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Stunning and Whimsical: Botanical-Inspired Art at the Hammond Museum

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“Sunflower Road III, IV & V” is mixed medium on canvas by artist Ilse Schreiber-Noll in the current exhibit “A Plethora of Plants: Real, Observed, Imagined” at the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem.

For eons, nature has profoundly inspired music, the arts and literature, from the lotus in the Bhagavad Gita to the tree of life in Genesis.

The fascination with the botanical world now offers a stunning and imaginative venture in the current exhibit “A Plethora of Plants: Real, Observed, Imagined” at the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem.

Just in time to pair the exhilaration of spring with expectant buds about to flower, this exhibit showcases the work of 20 Westchester-based artists working in a wide range of media, including clay, wood, bronze, drawings, video and centuries-old silverpoint in 56 works of art.

Entering the exhibit in the Hammond’s large gallery, one can be easily transported to a verdant greenhouse where slow growing vines moisten the air.

The intricate detail in the inkjet and laser prints by Gene Panczenko reveal slender veins of a single leaf, wispy, spidery lines thin to the edges. Corinne Lapin-Cohen’s exquisite water colors of chicory, echinacea and digitalis seem weightless within their frames, sweeping us into a universe of delicate tendrils, roots and blooms.

Devin Siglock’s one-minute looped video “Slow Bloom” is mesmerizing as a simple, bulbous green plant turns slowly as crystalline buds of different colors slowly appear to “grow” to a full, surreal plant before fading out.

Another video is by dance artist Marsi Burns and videographer Nicholas Riggs entitled “One With The Gardens.” In the four-minute video Burns moves among various floral scenes, including mangrove forests and fern gardens, as she shifts the rhythm of her movements from frenetic to somnolent, graceful to reverent.

It’s hard not to smile at Leslie Pelino’s two mixed media sculptures “Lotus” and “Jack in the Pulpit,” both standing more than five feet high. Joyously flamboyant, colorful recycled materials and old clothing are used, melding human and botanical elements forming a near-living presence.

Although visual content claims the major part of the show, literary and sensory works are also represented. Because plants are the largest source of fragrant compounds used in perfumery, “An Introduction to Fragrance” by Nell Valentine Cote allows us to open one of three jars and sniff scents of either vetiver, ylang-ylang or tarragon, fragrants that seem to sweeten the exhibit experience.

Taking up some 20 square feet is Tom Smith’s “The Words Project: Plant Symbolism,” where 32 letter-size paper flyers, each with the name of one plant in bold letters, hover over small tear-off tabs with special symbolic messages to be shared with friends, loved ones and strangers. The page for bamboo has a message that reads “Live Long.”

“Lotus” is a mixed media sculpture by Leslie Pelino in the current art exhibit “A Plethora of Plants: Real, Observed, Imagined” at the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem. It is on view now through July 14.

Another literary connection is made in “Leaves of Grass” by Carla Rae Johnson who uses a hard-bound copy of Walt Whitman’s famous book with embossed leaves on the cover. The sliced random thin strips from the book’s pages appear to be sprouting from the top of the book. Johnson offers a different, personalized homage to the great American poet as if his words were plants that have outgrown a two-dimensional existence.

It’s hard to pull away from four drawings by Linda Nemergut depicting various types of ferns rendered in silverpoint, a process using very small, thin pieces of silver wire to make marks on prepared paper, a commonly used process during the Renaissance.

The meticulous detail and precision offer lofty ethereal work about to float off the page.

Other artists in the show include Lisa Breznak, Ivy Dachman, Loren Eifermen, Natalya Khorover, Janice LaMotta, Rita Maas, Mary McFerran, Loretta Oleck, Richard Rosenbaum, Ilse Schreiber-Noll and Thomas Sarrantonio.

A special soundscape composed by Skin Against Metal (Nanette Garcia and Maurice Minichino) called “Nature’s Chance Meeting” plays from four strategically positioned speakers in the main gallery, each speaker playing a different continuous soundscape that converges randomly creating new textures, rhythms and dynamics that reflect the ever-changing essence of nature.

Curated by artist and art historian Marcy B. Freedman, other programs related to the show’s theme include a garden tour and “Parade of the Plant People” on Saturday, Apr. 20 at 2 p.m. Lara Netting will present the tour accompanied by some of the artists from “A Plethora of Plants,” who will be dressed as plants. The public is invited to wear their best floral attire and join the fun.

Musicians and writers will be invited to perform original creations inspired by any and all types of flora in “Plants in Performance” on Sunday, May 5 at 3 p.m. There will be live music, readings of poetry and short fiction and the presentation of two short plays.

On the exhibit’s final day, Sunday, July 14 at 3 p.m., the program “Flowers! In Western Art and In Marcy’s Closet.” Freedman will address the world of flowers by presenting an overview of floral paintings in Western art from the Renaissance to the 20th century and conduct an interactive performance using garments from her closet.

“A Plethora of Plants:  Real, Observed, Imagined,” which opened last Saturday, continues through July 14.

The Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden is located at 28 Deveau Rd. in North Salem. For more information, call 914-669-5033 or visit



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