“Reaching for the Light” Rackham Exhibition

Observations, Lessons, Mysteries of the Botanical World

Now on Display
on the 4th Floor

Download the exhibit brochure

Read the Ann Arbor News art review

In August of 2014 an 80-year-old American Agave growing in the greenhouse of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor bloomed for the first and last time. The plant grew so tall that a pane of glass had to be removed from the ceiling of the greenhouse. After blooming the plant dies, it’s life cycle complete. Inspired by this event, River Gallery sent out a call-for-entries to regional artists asking them to submit artworks interpreting the theme “Reaching for the Light”. Over 60 artists submitted, with 40 artists and 52 artworks being included in the 4th floor exhibit.

The interpretations are as varied as the media employed for artistic expression. Detailed botanical observations, lessons learned in nature, mysteries and memories were explored. Most artists began their investigations with solitary experiences of nature. Morning walks, nature hikes, camping trips and purposeful gazing at protected environments and domestic gardens induced for these artists detailed observations of color, form, texture, movement, light and shadow.

Mood and character are central to the artworks on display. Vitality, intense color and strong emotions radiate from some works, while others display fragility, decay and dreamlike qualities. Many of the artists are teachers and professors of art and that calling is reflected in a subtle, instructive quality in their art. These artist/educators seem to be mapping, memorializing and preserving for us what is experienced by them to be of utmost importance. This may be a detail in a petal or leaf or maybe an insight or memory.

The show includes paintings (watercolor, acrylic, oil, and egg tempura) pastels, photographs (both film and digital including work utilizing a Holga camera), prints, drawings, collage, encaustic, textiles, mixed media (with petioles as subject and sumi ink paintbrush) and a stainless steel floral series.