GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new Florida Museum of Natural History gallery exhibit opening April 20 will give visitors an intimate look at nine native Florida plants through the artwork of scientist and self-taught artist Terry Ashley.
“Botanical Chords: The Art and Science of Plants and Cells” includes composite images of two aspects of the same species: a plant as seen by the human eye coupled with a microscopic view of its cells.
“I think of a chord as a combination that enhances the experience,” Ashley said. “A single note is nice, but a chord is something special.”
While working as a research scientist at the Yale University School of Medicine, she conceived the idea for “Botanical Chords” after attending a presentation by Canadian photographer Andre Gallant. He used a “subject” slide and a “texture” slide to create “slide sandwiches.” She completed her first composite image in 2002.
To create the magnified images, Ashley peels off the outer layer of a leaf, petal or stem until the specimen is a single cell layer thick. She takes many pictures of both the microscopic and large view of the plants, carefully pairing them for the best match.
The free exhibit includes canna lilies, pink lady slippers, Indian cucumber, moss and other Florida species.
A personal statement from the artist and an explanation of the plant’s biological qualities by Florida Museum researcher Pam Soltis accompanies each of the images, showcasing the evolutionary research of the Soltis Lab at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
“We thought it would make a fascinating gallery to pair the beauty of nature with the science behind it by connecting Terry Ashley’s ‘Botanical Chords’ with Pam Soltis’ research on flowering plants,” said Florida Museum exhibit developer Tina Choe.
Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in botany from Duke University and a doctorate from Florida State University in genetics. Now retired, Ashley has artwork on display at the Artisans’ Guild Gallery in downtown Gainesville and the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. Prior to Gainesville, “Botanical Chords” has been displayed in North Carolina and Connecticut.
The museum will display the exhibit through Oct. 6.