Edible Plants Showcased at Botanic Gardens


Photo courtesy of Botanic Gardens
Photo courtesy of Botanic Gardens

Alongside its tropical greenhouses, strange and smelly flowers, and lush, groomed walkways lined with blue oat grass and cashmere sage, the Denver Botanic Gardens boasts an impressive roster of local sculpture and artpieces. Currently, the Gardens are showcasing the paintings of Denver native artist Heidi Jung in the Garden Gates Court Gallery. From the Garden: Works by Heidi Jung is a selection of ink and charcoal paintings of flowers, insects, and edible plants inspired by both Jung’s own garden and the vegetation in the Denver Botanic Gardens.

From the Garden presents an enchanting study of the minute details in the vegetables, leaves, roots, berries, and flowers that compose our diets and grow in our lawns and windowsill pots. “Opal Basil” is a dramatic rendering of a patch of basil plants, layered with multiple washes of ink and shades of charcoal. Faint blushes of pink and a delicate stem system give the painting a fragile feel, as if the basil blossoms could just as easily sway in the implied breeze as flit onto the ground.

Jung questions the idea of depth and distance in her exhibit, allowing leaves and flowers in the background of a painting to show through the ink washes and be fully visible among the foreground objects. “Not So Sweet Pea” extends its broad leaves over the breadth of its panel, and the multiple layers of foliage are compressed until drooping petals hidden behind thicker stems are clearly seen and carefully detailed. In Jung’s work, depth seems to be determined by the intensity of its shade (light or dark), and in turn, the use of color in From the Garden gives a striking visual clout to the few pieces where it’s used.

Light features provocatively in Jung’s paintings. Her pieces are worked in sumi and acrylic inks, charcoal, and pastel crayons over a Mylar-coated wooden panel (Mylar is a type of polyester resin that creates a smooth, plastic-like surface). Given their black-and white rendering, the pieces in From the Garden are imposing and dramatic, like the fairylike piece “Dandelions.” Deep shadows, complicated stems and flowerbuds, washed-out dribbles of ink, and pale expanses of open space transform the pesky weed that grows between the sidewalk slabs into an optical adventure of pure, dramatic shape.

The exhibit also examines common garden staples in a new light, like in the piece called “Carrots.” The hefty painting presents a forest of carrots, each one enormous and covered in a network of veins, shadows, and solid blocks of dark shading to present an intricate depiction of a very pragmatic vegetable that teases the viewer to notice the delicate beauty in the growing world. Jung’s intricate fusion of minimalist color and extravagant detail is stunning, and the junction of simple color and wild shape sheds a thoughtful light on minimalist art genre.

From the Garden: Works by Heidi Jung is shown in collaboration with Michael Warren Contemporary, a gallery noted for its abstract, figurative, and contemplative work. From the Garden will display at the Botanic Gardens until Nov. 6. The exhibit is included with general admission, and tickets are $9 with a student ID.

Elsa Peterson
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