When’s the last time you talked to a plant? After visiting a new exhibition at the University of Kansas, you might think now is a good time to start.
“Big Botany: Conversations With the Plant World” takes a 360-degree view of things green. Science, art, philosophy and wonder are on full display at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, which is hosting an exhibition about plant-human interactions.
Those interactions are endless — and endlessly important to our planet. Biologists have long contemplated how to address how humans hurt plants, and such factors as deforestation and climate change threaten the greenery that sustains human life. Meanwhile, plants feed us, intrigue us and decorate the world around us.
More than 50 pieces by contemporary and historical artists show the sometimes tense relationship between people and plants. These works include seed-packets-turned-butterflies by Eduardo Kac and a 1906 art nouveau watercolor of lichens that shows how art might color humans’ perceptions of the natural world. There are specimens from the school’s herbarium and live plants. And four artists-in-residence have created works for the exhibition, such as art made from sprouted grass and sound representing stressed-out plants.
The exhibition kicked off with a research symposium in late March, but there’s more to learn. Conversations with philosophers, art historians and curators will be live-streamed on the museum’s YouTube channel. And the exhibition’s works of art are available online, too — just in case your next plant conversation can’t involve a trip to Kansas.