Even though the growing season is ending, a juried exhibit of artwork organized by Lexington's M.S. Rezny Studio/Gallery is celebrating our relationship with plants.
From the power of metaphor in the cycle of death and rebirth to the close observation of patterns, colors and textures, the exhibit, Firmly Rooted, offers a collection of visual recognitions.
Behind the exhibition is gallery owner Mary Rezny, an artist who has photographed other artists' works commercially for about 30 years, and Marco Logsdon, an artist who maintained a gallery in Chicago from 2006 to 2010.
Together they have developed a wealth of contacts with contemporary visual artists.
"We realized how many artists use botanical subjects," Rezny says.
More than 325 entries were received from as far away as India and as near as Central Kentucky. Juror Douglas Stapleton, assistant curator of art with the Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery, selected 27 pieces for the show.
A first prize award of $500 and three $100 honorable mentions will be revealed at an opening reception Friday. A people's choice award will be presented at the show's end to the artist receiving the most $1 votes from viewers and visitors.
Of his selection process, Stapleton says, "I looked for works where artists revel in the verdant jumble of the natural world and search for pattern and form in the chaos.
"It is that paradox we embrace in our own lives, coaxing our gardens along or trying to tame lawns and hedgerows. For what end? It is our chance to pause over a blossom, marvel at a seed pod, and run our fingers along bark and roots, and dream of a mutually thriving, flourishing and firmly rooted connection to the natural world."
He says he also tried to select work that used a range of materials and styles.
Among the regional artists featured is Berea's Laura Poulette, who has two selections in the final group: White September and September Rainbow.
"These pieces are part of a yearlong photography project in which I am recording the colors of trees and plants that inhabit the land we are settling on in rural Madison county," Poulette says.
She describes her art as "deliberate, authentic, place-specific and seasonal."
"It's amazing what nature reveals when you observe with intention," she says.
Jenny Zeller of Louisville captured close-up, digital views of her photographic subjects, Okra Blossom and Leaves of Sunflower.
A gardener herself, Zeller says, "The hard work it takes to maintain a garden brings me so much pleasure and heightens my quality of life."
Describing her work as "nourishment, cultivating, sustenance, invigorating and therapeutic," Zeller says her hope is "that viewers will be challenged to deepen their relationship with the natural world around them."
Stapleton says Poulette and Zeller really understand color and form.
"Poulette, using a remarkably simple format of ordering and organizing found plant materials along a spectrum, or together in a tonal range, gave me a new perspective on nature's complexity.
"Zeller, with a kind of macroscopic vision, zooms us, bug-eyed, into a brilliant, strange landscape. Both approaches are unnatural, not part of how we see nature in our daily lives. Both bring a kind of scientific investigation into their artistic work as well."
Other regional artists illustrate the diversity presented by Firmly Rooted.
Midway artist Richard Roney-Dougal's engraving Bird Grass, which portrays grasses taking the shapes of birds, is in a style he calls "hallucinatory realism."
"I would like people to be reminded of the magic vision of childhood, before the difference between flora and fauna sets into the mind," he says.
There are also sculptures, including Suffering Transmuted, a lone flower extending from the end of a pipe, by University of Kentucky graduate Jake Oxnard. Stone, steel, magnets, polyester composites and paint form a three-dimensional piece he describes as "essential."
"My work contains some Eastern philosophical values, the use of traditional and contemporary materials, with a sense of displacement or struggle to identify one's self. I'd like people to take away a sense of gratitude," he says.
Rezny's studio/ gallery offers the community a venue to dialogue with artists and discover innovative, contemporary works of art.
Firmly Rooted is based on content to which most everyone can relate. For newcomers, Logsdon adds a thought about the experience.
"Art is a form of visual interpretation, so whatever you see is influenced by who you are," Logsdon said. "If you have a response, positive or negative, it has communicated with you in some form."
Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: Gardening.bloginky.com.