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'Plant Based' exhibit showcases nature as you've never seen before

Jansen Art Center features local artist interpretations of the great outdoors

Both "Thicket" (pictured) as well as "Fiddle Leaf" by Western Washington University Fairhaven College alumna Chloe Smith are featured in "Plant Based." Smith created both works specifically for this exhibit in her go-to medium, ink. // Courtesy of Chloe Smith via Jansen Art Center

With a mission of creating opportunities to engage with art at the community level, it made sense for Jansen Art Center to revolve its first themed exhibit around a key source of inspiration in the Pacific Northwest: plants.

The nonprofit organization created the exhibit, which runs from March 3 through April 30, as a shorter interim gallery leading up to its quarterly spring show. Marketing Specialist for the art center, Mary Fitzgerald, said in an email that "Plant Based" received over 280 submissions from more than 70 artists. 

"You can actually see a lot in the artist statements in all of our juried shows over the past year," Fitzgerald said. "A lot of people have turned to art in the pandemic, either for relief or to try something new."

Chloe Smith, a featured artist with two works shown in "Plant Based," said in an email she believes the community in part responded so well due to having a theme to focus their work around. Smith also works as Jansen Art Center's Administrative Assistant.

PLANT BASED EXHIBIT BODY 1
"Rainbow Plant" is one of four artworks by Cathy Crabtree featured in the "Plant Based" exhibit at Jansen Art Center. Crabtree used paper and other mediums, including glass beads and clay, to create her works. // Courtesy of Cathy Crabtree via Jansen Art Center

"I especially love how this theme pushed artists to think about trying new materials and subjects," she said. 

A few of the varying mediums featured in this wide-ranging exhibit of just over 100 works include ink, paper, ceramic, dioramas, oils, pastels and photography. 

Many of the works and tickets for performances and classes hosted by The J are for sale through the Gallery Shop. Purchases further artistic opportunities for local artists and community members.

PLANT BASED EXHIBIT BODY 2
"Hiking to the Waterfall" is a 3D diorama by traditionally trained photographer Liane Budden and is featured in "Plant Based" at Jansen Art Center. Budden was selected to teach a course on dioramas this Spring at the art center. // Courtesy of Liane Budden via Jansen Art Center

When starting work at The J, Fitzgerald said the massive market for locally made art was surprising. 

"It always varies, but [The J] makes a lot of sales, especially when people are really taken with the artist or if there's a unique take," Fitzgerald said.

Art like that seems in abundance across the region.

Award-winning Environmental Artist Nicole Dextras said the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is widely inspiring for Natural artists. In contrast, art with an environmental urgency has not found as significant of a niche in the area.

Dextras said regions that have lost natural splendor are more concerned with environmental art.

"​​We live in a very beautiful place," Dextras said. "We haven't lost all our forests. We can still drive down the road out of the city and see lots of beautiful forests and waterfalls."

The diversity and range of works included in "Plant Based" allow Environmental Art to make an appearance.

Works by Bridgett St. Meave appear on tea-stained paper instead of canvas. Meave's artist statement urges viewers to recycle. In addition, several works by featured artist Kelton Nix depict deforestation and the industrialization of natural animal habitats.

PLANT BASED EXHIBIT BODY 3
"Forget me not" is one of four featured works by Bridgett St. Meave, all either gouache or ink on tea bag paper, giving each canvas a unique character. Meave emphasized the importance of recycling in an Artist Statement for the exhibit. // Coursey of Bridgett St. Meave via Jansen Art Center

Showing alongside "Plant Based" is an animal portrait exhibit by artist Kat Houseman titled "The Wilds of Dedication." 

Smith said in an email she feels the two shows complement each other nicely to further the natural theme throughout The J.

"For those visiting, I hope the exhibit will bring them to pay closer attention to the natural world around us, appreciate its beauty, and focus on its conservation," she said.



Madisun Tobisch

Madisun is a second-year Journalism student at WWU covering city-life. In her free time she enjoys watching horror movies, taking care of her houseplants, and learning more about Bellingham. She can be reached at: madisun.thefront@gmail.com.


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