"THEN I WISHED THAT I COULD COME BACK AS A FLOWER": SUMMER AT THE US BOTANIC GARDENS with EXHIBITS SPECIALIST DEVIN DOTSON AND MURAL ARTIST NEKISHA DURRETT
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In preparation of the Fourth of July Holiday, we head to Washington, DC and the United States Botanic Garden. This summer, the USBG hosts two intriguing indoor exhibits to complement the gardens themselves – one of these: “Botanical Art Worldwide: America’s Flora,” celebrates native plants of North America and features 46 botanical illustrations. The second exhibit: "Wall Flowers: Botanical Murals," showcases six large-scale murals exploring botanicals in a variety of ways.
This week on Cultivating Place, we’re joined by a USBG exhibit staff specialist, Devin Dotson and artist Nekisha Durrett, to hear more about the exhibits and the process journey of one of the pieces on display in the decidedly different mural exhibit "Wall Flowers."
"Wall Flowers: Botanical Murals," showcases six large-scale murals measuring as large as 16 feet, all exploring our relationship to the botanical world in some way.
"Plants in these murals communicate the aesthetic, ecological, and historic importance of plants in the urban environment. This exhibit features large-scale art by local artists who specialize in public murals that beautify our cities. Their murals depict plants using bold colors and monumental scale. The exhibit fosters creative conversations about botanical art and new ways to communicate the important roles plants play in our lives."
Art featured in the exhibit, with some of the plants featured in the artwork include:
"Then I Wished That I Could Come Back As A Flower," Nekisha Durrett. 8 x 16 feet
cotton, Spanish moss, lotus, cedar, eucalyptus
"The Flowers In The Alley," Kellie Cox. 5 x 10 feet
“I’m very much interested in the layers of meaning an object can hold and mining those interpretations and bringing to the fore imagery or figuration that is largely unseen."
Nekisha Durrett, Artist
Beside the renowned plant collection, the USBG regularly hosts exhibits related to horticulture and the importance of plant life to us all in a diversity of ways. The "Wall Flowers" exhibit as a whole explores the cultural narratives held and carried forward in plants. These perspectives can be wildly different based on a viewer’s perspective and history.
Nekisha Durrett’s large scale piece: "Then I Wished That I Could Come Back As A Flower" is a perfect example of this as it juxtaposes the complex history of cotton in the US and the ongoing complexity of our relationships and associations with it as a culture.
Both the "Wall Flowers" and the "Botanical Art Worldwide: American’s Flora" exhibits run through October 15th. Throughout the exhibit runs, the USBG will offer programs, workshops, lectures, and tours related to the exhibits, including opportunities to meet the artists, watch as artists paint large murals, and even participate in painting a new mural.
Visit http://www.USBG.gov/WallFlowers to learn more about the exhibits and associated programs.The U.S. Botanic Garden is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Conservatory is located at 100 Maryland Ave. SW, on the southwest side of the U.S. Capitol. More information is available at www.USBG.gov
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Sometimes I send out an inquiry about a potential episode and think it’s going to be one thing and then when we get into it – it’s really different – sometimes, I will be honest – I have to scramble some to keep up. Other times, I have to just shut up and listen. Really listen. Today I had to practice listening – not jumping in to cover over, explain, or try to "fix" - JUST LISTEN. I wasn’t perfect – but I practiced. And in listening more gently and openly we learn. I learned more about Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, the Bengali plant AND radio scientist, as well as a lot more about George Washington Carver.
In her interpretive sign for her piece "Then I Wished That I Could Come Back As A Flower", Nekisha cites this about Carver, a noted African American botanist: “He was born into slavery and went on to revolutionize agriculture through his research and teaching in crop rotations, alternative cash crops, soil health and agricultural products. Carver believed there was much to be learned by ‘listening’ to nature. He wrote: ‘More and more as we come closer in touch with nature and its teachings are we are able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us.”
It’s in the listening that we hear.
I am hoping your solstice season is lovely one. With the 4th of July holiday upon us, it can be easy to be caught up in extremes – extreme patriotism, extreme critique – extreme judgement. As my garden and trail time teaches me daily, our diversity is what makes us strong. And every individual and communal niche has a valuable role to play for the vigor and vibrancy and strength of the whole.
As you will hear Nekisha also say toward the end of our conversation, I’m really proud of the work of our US Botanic gardens and the role of public gardens everywhere bringing people together around plants because as you know I believe – it all comes back to plants, people.
I hope you get out and enjoy some plants and the fresh air they provide to us for yourself this early summer season (and how did your contemplative pollinator count in the garden go from last week? Send me an update if you can – I’ve been loving the ones I’ve gotten! THANK YOU to everyone who wrote in with their experiences.)
Which brings me to thank you ALL – again – always for listening and learning along with me. You ever an expanding community of people who write to me and comment on Instagram and Facebook, who respond with pictures and thoughts to the monthly A VIEW FROM HERE email - who generously share the program forward with others – your feedback means the world to me and Sarah and Cultivating Place.
So, thank you.
This is a listener and community supported endeavor and you are every bit as much a part of my garden life as the birds and bees and bugs and beauty. My greatest hope for Cultivating Place is to have conversations about these things we love and that connect us all. Together we gardeners and nature lovers make a difference for the better in this world. …
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