The Art of Gardening: Looking To Nature For Inspiration

There’s no denying the link between art and gardening; flowers and other plant life have influenced artists for centuries. Famous painters such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Georgia O’Keefe are just some of the few who looked to gardens and landscapes for inspiration.

Canadian artist Monique Martin is no different; she bases many of her projects on nature, often connecting them to various historically and socially significant symbols. Displayed in 10 different countries, her artwork includes painting, sculpture, printmaking, installation, bookmaking, and drawing.

Timeless Tulips

The Garden Culture team caught up with Martin at her “Timeless Tulips” exhibit, which was featured at this year’s edition of the celebrated Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Canada. Martin’s creative energy and humor are captivating; in just a few minutes with the tour groups that passed by her installation, she demonstrated how passionate she is about art and how much love, time, and effort goes into her work.

Monique Martin at the Tulip Festival in OttawaAfter studying tulips in great detail, Martin was able to connect the way they naturally stand and move to human emotions and various life stages. Her beautiful close-up interpretations of tulips imitate actions of encouragement, being protective of others, and finally going separate ways. Feelings such as timidity, cautiousness, and confidence are also reproduced in the form of flowers. The cultural and historical significance of tulips do not go unappreciated by Martin; tulip bulbs were eaten during the Dutch Famine in the Netherlands towards the end of World War ll.

To be honest, as a grown woman who has only mastered drawing stick figures, I had never looked at how flowers imitate our own life stages and emotions. Martin showed me there are many ways to look at my gardens and how various plants grow.

Colony Collapse Disorder

On a much larger scale, Martin has created a floor-to-ceiling reproduction of a beehive to educate people on colony collapse disorder, a crisis in which a majority of worker bees disappear.

If you’ve ever wanted to safely peek into a beehive, this is your chance to do it. The multi-sensory continuous is beautifully executed, augmented for those walking through by the sound of buzzing bees and the scent of beeswax. The installation was made using a linocut print method on 1,200 sq ft of mulberry paper.

Undesirable Weeds

Martin was also the mastermind behind a series that uses weeds to address the issues of racism and social exclusion. Called “Context is Everything”, the exhibit featured prints of the Goat’s Beard weed, which Martin describes as beautiful, symmetrical, and delicate.

In fact, she actually used Goat’s Beard seeds and glued them to BFK paper! She wonders if society had not decided it was a weed, would we cherish it? Martin’s work draws an unfortunate parallel to how social biases on things like race and religion also influence who we accept as people.

For example, many homeowners do anything and everything to keep dandelions from growing on their lawns. The desire for a perfect putting green has overshadowed what dandelions are actually good for: every single part of this common weed is edible and extremely nutritious!

The Art of Nesting

A great amount of thought goes into Martin’s work, even down to the paper used for certain prints. In her Forest Gold print exhibit, for instance, she used old maps thrown away by a mining company that was shutting down in Saskatoon, Canada.

Why? Because the topographical lines on the maps looked like the patterns of a bird’s nest, something Martin was commemorating in this exhibit after watching a deforestation project take place on the outskirts of Paris, France. She says with every tree that fell, she knew more and more birds would have to begin their intricate work of building their nests again.

Using nature, history, and social issues for artistic inspiration. To learn more about Monique Martin’s work, visit moniqueart.com

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.