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Green Thumb Program Shows How Art Has Imitated Plant Life Over the Centuries

The Temple of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, still a work in progress, ‘looks like a forest,’ says Allison Bennett, a watercolor artist and Master Naturalist. She will present a free Green Thumb program on ‘Art and Architecture Inspired by Plants’ on Sept. 12 at the Kingsland Branch Library. Photo by Valery Egorov

KINGSLAND — Even as a watercolor painter, Allison Bennett didn’t realize how much nature inspires artists of all walks and backgrounds until she tackled the topic for an upcoming Green Thumb program presented by the Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association.

“It’s been amazing to see how plants and nature have shaped the work of artists and others,” Bennett said. “It’s incredible to see how much they have influenced works of art and architecture when you take time to study different types of art.”

A glass sculpture at Dave Chihuly’s Garden of Glass in Seattle seems to be growing toward the sky. Getty Images

Bennett is presenting “Art and Architecture Inspired by Plants” from noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Kingsland Branch Library, 125 W. Polk St. The event is free to attend, and the public is welcome.

Bennett, who’s also a Master Naturalist, delved into contemporary and historical art and architecture for the program. The presentation includes a wide spectrum of artists.

“I span about 120 years of art,” she said, though it would be easy to go even farther back. But, Bennett pointed out, she only has an hour.

Still, she’s going to give attendees a good look at how plants have served as inspiration in a number of ways.

While you might not see it at first glance, plants often influence architecture as well. Bennett will talk about Antoni Gaudí’s work on the Temple of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Though construction began around 1866, Gaudí didn’t take over until 1883 and continued the project until his death in 1926. (It’s still not 100 percent completed.)

But one only has to take in the grandeur of the cathedral to understand how plants inspired Gaudí.

“You look up at it, and it looks like a forest,” Bennett said.

She’ll then move into art nouveau, a movement that was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s and featured pieces in which natural forms played a big role, especially the curvature of plants and flowers.

“Louis Comfort Tiffany, he’s known for his lamps, and you can see how plants and flowers are part of his works,” Bennett said.

Botanical influences continue across media, including Dale Chihuly’s glass art, Claude Monet’s impressionist lilies, and even some of Andy Warhol’s pop art.

That influence has only grown; nature continues to feed the creative souls of not just artists and architects but all people.

Bennett will even share tidbits about the artists to give glimpses into their motivations and processes. “I cover quite a few artists, many that people probably know or at least know the names,” she said. “I’m really excited about the presentation.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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