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  • Jennifer Gillen

Painting in the Time of Climate Change


Orchids, like this one, are not so difficult to find in botanical conservatories in my state. I took this photo at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.

As you may know, I love to read. I’m currently reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels. This month, I focused on “Love in the Time of Cholera”. During the lockdowns of 2020, this novel got a lot of press. It definitely has some interesting medical information and pandemic stories that parallel our Covid 19 experiences. Even more interesting though, are the many flowers, birds and animals mentioned in this novel. Fermina Daza, the main female character, has an interesting habit of collecting birds and exotic flowers. Her lover, Florentino Ariza, is obsessed with the smells of flowers and even eats tons of rose petals during his heartbreak.


This novel has led me to a path of tropical subjects. Since it is set in the Caribbean, many of the plants mentioned in the novel are tropical natives. However, there are also quite a few whimsical botanical transplants. I started to kind of chronicle, at least mentally, the flora of the novel that would make beautiful paintings. That led me to think about the importance of painting tropical plants, not just for their beauty but also to share that beauty with a coming world in which these species may no longer exist.


So that is the beginning of a new set of lush tropical paintings. I’m not sure yet how they will relate to my current series of paintings based on women in literature. I’m excited about painting tropical leaves, lilies, bromeliads and orchids. My vision is a series of paintings in which every leaf and water drop is important.


Although it is considered good compositional form to blur out or simplify the backgrounds, it seems to me that the backgrounds will be of great importance in these paintings. To leave anything out of focus, is to make that part of nature unimportant. And that’s just it: even the smallest pieces of an ecosystem are necessary for the survival of the whole. Maybe such detailed work will be overwhelming. Good. Nature is overwhelming.


Stay tuned for updates on the tropical beauties. The first painting, Eucharis amazonica, is all drawn out and ready for layers of paint.

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