‘Depicting the perfect strange beauty of plants’
“Carry a Torch: Foeniculum vulgare” (2021) by Madge Evers.

‘Depicting the perfect strange beauty of plants’

Madge Evers’s art on view at BMAC

BRATTLEBORO — In spring 2019, artist Madge Evers saw Emily Dickinson's “Herbarium” for the first time.

Later that year, during a walk in Northampton, Massachusetts, Evers began to conceptualize a herbarium of her own.

“There, in the cracks and along the sidewalk, plants were busting out all over,” Evers said in an interview with the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) for the museum's blog, Art Loves Company.

“Tendrils of frost grape vine were raising their arms, literally waving at me. Lush greenery spoke of purpose, lives well-lived. I wanted to pay homage to their spring bursting, their summer gathering of energy, their fall retirement, and their winter waiting. I had a desire not to capture all of these stages, but to depict the perfect, strange beauty of plants.”

In “The New Herbarium,” currently on view at BMAC, Evers uses mushroom spores and plant matter as her artistic media. Instead of preserving and displaying the plants themselves, Evers places foraged mushrooms gill-side down on top of plants that serve as stencils.

“After the billions of spores contained in the gills or pores of the mushroom are released, they fall and mark the paper,” Evers said. “Leaf and petal silhouettes are rendered in spores with organic patterns, photographic detail, and varying textures.”

The resulting images lead some viewers to mistake them initially for photographs, says a news release. They are mostly black and white with occasional color from dried flowers, like the bright orange Shirley poppies featured in one work.

“Using spores as a zero-waste art medium appeals to me as a gardener and composter,” Evers said. “When I forage for materials, I engage in an interspecies relationship with fungi. Like the wind and other animals, I spread the spores of mushrooms; I germinate those powdery spores into a fruiting body that takes the form not of a toadstool, but of a two-dimensional image on paper.”

Evers is an educator, gardener, and visual artist. She has been paying close attention to signs of fungi since she began making spore art in 2015. Her art references photosynthesis and the ancient collaboration in mycorrhizaand sometimes includes the cyanotype process and paint.

In (1)2021, she was a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship finalist in photography. She has attended artist residencies on Cape Cod and in Maine; current residencies at Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Kinney Renaissance Center at UMass allow Evers to interact with landscapes and their histories.

After teaching for 25 years in Rhode Island and Massachusetts public schools, she now works as a full-time artist.

“The New Herbarium” is on view at BMAC through Feb. 12, 2023.

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