Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I was feeling a little bit like I was coming down with a case of cabin fever on Sunday. The view from my window is quickly becoming sapped of anything but shades of grey and brown. The day though was a gift of warmth and sunshine. So we decided to take advantage of it and head into Pittsburgh.

Our first stop was the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation on the fifth floor of a library at Carnegie Mellon. Until December 17th, they're hosting the 13th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration. The degree of technical skill presented is astounding. For instance, to the left is "Helianthus, Last sunflower", by Fiona Strickland of Scotland.

After the tour with the delightful docent, Angella (who is also a botanical artist and was kind enough to share some of her work with us), we went across the park to the Phipp's Conservatory. I've been meaning to go to this for ages and am glad that we finally did.

I took so many pictures while there! If you're curious, take a look by CLICKING HERE. It goes over to my much neglected Flickr account. (Evidence of its disuse can be seen in my profile picture of me with hair! I know, hard to imagine!)

Featured below are a few of my favorite shots from the day:

The conservatory is home to several Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. With their bright colors, biomorphic forms, and liquid lines, they fit right in with the specimens of botanical beauty.

I loved the orchid room. In fact, I think I took the majority of the pictures there. I love the sensuous shapes and speckled patterns. The arrangements were so painterly. For instance, if you were to extract the colors from the photo above and turn them into globs of paint, the shocking violet mixed with the verdant green would create the same silvery tonal grey as the Spanish moss hanging behind it. Perhaps it is coincidence, perhaps not?

I could spend years working my way through all the different glass rooms. They are filled with thousands of varieties of plants. Some of them would be easy to miss if rushing by. This is definitely a place you've got to stop and take your time at.

Also particularly lovely was the desert room. The cacti, succulents and desert flora made me excited even more for my trip to Tucson this winter. I plan on trying to identify as many plants as possible while there and stop by the Tucson Botanical Gardens. I've only been at night and the conversation was too good to pass up, so I missed my opportunity to explore. I won't pass it up again!

Speaking of the Tucson Botanical Gardens, they're featuring a selection of plants inspired by Amy Stewart's book, Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. I was lucky enough to see Amy speak at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens awhile ago and see the beautiful etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs that illustrate the book in person. CLICK HERE to read about that.

Another of my favorite parts of the Conservatory, was the Japanese garden. Even though much of it is going dormant for the winter season, some of the maples are still lush with blazing red leaves. It's a calm and peaceful place and I definitely want to come back in all seasons.

The trip to alleviate my touch of cabin fever was a success! The pastures were greener on the side... literally. I left feeling blissfully exhausted by the overwhelming inspiration and the exploration of botanical knowledge.


Alice said...

What a wonderful day trip! Take care and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Elizabeth said...

I felt the same thing today, so I went thrifting. Found a large ceramic teepee that I am going to wrap in denim to make a jewelry display for photo taking. $3.00 can't be beat! It is heavy and about 18 inches high. Sounds like we both scored.

AJ said...

Mmmm, such beautiful colors in these images! Very inspiring :)

SueBeads said...

I'm so glad you had fun, Andrew! Where did you eat?

Andrew Thornton said...

Hey Sue! Not too familiar with the area yet. So, I didn't eat till much later. I did stop in Kiva Han for some yummy coffee.

Andrew Thornton said...

Oh and downstairs from the Hunt Institute is a little student cafe place.

Indonesia Heritage said...

Lovely =)

Indonesia Heritage said...

What type of camera did you use to take those pics?