Garden Diary - June 2024

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Wonderland Art at the New York Botanical Garden
Thursday, 13 June 2024

In May I had the pleasure of visiting the New York Botanical Garden for the media preview of Wonderland: Curious Nature Inside and Outside. It was a busy day and while I saw much to enjoy there were displays of art that I missed out on. Today I had another opportunity.

I was up on the 6th floor of the LuEsther T Mertz Library for a morning talk by Polly Nicholson (author of The Tulip Garden) in conversation with Lindsey Taylor. Obviously, after the event I will be able to peruse the displays on this floor.

The sixth floor rotunda shares reimaginings of Alice's adventures interpreted
through a variety of cultures and different eras. A round table offers

a handful of books for children in several languages, and a chess set.

But I think whoever was playing might not know the formal rules of the game.

Alice went through a mirror and ended up in Wonderland.
If she could successfully move from her position as a pawn

all the way across the board to the 8th rank
then Alice would herself become a queen.

Across the rotunda, Big Alice and Small Alice peer around.
They are just to one side of the door to the Rondina and LoFaro Gallery.

"The Victorian period in which Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) was first published was a time of exploration and wonder that some might call mad. Age of Wonder shows you the era’s impact on this timeless story, with original manuscripts, illustrations, and rare first-edition printings of Alice. See how famed evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin and his fellow scientists of the time turned our understanding of the natural world on its head, and take in photos by Cuban artist Abelardo Morell that show us everyday items and situations through Lewis Carroll’s curious lens."

image by Marlon Co, courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

Two microscopes, one of which belonged to Elizabeth Knight Britton (1858-1934), pioneering female botanist and NYBG co-founder. A skilled scientist, her use of dissecting microscopes such as this one to make detailed drawings of bryophytes (mosses) set her apart from female peers in her field.

No rabbit hole. Take the elevator down to the Orchid Rotunda on the second floor of the Library Building where there is

an oversize, three part combination mushroom sculpture by artist-biologist Carsten Höller. Perhaps
it is intended to expand our minds, like the mushroom Alice nibbled on, becoming tall, then small.

There's a small gallery across the rotunda from the elevator, with modern day artworks.

One wall is stenciled with leafy stems, gradually getting paler as it rises.

Peer into miniature dioramas—part of the Portals for Alice series by Patrick Jacobs

A dinner plate is larger. The closer I peer in, the more detail there is to see.

Then there are two dreamscapes, by Indonesian painter Agus Putu Suyadnya. Is it a

space suit? But there are bunny ears. And how do they drink their tea?

Never mind. But fingers inside the suit's gloves - must be tricky to use a cell phone.

Look! The outside door offers an image of a giant shaggy inkcap mushroom, Coprinus comatus.
I'm not sure how this was done. Probably an oversized vinyl window decal rather than
plastic window cling as it needs to stay until late in October when Wonderland is over.

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