Botanical paintings as reflections of culture
The relationship between humans and nature has always been complicated. The availability of objective threads of knowledge, and influential cultural values have evolved throughout varied times and places. This thesis will analyze how interwoven values and complex bodies of knowledge affect the subject matter and stylistic choices within naturalistic depictions of the natural world, and how artists respond to and create meaning through the natural subjects around them. Through selection of a number of artists and pieces, an exploration into the cultural frameworks surrounding the works’ production will illuminate the ways in which cultural influences affect artistic output. The lenses of spirituality, imperial expansion, economic exploitation, and scientific conventions reveal aesthetic choices that conform to or juxtapose certain cultural motivations. As an artist interested in representing the natural world in my paintings, this exploration aids in my own understanding of how my depictions of plants are, and will be, shaped by how I think about the environment around me. Composition, perspective, form, and subject matter are some elements of my artistic practice informed by this research. My goal is to produce informed pieces of art that fully reflect my own artistic desires and personal aspirations. I hope to gain an improved pictorial means of communicating particular interests through analysis of botanical paintings and the contexts, cultures, and values surrounding their production. This leads me in attempting to produce a better informed, purposeful depiction of the Louisiana environment.