NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI — Spring has arrived in southern Rhode Island and if you’re looking to take a metaphorical “nature walk,” the Wickford Art Association’s new exhibit titled “Botanical Inspiration” might be the place to go. .
The show, which opened earlier this month and will run until May 8, is comprised of paintings, photographs, sculptures, collages and more, all inspired by flora and fauna. The gallery even chose an experienced botanical painter, Lorraine Bromley, to judge the exhibition.
For nearly two decades, Bromley spent a quarter of each year painting plants at an artist colony in Costa Rica. She and her husband rent a house there with “a beautiful garden,” Bromley said, and she uses the time to focus on painting.
It is therefore not surprising that the Wickford Art Association chose her to judge Botanical Inspiration. Bromley said she was honored to be chosen – particularly, she said, because the exhibition is a national exhibition, meaning artists from across the country were invited to submit their work .
And they did. The gallery received over 166 entries and Bromley chose 62 pieces to display.
“I was surprised at how many out-of-state submissions were selected,” said exhibiting artist Frances Topping. “Which made it a more varied show, I think.”
Among the out-of-state bidders was artist Kathleen Echevarria, who sent a ceramic sculpture of mushrooms growing next to a teapot. The sculpture is titled “Tenmoku Teapot Set with Fungi Stand”.
“Mushrooms are nature’s natural recyclers,” Echevarria said. “They renew the earth, as tea does for the drinker.”
Echevarria is an undergraduate studio art student at Queens University in Charlotte in North Carolina and she applied for the exhibit after one of her assignments was to submit to an exhibit that closely matched his work.
Closer to home, Topping — a Rhode Islander — won honorable mention for her submission, a three-sheet watercolor titled “Fallen Beauties.”
Topping said the show suited her well as she frequently paints botany and nature. She painted oak seedlings, pine cones, flowers, feathers and more.
Another exhibiting artist, Linda Peduzzi, said she was in a “heavy phase” of painting landscapes and flowers. Peduzzi has three pieces in the show, including its first winner – a painting titled “Maine Swept” which depicts Monhegan, an island in Maine.
Peduzzi went to Monhegan with a group of artists in September 2019. She was inspired by the painting after falling in love with the island and ended up creating a piece of work which she called her “personal painting”.
“It meant so much to me,” Peduzzi said of his first-place finish. “I guess I was so glad someone else saw the feeling I had in it. I’m very surprised.
Artist Molly Cairney also submitted a very personal piece to the show: a collage, titled “Birthroot”, which she said she created while simultaneously going through a divorce, training for a marathon and starting a new relationship. .
As she completed the marathon in southeast Ohio, Cairney ran past blooming trillium flowers that ended up inspiring her artwork.
“For the 26.2 miles I kept seeing these bands of white and burgundy trillium flowers and it seemed like a nod to what I was going through in my life – cycles of renewal and rebirth” , Cairney said. “Going through something really difficult but encountering beauty along the way.”
Although she grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives in Ohio, Cairney has ties to Rhode Island – her grandmother, who lived in Middletown, had an “amazing garden” and visited her every summer.
“So the call for entries seemed almost directed at me,” Cairney said.
The call for submissions also caught the attention of David McCrae, an artist based in Washington state, who said the exhibit was very relevant to his work and allowed him to exhibit it across the country. .
McCrae has three works in the exhibit, all of which are images captured with a flatbed scanner that he manipulated using Photoshop.
“The subject initially came from the pantry and the garden. Food and flowers,” McCrae said. “Simple but not banal subjects, because they nourish the body and the spirit.”
Peduzzi said she encourages audiences to come see Botanical Inspiration for “a bit of joy.”
“It will lift your heart,” she said of the show. “It’s a beautiful place and a beautiful, beautiful sight.”