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Karen Stomberg & Elissa Pettibone, November Exhibit & Artist Talk, 2020

Karen Stomberg Artist Statement:

TracesKachemak Bay Plants: Chocolate lily, Scouler’s willow, Sitka mountain ash and Bunchberry

For the last five years I have been immersed in botanical drawing, acutely conscious of the preciousness of our world, carefully observing and recording the beautiful intricacies of wild Alaska plants.  Some seem fragile–but these plants have resilience and complex survival strategies.  They have been known, used, and useful to people of this land for millennia.

We are all conscious of the pressures on many native plants from ongoing changes in the environment and competition from invasive species and wonder… How are they faring? How will we know? Deep indigenous experience, science, and art with all of their twining observational practices, help keep these questions visible.  These plants have history.

This exhibition includes botanical drawings of four wild plants native in the Kachemak Bay region.  I have drawn each plant three times, first of live plants carefully collected in Seldovia during my July 2019 visit. Then drawn from plant specimen sheets in two historical collections; the University of Alaska Museum of the North Herbarium collection dating from 1962 to 2008, and from the Harriman Alaska Expedition 1899 collection at the National Herbarium of the Smithsonian Institute.

Scientists have been collecting, preserving and documenting Alaskan species since Captain Vitus Bering landed here briefly in 1741 and Georg Steller went ashore for 6 hours on Kayak Island outside of Cordova. Botanical artists frequently accompanied expeditions in order to create accurate drawings and sketches, which helped translate the dried plants for expedition patrons and a curious world.

The Harriman Alaska 1899 Expedition was the last in the era of this kind of exploration into the territory that began in 1741. The FV Elder steamed into Kachemak Bay on July 18, 1899. Two botanists went ashore at Halibut Cove and Seldovia that day and took a wide collection of plants–from the shore marshlands, up into the lush woods, and the dry inland area.

When I draw herbarium specimens, I like the idea that they will become more visible beyond their carefully catalogued folders, stacked on dark herbarium shelves. I am moved when I see older herbarium specimens with their delicately preserved plant material and traces of color. Knowing that the herbarium sheets, like fossils, will speak to the future, in an ever-evolving scientific collaboration through time is intriguing. They have stories to tell of exploration and exploitation, and finally of their relationship to present living plants.

These works are available for sale at our online store and in the gallery.

Elissa Pettibone  Artist Statement


For this exhibition, I have developed a series of colors derived from Alaskan plants within the Kenai Peninsula region, creating large scale swatches and a color library depicting the results of over 50 experiments. All local plants were ethically collected and tested for dyeing purposes during the spring, summer and fall of 2019. 

In more detail, these particular large scale swatches are a collection of my favorite reactions over the course of all of the 2019 experiments. Variables such as time of season, dye additive and pH all played  significant roles in these unexpected colors. Please take a look at my dye record notebooks and learn more about the plant and dye chemistry that represent the Kenai Peninsula.

Elissa Pettibone has been exploring historic and local dyes for over a decade, experimenting with plant-based dyes as an alternative to caustic dyes within the textile industry. Her experience with plant dyes started at The North House Folk School in Minnesota, throughout college at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and professionally on the east coast, primarily in Philadelphia and New York City, and now throughout Alaska. She has lectured, taught classes and produced custom natural dye orders for corporations, designers and artists. Her work is an investigation into the limitless spectrum of color that exists in our surrounding flora.

These works are available for sale at our online store and in the gallery.

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