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By Joan Keesey
It was very gratifying to see the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California (BAGSC) so well represented at the Botanical Art Exhibit at the CNPS Conservation Conference 2012 in San Diego at the Town and Country Resort. There were thirteen pictures by seven BAGSC members: Diane Daly, Estelle DeRidder, Clara Josephs, Joan Keesey, Janice Sharp, Deborah Shaw, and Dorthea Yellot. Members of our group won some prizes as well: Deborah Shaw received a second place ribbon for her watercolor on vellum of Thread-leaved Brodiaea; Joan Keesey won a third place ribbon for her watercolor of Snake Lilies and Elegant Madia; Estelle DeRidder won an honorable mention for her colored pencil of Hummingbird Sage.
My husband and I visited the exhibit twice—once on Thursday evening and again on Saturday afternoon. On both visits there were 12-15 enthusiastic conference attendees who had taken the trouble to make the trip to the ninth floor of the Regency Towers to see the botanical art and photography. Generally the conference attendees were biologists, botanists, geologists, environmentalists and land managers—a different crowd from the usual botanical art group. The focus at most botanical art exhibits is on the artistic aspects of a work—composition, values, and technique. While this group was very appreciative of the skill displayed in the compositions, they were equally if not more interested in and enthusiastic about the actual subject matter. You overheard people say things like: “Oh, that is my favorite plant”; “Have you ever seen that beautiful sage.”; or “This is such and interesting plant. I saw it for the first time on that hike along the Merced.”
This is the second CNPS exhibit that I have participated in, and I thought that the pictures were better displayed and of a higher quality. I am particularly interested in California Native Plants, so I find a show like this a real treat. I also like botanical exhibits where there is a focus or theme. I find the juxtaposition of “Turnips & Tulips”, “Corn and Camellias”, “Radishes & Roses”, jarring and difficult to evaluate. I hope BAGSC will consider sponsoring exhibits that are more focused—a plant family such as the mustard, pea, rose or lily family, plants of a particular region, trees, succulents, etc. The options are endless, but I think it makes a more interesting and informative exhibit.