jeffrey Kent’s incredible Bromeliad collection near San Diego, where she discovered this remarkable specimen. This was one of the few paintings of Margaret’s that was not destroyed in the Calgary flood last June, which makes the painting as weird, wild, and wonderful as the subject matter.


Akiko Enokido, Tacca chantrieri, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.

Akiko Enokido, Tacca chantrieri, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.


Akiko Enokido painted Tacca chantrieri, also known as “Cat Whiskers” or the “Bat Flower” in watercolor. She writes that it is named after the long bracts that emanate from the flower scape. This flowering plant is part of the yam family, Dioscoreaceae, which grows in the tropical forest of Yunnan Province, China, India, and East Asia. In such places, the roots are used as food. She found this mysterious plant at The Kyoto Uji-city Botanical Garden in Japan, blooming inside the green house in mid-June. She says, “I was just fascinated by the shape and the process in which the “cat” developed.”


Joan Keesey, Sarcodes sanguinea, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.

Joan Keesey, Sarcodes sanguinea, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.


Joan Keesey painted a watercolor of Sarcodes sanguinea, the Snow Plant. The Snow Plant, native to Western North America, and found from Oregon through California into Baja California, and is one of the first plants to appear in the Sierra Nevada in early spring just after the snow has melted. Because the landscape is still wintery and bleak, the Snow Plant is a real treat to find. The brilliant red color is quite shocking and unexpected. The botanical name, Sarcodes sanguinea, means bloody flesh. A really good fresh plant can look almost manufactured like a toy made out of bright red, red-orange, or rose-colored plastic.

Joan writes that the Snow Plant is a member of the Heath Family (Ericaceae) and a mycotrophic (fungus eating) plant. It is unable to photosynthesize and is a parasitic plant that derives sustenance from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to the roots of trees. The Snow Plant does not, however, kill the fungi. They have a symbiotic relationship; the Snow Plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus, and in return the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water, and protection from pathogens. The Snow Plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the tree, the photosynthetic partner, by way of the fungus.


Lisa Pompelli, Scadoxus puniceus, watercolor, © 2014, all rights reserved.

Lisa Pompelli, Scadoxus puniceus, watercolor, © 2014, all rights reserved.


Lisa Pompelli painted Scadoxus puniceus, an African Blood Lily, in watercolor. She stated, “I look forward to seeing this strange flower appear in my garden each year and I hope to get seeds from it someday.  This is the first time I have entered one of my botanicals in an ASBA show, and I am thrilled to be included.”


Deborah Shaw, Pisolithus tinctorius, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.

Deborah Shaw, Pisolithus tinctorius, watercolor. © 2014, all rights reserved.


Deborah Shaw painted a watercolor of Pisolithus tinctorius, also know as the Dog Turd Fungus, Dead Man’s Foot, or Dyemaker’s Puffball. Pisolithus tinctorius is frequently described in the literature as the least attractive of all fungi. P. tinctorius starts out as a ball shape when young, but then grows into bizarre monstrous shapes like stumps or giant molars. It is an ectomycorrhizal fungus that gets its nutrition in a mutualistic association with tree roots—an association that helps trees access scarce nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate. It inhabits poor and disturbed soils, can withstand drought, high temperatures in the summer, acidic soils and soils contaminated with heavy metals and mine tailings. It is so beneficial to tree growth it is widely used in reforestation projects.

Congratulations to all! Weird, Wild & Wonderful promises to be an exciting show!

#botanicalart #AkikoEnokido #JoanKeesey #botanicalartexhibition #TheHorticulturalSocietyofNewYork #AmericanSocietyofBotanicalArtists #MargaretBest #artexhibition #ASBA #LisaPompelli #DeborahShaw #watercolor

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