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California Poppy, 50"x28", © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

California Poppy, 50″x28″, © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

by Deb Shaw

There are a wealth of exhibitions this summer in Southern California that are botanically instructive and inspirational.

One is in South Orange County. Soka University in Aliso Viejo is currently showing JW (Jimmy) Fike’s solo exhibition, Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of California, now through August 26, 2016.

Even though his medium is photography, rather than traditional painting or drawing, the intent behind Fike’s large, stark, beautiful photographs is similar to any botanical artist or illustrator:

“Within my system the plant is excavated, arranged in the studio, photographed, then illustrated digitally in such a way as to render the edible parts in color while the remaining parts, less emphatically, read as contact prints.” [Quote from Soka University website.]

Henbit, 28"x20", © JW Fike, 2014. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

Henbit, 28″x20″, © JW Fike, 2014. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

After Fike meticulously composes and arranges his specimen to emphasize key plant characteristics, he photographs it and then begins illustrating in Photoshop. Each piece may take up to three or four months to illustrate. (Sound familiar?) Each photograph references scientific illustration, contact prints, and photograms:

“I’m referencing the history of contact prints and photograms from the dawn of photography,” said Fike, noting 19th century English botanist Anna Atkins and pioneering photographer Henry Fox Talbot. “Some of the very first photographs were plant specimens on sensitized paper.” [Quote from LA Times article, Haunting flowers: The eerily beautiful California botanical art of J.W. Fike.]

Fike exhibits a symbiotic collection of edible plants from a geographic area. He has photographed more than ninety plants in “seven different states and plan to continue the survey until I’ve created a collection that spans the continental United States.” [Quote from Soka University website.]

Soap plant, 110" x 64", © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

Soap plant, 110″ x 64″, © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

Fike’s exhibition has been covered in the LA Times, and on Botanical Art & Artists by Katherine Tyrrell. His photographs and other articles can be found on his blog.

Soka University’s Founders Hall Art Gallery is located at 1 University Drive, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656, 949-480-4000,
Exhibition now through August 26, 2016
Free Admission
Monday thru Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Map and directions

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