Supported by a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, I set out to create a body of ceramic work that would reflect the natural world through a contemporary filter. Researching source material for this project, I used the stunning botanical illustrations in the collections of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine and the Andersen Horticultural Library at the University of Minnesota. Surveying the history of botanical illustration, I gained an understanding of the variety and scope of illustration styles and schematic conventions used centuries ago when documentation and analysis of the region’s flora began.
Immersing myself in these collections was a moving experience. Each new image offered a glimpse into another artist’s perspective — their artistic sophistication, understanding of the larger world, place in history, and relationship to nature. Through this process, I entered into a conversation about changes in our ecosystem set in motion over 200 years ago. This body of work serves both as a commemoration and a call to action. The plant species depicted on these tiles are endangered or threatened in the state of Minnesota. One in particular, the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, was first documented by the Lewis & Clark Expedition and is now on both state and federal lists of endangered species. Minnesota is one of the few states where populations of the orchid still exist.
Ursula Hargens is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the University of Minnesota Libraries, Northern Clay Center, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.