Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: ‘The Botanical Gourmet’ at The Athenaeum

The latest show at The Athenaeum in Alexandria focuses specifically on "plants that have health-giving nutritional properties for people."

The Botanical Gourmet Botanical Arts Society of the National Capital Region: Alice Tangerini: Honeycrisp Apple
Honeycrisp Apple by Alice Tangerini

Unsung horticultural heroines, those women who have played an important if unheralded role in enriching our understanding of and appreciation for plants and plant life, were the focus of the 2022 Smithsonian Orchid Show earlier this year.

One among more than a dozen groundbreaking women featured in the show was Mary Vaux Walcott, an early 20th-century Washington-based artist and naturalist whose beautiful and scientifically accurate watercolor paintings of wildflowers and other lesser-known plants are credited with helping shape the field of botany in ways similar to the way fellow artist and naturalist John James Audobon’s advanced ornithology through his depictions of birds.

In fact, Walcott is often referred to as the “Audubon of Botany.”

A number of Walcott’s descendants as women botanical artists are featured in the latest art exhibition at the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria, and the latest presented by the Botanical Arts Society of the National Capital Region, a membership organization for both professional and semi-professional artists and illustrators who specialize in botanical depictions both scientifically precise and aesthetically appealing. The Botanical Gourmet focuses specifically on “plants that have health-giving nutritional properties for people.”

The Botanical Gourmet Botanical Arts Society of the National Capital Region: Anne Clippinger: Garlic Scapes
Garlic Scapes by Anne Clippinger

A total of 19 members of the arts society are represented in the survey, with their artworks, most of them available for sale, accompanied by descriptive text.

For example, American Beautyberry by Karen Coleman is a watercolor and colored pencil depiction of a native shrub to Virginia that benefits pollinators and over 40 species of birds, and furthermore, extracts from its leaves have been shown to deter mosquitoes and ticks.

Other artists and artworks on display in The Botanical Gourmet include:

  • Marcia Dewitt, whose watercolor and colored pencil work French Breakfast Radishes vividly depicts this variety of red radish, which is longer, milder, and sweeter than the familiar North American variety.
  • Marsha Ogden’s strikingly realistic watercolor paintings of Garlic, Sweet Red Pepper, and Turban Squash.
  • Esther Carpi’s watercolor and colored pencil depictions of Red Onion, Sweet Dumpling Squash, and Crab Apple.
  • Judy Thomas’s mixed-media artwork Italian Long Purple Eggplant.
  • Pamela Mason’s color pencil drawing of the invasive Beach Rose Hips.
  • E. Maza Borkland’s unusually shaped and colored pumpkin squash, the French heirloom variety Pumpkin ‘Galeux d’Eysines’.

On view through Jan. 8, 2023. The Athenaeum is at 201 Prince St. in Alexandria, Va.

Visit or call 703-548-0035.

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