The Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture will display the artwork of Edmonds College lab manager Christina Hanson from now through Feb. 25. The exhibition, From a Paper Garden: Sculptures by Christina Hanson, features 23 botanically accurate wire and paper sculptures.
Hanson painstakingly assembled the pieces by hand, using paper, glue, wire, watercolor paint, and soft pastels. She developed their designs by observing live plants, photographs, botanical illustrations and herbarium specimens. Each sculpture took Hanson up to two months to complete.
Hanson is a relative newcomer to the art scene. She is a botanist by training and has worked at Edmonds College since 1996, where she is a lab manager in the biology and environmental sciences departments. She first undertook her art form in 2020, with the hope that her pieces could someday be used as three-dimensional botanical illustrations. While that goal remains, Hanson realizes her sculptures are mainly decorative.
“When I set out lab materials for students, we would often put out drawings and pressings of plants,” Hanson explained. “I thought it would be neat to someday get to the level where I could create artistic 3D renditions of plants, including all the life cycle stages of the plants from the seed head to the bud.”
Currently, Hanson’s life cycle model of the cabbage white butterfly on its host plant is on display in the college’s butterfly lab, where students conduct research on the species.
What started as a potential teaching tool quickly grew into much more. Hanson says the sculptures started becoming too numerous to display in her house, so she began thinking of ways to share them with others. She had little interest in selling them and decided to find a different way to share the art.
“I had put them on Instagram and shared them with my friends and different groups on Facebook,” Hanson said. “(The sculptures) don’t translate as well on social media as they do in person, so I felt the next step was to start the process of exhibiting them.”
She is scheduled to have two pieces on display at the Art Gallery at Lynnwood City Hall in the upcoming months. Her exhibition at Miller Library is her first show and big break, but it nearly didn’t happen.
When Hanson originally applied to be a visiting artist at Miller Library in November, she was told the library was booked through 2023 and that she should apply again in the spring. Fifteen minutes after the conversation, the curator reached out to Hanson and said she could show her work in February if she could get her exhibition ready by then. Hanson didn’t hesitate.
“I said, ‘Yes, I can,’” she laughed. “It was a perfect place to start. To be at a horticultural library at an institution like UW is a dream and an honor.”
The exhibition is free to the public and is open Monday through Saturday during library hours. Find more information at From a Paper Garden: Sculptures by Christina Hanson.
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