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Art show: TEND at Exposure Gallery

By Crystal Parsons on August 9, 2016

Coexistence No. 2 by Judy Morris Dupont.

Coexistence No. 2 by Judy Morris Dupont.

If you’re hanging out in Westboro this month, drop in to Exposure Gallery at Thyme & Again and see what’s blooming on the second floor. Until August 30th, the gallery features an exhibition of botanical photography by local artist Judy Morris Dupont.

Dupont is a recent graduate from the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa. TEND draws from three separate bodies of the artist’s work created over the last six years—Planted, Botanikos and Coexistence. Most are elegant black and white photographs of single flowers and plants grown in the artist’s own garden—lilies, St. John’s wart, solomon seal, ornamental raspberry, a tulip or iris, to name a few.

Cirsium Vulgare (common thistle). Photo by Judy Morris Dupont.

Cirsium Vulgare (common thistle). Photo by Judy Morris Dupont.

The Botanikos series consists of close-up “portraits” of a single foxglove, calla lily or thistle that allow you to really enjoy the shapes and forms of the plants. Looking at them I had to resist the urge to reach out and touch a soft petal or run my finger along the lacy edge of a fern.

That reaction is not surprising. Just as the artist is passionate about getting her hands into the soil in her garden, she is equally passionate about the tactile and hands-on processing of photographs using “old school” darkroom techniques. Since some of the earliest experiments in photography included images of plant life, it’s nice to see photography getting back to its roots (okay, that was a really bad pun).

Early interests in photography also corresponded with a general interest in botany, which has evolved today into concerns about the environment; concerns that are clearly reflected in my favourite series, Coexistence. The works in Coexistence are large scale still life images of floral arrangement that have wilted and dried in their silver urns or vases.

The artist explained the inspiration came at a time when there was a lot in the news about declining bee populations. Around that time, she made the mysterious discovery that bees had somehow gotten into her basement and died. Noticing a floral arrangement upstairs past its prime made her think about the connections. As the artist put it, “it seemed like a bit of a ‘chicken or egg’ thing—without the bees, the flowers die. Without flowers, the bees die.”

That’s why if you look closely, you’ll see a few of the dead bees placed at the bottom, among the dead and dying leaves and petals. It’s very much a take on the lush Dutch paintings of living floral arrangement (often with a live bee nestled in a bloom) from the 17th century—but with a very important contemporary message.

TEND at Exposure Gallery will continue until August 30. Artist Judy Morris Dupont will present an artist’s talk on Thursday, August 18 from 6—8pm.

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