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by Deb Shaw

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants is currently exhibiting works by Donnett Vanek: “California Wildflowers and Pollinators,” January 18 through April 25, 2020.

Donnett’s exhibition is in the Theodore Payne Gallery at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants
10459 Tuxford Street
Sun Valley, CA
91352
818-768-1802

This is Donnett’s story about the exhibition and her work:

by Donnett Vanek, posted by Deb Shaw

Donnett Vanek, © 2020, all rights reserved: California Thistle Sage; dry brush watercolor  Painted Lady & San Joaquin Milkvetch; dry brush watercolor  Dried Jimsonweed seed pod; graphite

Donnett Vanek, © 2020, all rights reserved. Clockwise from left: California Thistle Sage, dry brush watercolor; Painted Lady & San Joaquin Milkvetch, dry brush watercolor; Dried Jimsonweed seed pod, graphite

Each year the Theodore Payne Arts Council invites three artists whose work reflects the mission of the foundation—to promote and educate the public on California wildflowers and plants. This is a wonderful opportunity for local California artists and is offered every year through the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants (TPF) Arts Program. Information about submissions and the call for art is on the Theodore Payne website Arts Program page.

In fall of 2018, I was invited to have a solo show of my work in January 2020 at Theodore Payne. I chose California Wildflowers & Pollinators as my theme.

The exhibition invitation started me on a year-long journey into a subject I was already interested in. With my camera in hand and my husband accompanying me, I started looking for plants I would like to learn more about and that, through my art, would interest people in the native ecology of California. We went to Carrizo National Plains, hiking in Los Padres National Forest, Wind Wolves Preserve, and the Poppy Preserve in Antelope Valley in search of plants and pollinators. I take my camera when researching native plants in the field, because places like the Carrizo Plains National Monument doesn’t appreciate it when you cut native flowers! So, I take my camera and take many photos from all angles. I then go back and research the plants and insects that I have found and use the photos for reference when rendering the art.

One of the most interesting plants I came across in the Carrizo National Plains was the California Thistle Sage, Salvia carduacea. Although it is called a sage, all sages are actually in the mint family. This plant grew in a huge meadow, alongside San Joaquin Milkvetch, Astragalus asymmetricus. Fluttering between the two plants were Painted Lady butterflies and large red beetles, which I later learned were Little Bear Scarabs, Paracotalpa ursina. These would be the first plants and insects I decided to render for my show. I went on to have a total of 12 artworks of native plants and pollinators. I not only included plants I thought would be unusual to the general public, but also chose to do a rendering of a dandelion, specifically the Spearleaf Mountain Dandelion, which grows in my yard. Like all dandelions, it is an important source of food for all bees and other pollinators. I worked on these pieces throughout 2019. My show at the Theodore Payne Gallery is a reflection of my year long research and rendering of California Wildflowers and Pollinators.

My work is rendered in Dry Brush Water Color, Graphite and Block Print.

Here is my (short) Artist’s Statement;

Donnett Vanek: California Wildflowers and Pollinators

I think of my renderings of California wildflowers and pollinators as portraits. My art is a way to put down on paper what I have observed and depict the never-ending and intriguing variations of color, shape, texture, and size of plants and insects in the natural world. When I observe these plants in their native habitat I’m interested in where they grow, how they grow, how large they grow and the unique relationships they have with pollinators. Through my work, I hope to encourage people to consider the important role that native plants play in the ecology of our California landscape. Look more closely before pulling what you consider to be a weed. It might be the humble Spearleaf Mountain Dandelion. While at first glance, a dandelion may not seem as intriguing as the brightly colored and thorny Thistle Sage, it’s no less important to pollinators and the world of native plants. Go out and enjoy nature, look closely, look down; you just might be stepping on a tiny beautiful flower that you have never seen before.

Click here to see a YouTube video of Donnett’s talk at the opening. (NOTE: It was taken with a phone, and so sometimes is sideways!)

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