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Artist Ken Gregory's piece: Electrica Herba

Bioart exhibit opens to public – work inspired by University of Manitoba’s herbarium plant collection

February 20, 2015 — 

During a cold weekend in November, a group of Winnipeg artists gained access to the University of Manitoba WIN Herbarium – a bio repository of dried, preserved plant specimens for scientific study. After exploring themes of bioart and botanical illustration through the ages, they dove into the plant collection. These artists viewed botanical specimens under microscopes, captured images with a microscope camera or camera lucida. In time, they fell under the plants’ spell… This collective experience has led to a body of botanical artwork by the following:

Becky Thiessen, Toby Gillies, Melody Morrissette, Ken Gregory, Shawn Jordan, hannah g, Seth Woodyard, Jessica McKague, Julia Wake, and Lesley Nakonechny, as well as work by facilitators: Helga Jakobson, Chantal Dupas, Dawn Wood, and Diana Sawatzky.


Dry Media Event Poster

Design by Melody Morissette.


Diana Sawatzky, assistant curator of the herbarium explains how the unique collaboration took off.

Q: How did this project begin?

DS: Having artists in the herbarium for botanical art workshops is something I’ve wanted to have happen since I became the herbarium’s assistant curator in 2013. After hosting a few drawing labs in the herbarium with fine arts students, I wanted open the idea to the public. No sooner did I open my mouth than it became collaboration with artist Helga Jakobson and the Bioart chapter of Video Pool. Herbarium volunteers Dawn Wood and Chantal Dupas offered to co-collaborate, and we received support from herbarium curator Dr. Bruce Ford. The exhibit is a result of the botanical artwork inspired by this herbarium workshop.

Q: What is your background?

DS: I am a botanist; I graduated from the Faculty of Science. I have long since been engaged in Winnipeg’s thriving arts community and am thrilled to be showing the work of so many talented local artists.

Herbarium art workshop in November 2014.

A participant at the herbarium art workshop held in November 2014.

Q: Who are the artists?

DS: All are Manitoba based artists working in a large variety of media ranging from installation, new media, performance, drawing, print making, poetry, beading, etc. Each artist comes from a different field ranging from arts administration to design to carpentry. Their backgrounds range from a formal art education to science or museology.

Q: Can you tell us more about the WIN Herbarium?

DS: The herbarium is a collection of dried plants for scientific study. Like a museum, it is curated and is accessible to researchers and interested members of the public. A herbarium is a historical record of a regions flora, cataloging the anatomy, molecular information, and distribution of each plant species. It documents botanical discovery over hundreds of years and records changes in plant diversity over time, facilitating long-term studies of the natural environment.

Founded in 1907, the University’s herbarium houses the most extensive collection of vascular plants of Manitoba, over 77,000 specimens. For over 100 years, it has served as an important resource for taxonomic research and for studies documenting the distribution and ecology of Manitoba’s flora.

We welcome visitors interested in learning about Manitoba’s plants.

For more information please contact:

Diana Sawatzky: Diana [dot] Sawatzky [at] umanitoba [dot] ca,

Or Bruce Ford: bruce [dot] ford [at] umanitoba [dot] ca,

Or visit our website:

The Dry Media Herbarium Group Art Exhibit opens Friday February 20 and runs until March 4, at the Edge Gallery, 611 Main Street.

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