Invasive plants are usually considered a nuisance in a landscape, but what if we use a different lens to observe them?
Botanical Artist Ellie Irons uses the pigments derived from invasive plants to observe patterns of plant interaction with human populations and where and how her area’s current botanical dialect has evolved.
To create her botanically evocative artwork, Irons extracts pigment from various invasive plants in her area and crafts color maps which illustrate that human and plant co-evolution. Her ability to simplify and make practical what could be construed as an abstract concept is remarkable and beautiful. She seeks and translates the language of each of these plants into color maps in a way that is akin to assembling an orchestra and then conducting the symphony they’ve been playing all their lives.
Chroma Botanica, her recent exhibit with fellow botanic artist Linda Stillman at the Arsenal Gallery in NYC’s Central Park, unearths local color as a starting point for observers to consider the landscape around them. In the exhibit, Irons makes pigments from mostly non-native invasive plants in New York neighborhoods and uses them to illustrate the botanical evolution of those places. Similarly, Stillman makes color rubbings from New York’s Central Park Conservatory plants to visually convey that specific place, as it is right now.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Fibershed founder Rebecca Burgess documents plant dye color in her book Harvesting Color — How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes. The plants in her book are divided by season and include native and invasive species.
We tend to romanticize place, especially in cities, as either a pure and natural place, an adulterated landscape, or a predominantly human created place. These artworks help us consider all places as more of a conversation, one where each element can be observed, heard and harmonized.