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martes, 22 de septiembre 2020
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Colombia in the Botanical Art Worldwide

By Natalia Piedrahita Tamayo – Communications Office


The Native Plants of Colombia exhibition, which will be until July in the fourth floor of the Universidad de Antioquia University Museum, MUUA, collects the first participation of Colombia in the Botanical Art Worldwide, event that exhibits the native flora and botanical illustration works of 25 countries of all continents.

Magnolia sp. illustrated by Liza Anzellini and Anthurium alatum illustrated by Gloria Mora. Courtesy of the Native Plants of Colombia exhibition

The exhibition consists of 24 illustrations of native and endemic plants of Colombia: black anthurium, pink angel's trumpets, cortapico, tulip orchid, red banana passionfruit, and woolly fern, among others. They were made by illustrators from different fields of knowledge and several regions of Colombia, who participated in the call for competition led by the Universidad de Antioquia Herbarium and the BioGrafos collective.

Two judges—scientific illustrator Adriana Sanín Escobar and botanist Álvaro Idárraga Piedrahita—were in charge of the process of evaluation and selection of the works submitted for competition. They were responsible for reviewing aspects related to the technical characteristics, the accuracy, and the quality of the works.

“Each illustration is created from a research exercise on the species that’s going to be illustrated; since similarities exist between species of a same family of plants, the botanical or scientific illustrator should be skilled in illustrating the details, because the effective representation of a specimen lies in the details,” explains Natalia Uribe Macías, professor at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of Universidad de Antioquia in charge of the call.

Three new Colombian botanical species—in process of description—can be observed in this exhibition. Two of them were illustrated by Liza Anzallini and discovered in 2016 by botanists of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute as part of the Colombia BIO expedition; one of them belongs to the Magnoliaceae family (Magnolia sp.) and the other, to the Solanaceae family ((Schultesianthus sp.).

Likewise, Santiago Ocampo Aricapa illustrated a specimen of the Miconia genus, which is being described as a new species by Juan Mauricio Posada Herrera, student of the master’s program in Biology at Universidad de Antioquia.

The 23% of plant species that are registered for Colombia are endemic plants, thus, the importance of their valuation and conservation. “We don’t want plants to be taken for granted; we want them to become relevant elements; we want people to contemplate our diversity. The conservation of species starts by becoming aware of the natural heritage,” adds Uribe Macías.

The role of the botanical illustrator

From the Native Plants of Colombia exhibition. Photo by Natalia Piedrahita

What do we know about botanical illustrators? Why do not they appear in the credits of school books? “All human knowledge is mediated by the representations that appear on encyclopedias and books designed as academic materials in libraries and schools,” states Consuelo García, who was illustrator at the Universidad de Antioquia Herbarium for over 30 years and who participates with one of her works in the exhibition.

For decades, illustrators’ work—let alone graphic designers’ work—was made invisible by some publishing companies that gave preference to the authors of text. However, the invaluable contribution of illustrators to science has reached the point that, sometimes, their work is the tool to discover new species.

The Botanical Art Worldwide is created then as an attempt to connect communities with their flora. This initiative makes the recognition of vegetable species possible inside different regions and collects findings on the biodiversity of 25 countries; it favors the dialog between biologists, designers, and artists who, from different parts of the world, illustrate the different manifestations of life.

For Consuelo, besides the communication of aspects related to botany, illustrators can raise awareness about the need to preserve species: “Many representations of species are a desperate call for the conservation of vital aspects that keep the balance on the planet’s life. When drawing, you understand that, although life is temporary, the passage of every element on the earth is vital to give continuity to other processes and, in line with that, we’re all connected and every species is relevant.”

The exhibition will be open until July 28 in the fourth floor of the MUUA.

From the Native Plants of Colombia exhibition. Photo by Natalia Piedrahita


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