Botanical Reveries, 2020
Artist Book Installation by Catherine Nash
at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona
Victorian Field microscope from the 1880s.
Botanical Dissection Kit with my 2020 experimental diissection
of a night blooming Cereus repandus flower.
15th century Italian botanical illustrations copied with gouache onto handmade paper.
The original manuscript, a bound manuscript of 100 folios, is from northern Italy (mostly likely the Veneto)
and contains a few different kinds of illustration styles, evidence of a series of augmentations
to the manuscript made across several generations, is held within the Penn Libraries in Philadelphia, PA.
Handpainted example was adapted from Bauer’s original chart, ca. 1790s.
Ferdinand Bauer, an Austrian botanical illustrator, uniquely recorded animals and plants as he found
them live in the wild. He would analyze colors and assign them numbers in his drawings, to complete
his illustrations back in his studio.
Drawings on an 1881 school slate by Catherine Nash of corn seedlings/roots.
Images adapted from :
Botany: A Textbook for College and University Students,
by Williams J. Robbins and Harold W. Rickett, 1929
"Herbarium of the Desert Southwest" by Catherine Nash, made in the manner of young Emily Dickinson’s folio of botanical specimens. [with poems by Emily Dickinson both on the desk and clipped to Nash’s herbarium] In her 1,789 poems, Dickinson refers to plants nearly 600 times and names more than 80 varieties, sometimes by genus or species.
Henry David Thoreau and other Transcendentalist writers
During the 1830s/40s in New England, centered in the vibrant village of Concord, Massachusetts where Emerson lived, a spiritual philosophy arose among preachers, poets, writers, philosophers, and numerous like-thinkers. Transcendentalists have a deep gratitude and appreciation for the visual beauty of nature, and a keen observing eye that helps them to understand the structured inner workings of the natural world.
Henry David Thoreau from Walden Pond, 1845:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived….
Catherine Nash, A Sprig in Morris’ Bottle, 2006
Painted as an ode to Morris Graves [1910-2001]. Gouache painting
on an old Japanese poetry card, found in Morris Graves’ studio.
Catherine was invited to spend two 3 week residencies [2006 & 2015] in Graves’ home and studio
at The Lake, in Loleta, California, isolated on a lake in the middle of 300 acres of virgin redwood forest.
Graves used the muted palette of the Northwest, Asian aesthetics and philosophy, and his personal iconography of
birds, flowers, and other images to explore the nature of consciousness.
Papermaking references found in shelf to the right of the desk.
Examples of artist made tapa [bark cloth] of mulberry bark [Kozo]
and artist made sheets of handmade paper made from varied plants.
Bundle of gampi fiber [to the far right.] Pounding hammer, used by the artist and her students of all ages,
that has been used to pound literally hundreds of pounds of cooked bark fibers into pulp for papermaking.
Nash has been avidly making paper from plants since 1984.
The incomplete journal on the desk emphasizes a shift in perception from scientific to poetic, from technical to expressive. Surviving in a harsh environment, many desert plants protect themselves with dangerous thorns. In the journal, thorns became a metaphor for the worldwide viral pandemic.
Exploring a wonderment and gratitude for the gifts plants can offer, Botanical Reveries celebrates the nourishment, healing, poetry and beauty we have growing all around us. The artist sits at the desk and steadily, over the years, compiles a life of botanical research, historical information, artifacts, and art…. and melds them into a visual accumulation of discovery and poetic interpretation.
Catherine Nash: Artist Bio
With a lifelong dedication and consistency in her studio practice, Catherine Nash creates mixed media images and sculptures that respond to nature and reflect a spiritual and philosophical relationship with the environment: the poetics of landscape. The terrain, aesthetics and cultures of Japan, the rich gradations and spaciousness of Scandinavian summer night skies, her experiences with Native American friends and explorations of the southwestern desert wilderness influence and inform her artwork.
Specializing in Japanese and Western hand papermaking, encaustic painting and mixed media drawing, Nash has taught across the U.S., across western Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan. She is a faculty member at the AZ Sonoran Desert Museum Art Institute. Nash was, and is still, greatly honored to have received the “Lumies Artist 2015” award for southern Arizona, “awarded to an individual artist that has demonstrated excellence, originality and ingenuity in the local arts and culture sector.”
Her work has been included by invitation into numerous national and international exhibitions. Nash is a longtime resident of Tucson, Arizona.