By Fiona Ackerman
These images are from a series of paintings inspired by the works of botanical artists, mainly women, who documented plants and flowers for scientific purposes.
At a time when visual arts as a vocation was almost exclusively dominated by men, a handful of women had significant careers; their work survives in the annals of science, offering a powerful testament to how women’s creativity flourished, at a time when it was more often stifled by the marketplace and social structures. While it was acceptable, even desirable, for women to pursue painting and drawing as a hobby in the 17th and 18th Centuries, botanical artists were able to forge important artistic and scientific careers, and earn a living.
What struck me, as I discovered their substantial body of work, was the powerful tension between the medium’s requirement for accuracy, documentation, and the dynamic of interpretation, which motivates the artist. Almost always, they look at nature and find a tangled garden. A lady’s ambivalence to the rough. An artist’s reaction to life in the full, away from the drawing room.
With Herbaria, I set out to take history and science into the realm of abstraction and free aesthetic expression. It was gratifying to paint with one hand on the shoulders of the greats.
—- Fiona Ackerman, 2019
Curated by Kim Spencer-Nairn