The Suffolk University Gallery is the Art & Design Department’s main exhibition space. Located on the sixth floor of the Sawyer Building, the gallery presents exciting exhibits and related programs that reflect our increasingly visual and image-driven world. The gallery aims to engage the whole Suffolk community while adding to larger conversations taking place in Greater Boston's cultural arena. Exhibits of student work from all departments, as well as themed curated exhibitions, provide an important link between and for students, faculty, and visitors.
Poetic Botany: Artists and Plants
March 1 – April 23, 2021
The greatest flower artists have been those who have found beauty in truth; who have understood plants scientifically, but who have yet seen and described them with the eye and hand of the artist.
—Wilfrid Blunt, The Flower Artist in The Art of Botanical Illustration, 1950
There has long been a strong relationship between plants, the scientists who study them and the artists who visualize and draw them. During the Age of Discovery, (early 15th century to early 17th century), when botanical illustrators accompanied plant hunters, botanical illustration became a way of making a record of what a plant looked like. This enabled the scientists working in botanical gardens to make sense of the dried specimens of plants being brought back from overseas expeditions. Watercolor studies of the plants were made on board ship, and were painted to indicate color and morphology.
This exhibit takes a look at the way this group of contemporary artists working in a variety of ways, express their passion and interest in botany, which expands their own fascination with florae. Their work brings into focus the importance and the imperative of sustaining the living planet. The earlier artists were part of a great moment of discovery. Their ‘progeny’, both artists and scientists, task themselves as stewards of what literally nourishes us all.
This pursuit is reflexive, that is, the study of plants is a way of understanding our own species and helps to understand what we need to do to sustain the planet for all species. What we see and observe (this is in regards to plants as well as many other fields) is the key to knowledge and paying attention to that knowledge. Of interest in the current moment is the relationship of gardening and the importance of plants in times of crisis and also the notion of plant blindness.
Video tour of Poetic Botany exhibit
Beth Galston’s project Leaf Prints 2017-2019 is part of an ongoing series of large-scale inkjet prints of decayed leaves. She thinks of them as “portraits.” The leaves are scanned at a high resolution and printed at a larger-than- person-size scale. Most of the leaves are 82” tall x 58” wide, creating a visceral experience that draws the viewer into the image. She is fascinated with the process of decay and how it reveals the unique inner structure of each leaf. By collecting the leaves and bringing them indoors, she is stopping the process of decay, then capturing the moment through the scanning process. We often stop looking at things we think we know well — an oak leaf, for example. By encountering the leaves at an enlarged scale and looking closely, they can be seen in new ways.
Ann Wessmann's objects and installations explore themes relating to time, memory, beauty and the ephemeral. Wessmann develops works through repetition and the accumulation of a variety of materials. Materials are chosen for their expressive potential; translucent vellum, various personal mementos such as locks of hair from family members, texts from family journals and letters and, for Poetic Botany, natural materials such as plants of many kind. The works have a strong relationship to text and textiles, pattern, transformation, order and chaos, landscape and the body.
In Leaf Series, by Jenine Sheros, the intricacies of a leaf’s veining are recreated by wrapping, stitching, and knotting together strands of human hair. She states that she was “Inspired by the delicate and detailed venation of a leaf, I began stitching individual strands of hair by hand into a water- soluble backing material. At each point where one strand of hair intersected another, I stitched a tiny knot, so that when the backing was dissolved, the entire piece was able to hold its form.”
The complex network of lines present in this work mimics the organic patterns found in nature and speaks to the natural systems of transformation, growth and decay. Allusions to the vascular tissue of plants, as well as the vascular system of the human body, exist simultaneously. In the works presented as photographs here, the installations for Ephemeral Garden were completed during an artist residency at La Maison Verte in Marnay-sur-Seine, France.
In Michelle Samour's recent series Adaption, she creates a group of drawings based on direct observation of the interior and exterior structures of plants. Drawn with a quill pen, they reference early natural history illustration. The series has led her to ask many questions including how does global warming cause plants and animals to adapt and what does that look like?
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
- The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
- Plant Blindness – Benedict Furness
- Magic in the Dirt, follow 3 small farms during the harvest of 2020 –New York Times
- Plants People Planet – Plant Blindness
- The Incredible Journey of Plants by Stefano Mancuso
- Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf – Washington Post review
- The Therapeutic Power of Gardening by Rebecca Mead – New Yorker article
- Pandemic Gardens by Petra Meyer – NPR
- The Social Life of Trees – The New York Times
- Native Plant Garden – New York Botanical Garden
- Poetic Botany
All the Marvelous Surfaces: Photography Since Karl Blossfeldt
Rebecca Louise Law
In response to COVID-19, we have had to make adjustments to reduce in-person visits to the gallery. This temporary visitor policy means that this exhibit will be limited to the Suffolk community, by appointment. To maintain a safe environment, only four visitors will be allowed in the gallery at a time. All visitors will be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. We look forward to the time when this temporary policy will no longer be needed.
Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., by appointment.
To make an appointment contact Deborah Davidson by email or at 617-816-1974