2018 Best in Painting/Printmaking – Perry Stella O’Toole


My piece is a florilegium, or plant compendium, of different plants that are native to the state of Michigan. It is a collection of botanical drawings hand-bound into a book that is meant to be handled and examined. Botanical drawings have been essential through all of history, especially in medicine, and in the age of exploration. As people began to explore the globe it was important that they brought along naturalists and artists that could properly identify, illustrate, and therefore distinguish between different species of plant life. This of course led people to test which plants they could utilize for food, medicine, or even recreation. It greatly aided in the fields of ecology, biology, and botany in order to create a more well-rounded understanding of the plant life around the world.

This piece consists of a collection of watercolor paintings that are hand-bound into a book form. The pages are hand-sewn into the book. It is meant to imitate what the botanical journals of the first explorers might have looked like, but bringing them into a more modern context by also including their scientific names as well as their symbolic meanings in different cultures. The book is made in an accordion-style and is also double-sided. One side consists of full-page renderings in pencil and watercolor of different plants native to Michigan, as well as their symbolic meanings. All text is written in gold-leaf, but in a hand-written scrawl as to feel more human and personal. The backside consists of loose drawings and notes in a pocket.