It’s hard to imagine a time where we didn’t use cameras or our phones to capture a moment. While camera technology has been around for quite some time, there was once a time where the only way one can capture an image was through the creation of art.
During the 17th through the 19th centuries, artists would travel the globe and examine various life forms. They would later create pictures or works of art to show these images to individuals who had never experienced these foreign specimens. These artists would capture images of rare species of birds, endangered plants, and animals. They would then be displayed as they lined the walls of galleries. These works of art are would come to be known as the art form Natural History.
At the Joel Oppenheimer Gallery, one can witness first hand the gathering of the world’s Natural History works. This gallery features quite the repertoire of famous Natural History Artists such as the world renowned Audubon. While there were thousands upon thousands of artists spanning the 17th and 19th centuries, the Oppenheimer Gallery chooses those artists which create the finest quality works and not just merely illustrations.
A new artist was welcomed at the famed gallery and that is the first featured living artist Heeyoung Kim. Continuing the tradition of introducing the world to the life forms amongst us, Heeyoung is a contemporary watercolor botanical artist who shows the beauty of our most valuable resource; plants.
Perusing through the forest or sitting in a friend’s backyard, Heeyoung surrounds herself with her subject, as she begins to sketch and paint. She must protect the habitat and work within her surroundings as she finds her latest specimen. The tiniest brush strokes glide against the hard-pressed paper. A magnifying glass is in hand as the scene is set for Heeyoung to begin painting her next work of art.
Wildflowers surround her that at first glance resemble weeds. She ignores the luscious roses and the plump tulips and looks for what lies hidden in the habitat. Plants such as the Fringed Genetian and the White Lady Slipper Orchid for once get to take center stage over their rose and tulip comrades.
While this may be the first time you and myself have heard of these plants, these rare lifeforms have been a large part of artist Heeyoung Kim’s life from the very beginning. In her household, plants were grinded and utilized in the creations of medicines by her father who was a doctor. While other young kids her age may have played with dolls and toys, Heeyoung’s toys became the plants amongst her.
As life progressed, Heeyoung continued to explore the plants around her. While she is among a fine repertoire of Natural History Artists in the Oppenheimer Gallery, one would be very surprised to learn that Heeyoung has only been painting since 2007.
With under a decade of experience, Heeyoung Kim’s works of art display an incredible amount of artistic technique and control. As an ode to her Korean heritage, there is an emphasis on the lines and space. Instead of filling up an entire space, the work itself may only take up a small portion of the paper.
Since plants are relatively small specimens, Heeyoung magnifies the elements of the plant to transform the plant into a work of art. The creation is simple, controlled, and appears to be created effortlessly. Little does the viewer know, that capturing these images is no small feat as she finds herself in danger as she seeks out these rare life forms
Carrying on the mission of the explorers before her, she captures the images of these plants and shares them in the form of her watercolor art. With the use of her imagination and the guiding hand of nature, Heeyoung has given viewers a peek into the world of endangered plants.
When I asked Heeyoung what she wants viewers of her work to take away from the exhibit she shared with me that “These plants are all of our plants and we must protect them before they become extinct”
While we have scientists who share with us the uses of the plants amongst us, we must be grateful for artists like Heeyoung Kim who show us that there is beauty in everything around us. Even the scrawny plants that may look like a pesky garden weed.
Heeyoung Kim‘s works are currently on display and available for purchase at the Joel Oppenheimer Gallery. Prints are also available.
If you would like even more information on Heeyoung Kim, please visit her website and blog for information on more of her works as well as her teaching programs.
Special thank you to Joel Oppenheimer and Heeyoung Kim for speaking with me regarding the information found in this piece.