The Arboretum Project

Although I have mentioned before, and posted paintings intended for, the Arboretum project, the time has come for detail. The culmination of this project is fast approaching: an exhibit at the Arnold Arboretum from August 7 to September 19 of paintings painted on site by members of the NH Plein Air artists’ group. Pictured above is the Visitors Center at the Arnold Arboretum, which I painted mostly on site (I changed the color and value of the red brick when I got home). The exhibit will take place in the high-ceiling exhibit room whose tall curved windows you see on the right side of the building.

It all started more than a year ago, when I noticed a call for artists from the Arnold Arboretum to submit paintings inspired by the Arboretum–an annual exhibit known as “Jamaica Plain Open Studio”. I posted a suggestion on the NH Plein Air listserv that we, NH Plein Air artists, organize an outing to the Arboretum and enter our results to the jury for the JPOS exhibit. Several members were interested, so then I contacted the Arboretum to make arrangements for our visit–parking had to be negotiated to enable some of our mobilely challenged artists (that would include me) to get their gear into the park reasonably near where they wanted to paint. The Arboretum staff were pleased to welcome us– like most other public outdoor spaces, the sight of artists working at their easels enhances the experience for everyone. Even the dogs. (The Arboretum is a major dog-walking site–one of the collateral benefits of painting there is the variety of breeds of dogs you get to meet.)

Only one of our plein air paintings made it into the 2009 JPOS exhibit, but our collective submissions were impressive enough to lead to an invitation from the curator to make our own exhibit in 2010. We accepted with joy and alacrity. Over the next twelve months, individual members and groups of us have visited the Arboretum to create paintings for the upcoming exhibit. Not so many in the winter months, but we do have a few snow scenes. Our challenge was to fill those vast walls with paintings that, being rendered on site, tend to be rather small. I have my fingers crossed that our artwork doesn’t get swallowed up by the exhibit room. I hope you will go to view the exhibit to find out how we did. There will be a reception/artists’ talk (!) on Saturday August 14, at about 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. I went to the website to confirm this info and found one of my paintings used for the announcement–the one from “To Plein Air or Not to Plein Air”–the one I didn’t like but everyone else seems to like. Go here to see.

Because the history conferred on me some kind of ownership of the project, I visited the most times, and produced the most paintings–twelve in all. Some of my Arboretum paintings are already online: see my Blog on the winter visit here, and my Blog comparing a plein air painting to a studio painting from photograph of the same site here.

Here is my most recent painting from the Arboretum, a silver maple that has been at that location since 1887, I believe. The label on the tree identifies its official name, its common name, its native habitat, and the year it was acquired/planted by the Arboretum. The tree’s trunk is striking; it called out to me every time I visited over the past year, so I finally succumbed and painted this 14×11 portrait of a tree trunk. (Since photographing the painting two days ago, I made a few small improvements, so this image is one of a work in progress.)

The Arboretum, for those of you not already familiar with this Boston institution, is a living museum of trees and shrubs, collected from all over the world. Funded by a bequest, operated by Harvard University as a research and educational institution, and overseen by the City of Boston as part of the “Emerald Necklace”, the 265 acres are open without charge to the public. For more information about the Arboretum, visit the Arboretum’s website.

Here are a few more scenes represented by my paintings.

Spring! 11×14

Fall Around the Pond 11×14

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