The phrase natural beauty evokes jagged mountain vistas, stark expanses of tundra, and steaming jungles. Nature itself is a big word, a word heavy with connotation and meaning. It means, in a way, everything that has not been fabricated or crafted, and so art and artists that choose nature as a subject tend to have a sense of expansive wildness about them. But nature is not always the sprawling sierra or the boiling dunes of the desert. In the world of botanical art, nature is celebrated in microcosm. Nature is not just the mountain, the forest or the storm. It is also the shivering seeds inside the pomegranate, the arc of the orchid, and the promise of life.
For botanical artist Wendy hollender, the true mystique of nature lies in plants and flowers. Botanical art is a strange fusion of art and science, with pieces looking equally at home on a living room wall or in the pages of a botanist’s textbook. As a result, botanical artists come from all sorts of different fields and disciplines. Wendy Hollender, personally, got her start as a textile designer. For more than twenty years she designed textiles, until designing floral patterns for her clients eventually awakened in her an interest in plant life. No longer content with flat facsimiles of flowers, Hollender began focusing on botanical art full time in 2002.
Botanical art requires a love of nature that goes beyond awe, reverence or spirituality. Instead botanical art requires a certain level of clinical separation from the subject, giving the subjects an under the microscope quality as the botanical artist records in almost agonizing photo realistic detail the intricacies the plants design. In her 2006 piece, The Fig, Hollender remains true to the form of the fig plant, rendering it in an illustration fit for a botanical textbook. The unique pleasure of botanical art lies in how the artist reveals and portrays the contours of an individual plant, fruit or flower. The fig Hollender presents has a natural beauty to it enriched by the interplay of purple skin on glossy green leaf. A cross section of the fig reveals its inner chambers and tissues in startling white and purple flesh. Though it is, on the surface, just a highly accurate drawing of a plant, botanical art such as The Fig manages to instill a sense of action and sensuality into the plant life around us.