Planting an Idea – Feature article in the Times-Tribune

Planting an idea: ‘Buds, Blooms & Berries’ exhibit focuses on environment at Everhart Museum

Published: August 11, 2011
Photo: N/A, License: N/AArtist Gabrielle Senza shows the powdered graphite she has applied to her hand to create a wall drawing called “Terra Temporalis” for the Everhart Museum’s latest exhibition.

Gabrielle Senza has created a landscape with her fingertips.

Blackened with powdered graphite, her hands swept across a white wall at the Everhart Museum on a recent afternoon, leaving behind gray streaks and blots she would shape into images of trees and plants.

Ms. Senza, of Great Barrington, Mass., spent several days earlier this month producing “Terra Temporalis,” a piece that will be featured in the museum’s latest exhibition, “Buds, Blooms & Berries: Plants in Science, Culture & Art.”

The show opens Friday and features artwork from many mediums as well as plant fossils, items from the museum’s Alfred Twining herbarium and a garden planted on the museum’s front lawn specially for the show. The exhibit will remain on display through Dec. 31.

“Terra Temporalis” marks the first time Ms. Senza has worked directly on a wall, which in this case measures 11 feet by 17 feet. She chose to use powdered graphite because she “wanted it to have more of an airy and ethereal feel.”

Temporary art

Making the piece temporary – it will be painted over when the exhibition ends – was Ms. Senza’s idea as well, and it is one she said she loves. She hopes when visitors realize the piece is temporary that anyone who might still doubt “what’s going on with our environment” starts taking it more seriously.

While it is easy for individuals to feel powerless about the environment, Ms. Senza added, she hopes people who see her work might not take the environment for granted.

As a whole, the exhibit focuses on plants and how people use them, said curator Nezka Pfeifer, who attributed the inspiration for the show to Mr. Twining’s herbarium. A botanist and associate editor of The Scranton Times, Mr. Twining donated his collection of more than 1,500 specimens to the museum in 1913.

In addition to items selected from the herbarium, the exhibit will include examples of plant fossils from the earth’s carboniferous period. Forests at that time were “extremely carbon-rich,” Ms. Pfeifer said, and their eventual fossilization created coal.

“These are some of the first evidence of plant life from 350 million years ago,” Ms. Pfeifer said.

Plant diversity

Rounding out the exhibition will be artwork and artifacts focusing on how humans use plants, such as for food, clothing or inspiration. Ms. Pfeifer also wanted to include live plants, and guests can check out a small pollinator garden planted on the museum’s front lawn.

“The idea was really to show the diversity of plants that people have harvested,” she said.

The plants range from sunflowers to cotton and attract pollinators like butterflies.

“Ideally, we’re trying to create an opportunity for people to put themselves in the shoes of being a farmer,” Ms. Pfeifer said.

Helping care for the plants were members of Laurie’s Community Garden on North Irving Avenue and Vine Street, and community artwork will be featured in an exhibit running concurrently with “Buds, Blooms & Berries.”

Focusing on seven gardeners, “Sowing Seeds in the Neighborhood: Laurie’s Community Garden” features photographs of garden plots and work the community does there.

Ideally, the new exhibits will inspire people to pay more attention to the plants around them, Ms. Pfeifer said, adding that people “take so many things for granted.”

“The idea’s to really sort of wrap their minds around plants in a new way,” she said.

Contact the writer: cheaney@timesshamrock.comIf you go

What: “Buds, Blooms & Berries: Plants in Science, Culture & Art” and “Sowing Seeds in the Neighborhood: Laurie’s Community Garden” exhibitions

Where: Everhart Museum, 1901 Mulberry St.

When: On display Friday through Dec. 31. Museum is open Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

Admission: $5 adults, $3 seniors and students and $2 children 6 to 12. There is no fee for museum members and children 5 and younger.

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