Four botanical art competition winners with flower power
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Four botanical art competition winners with flower power

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Flowers for spring? Groundbreaking, we know. Yet we think you’ll find something fresh among the winners of our recent Botanicals open call art competition. Balancing thorny themes like environmental degradation with the spectacular beauty of flora and fauna, this genus of Artrepreneur artists finds their talents in full bloom.

What is the history of botanical art?

The depiction of plants is an ancient art — think 4,000-year-old murals from the agrarian civilizations of ancient Egypt and Mesopotomia. These societies flourished in no small part thanks to their successful agricultural practices. You might call them the original plant people! 

Today, you’re more likely to see examples of botanical illustration, a practice that began with the Greeks in 300 BC as a means of cataloging plant life for scientific inquiry. This field was used primarily to pass down medicinal information about plants to continuing generations. Before photography could capture such details, botanical illustrators transmitted important technical knowledge with spectacular beauty to share the power of botany with researchers and the world. The first published example is Greek botanist Pedanius Dioscorides’ book “De Materia Medica,” which debuted between 50 and 70 CE. As printing processes grew more sophisticated, botanical illustrators enjoyed widespread respect and even fame, with one notable example including Pierre-Joseph Redouté, whose stunning lilies, roses, and other plant portraits captured the courts of Marie Antoinette and Josephine Bonaparte.
Plants have also captured our spiritual imagination in Greek and Roman mythology, with stories featuring the hyacinth and narcissus, as well as in Eastern philosophy in which the lotus is a symbol of enlightenment, and Christian religious iconography. Centuries of artists have been inspired by botanicals for their symbolic, practical and aesthetic expression, from their medicinal qualities to their sensual luxury. 

 

Decorating with botanical art

As the proliferation of house plants proves, bringing the outdoors indoors is a popular decorating move. But what about those of us with black thumbs? From traditional to contemporary decorating styles, botanical art is a crowd pleaser that adds color and pop to any room.

Fans of the grandmillenial aesthetic have embraced vintage botanical illustration à la Redouté. A gallery wall of botanical prints in matching frames works in almost any room and can be tailored to any color palette by selecting complementary florals. Some decorators hunt for published books of botanical illustration to frame; you could also consider purchasing prints in a series by the same artist, or mixing and matching with a unified color scheme (such as banana leaves and dramatic monstera).  

Want to take botanical art a step further? Look to original botanical art from these Artrepreneur Open Call winners for some plants you don’t have to talk to (unless you want to. We don’t judge.) 

 

Growing beyond the borders of traditional botanical art

The Botanical Open Call Art Competition winners draw from the rich history of botanical art with their own hybrid forms of expression.

  • Inspired by cherished childhood memories of summer strawberry picking, McKenzie Allison Floyd created her winning work “Shelf Life” (pictured above) in June 2020 as she was quarantining at her parents’ place. “I was experiencing, for the first time in many years, spring and summer at the farm that I still call home,” Floyd writes. “[This piece] addresses the dichotomies inherent to each organism’s existence – life and death, growth and decay – and the delicate balance between them that humans constantly try to manipulate.”
  • Katleen Van der Gucht’s Traces might echo most back to vintage botanical arts origins. Her work incorporates collected botanical material and is imbued with the artist’s hope to share the magic and fragility of plants during a time of environmental threats. It has a loose feeling of an antique painted photograph, with a sort of plaster circus of wonders and curiosities vibe, said Artrepreneur curator-at-large Michael Porten.
Four botanical art competition winners with flower power
Traces (2021) by Kathleen Van Der Gucht

 

  • Chops. Chops. Chops. If you want to see what can be done with a bit of pigment on the end of a hairy stick, look no further, Porten said of Celt Duk’s Timeless depiction of a fiery rose, rendered in oil paints.
Four botanical art competition winners with flower power
Timeless (2017) by Celt Duk
 
  • Polish and German artist Monika Deimling, an interdisciplinary artist working with photography, embroidery, and art film, created abstract botanical art in a series, including this winning untitled work.  “You don’t need a lot of color to make something colorful, and sometimes it takes a chaotic interpretation to be succinct,” Porten said. “Add a dash of whimsy in your visual attitudes to let folks know the gravitas of your endeavors carries with it a slapstick suggestion to not take ourselves too seriously.”

Four botanical art competition winners with flower power
Untitled By Monika Deimling

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As these Open Call Winners show, botanical art is about more than just beauty. Which one is your favorite? What botanical art do you love to decorate with? Let us know in the comments below.

 

About the author

Jordan Baker

Jordan Baker (b. 1981) is an artist and curator living and working in the Hudson Valley, New York. Jordan was born on a naval base in Winterpark, Florida. She attended Tufts University, and received a BFA in Art History from Syracuse University, and an MFA in mixed media from SUNY Albany.

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