Flora by Four Contemporary Artists

Four artists interpret plant life in exhibit

By Ivette M. Yee
Times-Union staff writer

Forget what you know about flowers

In "NEOBOTANICA: Flora by Four Contemporary Artists," an exhibit at the Jacksonville Museum of Art that began yesterday and runs through Jan. 18, pristine petals and delicate forms give way to edgy shapes and raw symbolism The exhibit showcases the diverse styles of David Collins and David Geiser, both from New York, Timothy McDowell of Connecticut and Barbara Rogers of Arizona. And each artist approaches nature in a slick and contemporary way Traditional still life images slide away. Burnt sienna, dusty orange and midnight hues replace traditional bright reds and greens.

"Artists throughout history have been using flowers as inspiration for art," said George Kinghorn, curator of the exhibition. "But the way these artists have approached the subject is in very different ways. These images are much more thought-provoking."

"NEOBOTANICA: Flora by Four Contemporary Artists"

Where: Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, 333 N. Laura St., Hemming Plaza.

When: Through Jan. 18.

Gallery hours are 11 a.m.

to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Cost: Free.

Note: Lunch Time Lecture Series Nov. 28 at noon.

Information: (904) 366-6911.

For example, in Rogers' Emblems of a Microcosm, both beauty and hostility pervade. Vegetational forms overlap vinelike tendrils that dance among dark passages and illuminated spaces. The painting symbolizes the artist's own desire for inner peace, in a world full of tempest.

"It's both beautiful and sinister in the same instance," Kinghorn said.

The atmosphere in David Collins' painting differs. Influenced by ancient Buddhist paintings, American quilt patterns and graphic media, Collins uses both powdery and bold colors to animate images that suspend in space. His botanicals resemble chrysanthemums and lotus flowers that float on the canvas.

In all the works, Kinghorn points out the botanical images hover in space with no reference to a ground plane or directional horizon. Spatial dynamics are challenged, and there is a quality of abstract realism in each piece.

Fluctuating between the familiar and the abstract, Timothy McDowell's paintings layer plant matter in intricate ways. In Treacle and Spice, the artist paints pitch black plant pieces amidst a blush background. He uses encaustic, a blend of beeswax, pigment and glue to create deep and luminous surfaces.

There is also a radiant quality in the works of David Geiser. To produce images that resemble geological finds and fused fossils, Geiser affixes torn parchment for a grainy background. The result is an abstract garden of seed pods, leafy forms and jagged brushstrokes of mossy green that combine and radiate in earth tones,

"Geiser's linear forms are not merely illustrations of botanicals, but rather organic forms filtered through the artist's intellect," Kinghorn said.

For this exhibit, Kinghorn chose from a pool of 30 national artists who submitted their work.

"This is definitely an exhibit for lovers of painting," he said. "As a subject for observance, nature is limitless for providing inspiration."