By Bianca Ana Chavez
Orquideafilia Mural. @ Bianaca Ana Chavez, all rights reserved
March will find me back in the magical highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Chiapas has the highest diversity of orchids in Mexico, many of which can be seen in the botanical garden El Jardin de Epifitas. The garden is directed by biologist Juan Castillo Hernandez, an incredible lover of art and nature. In addition to the botanical garden, Juan or ‘profe’ as everyone calls him, has a corner plant shop in the center of town. It is to these walls that stretch above cobblestone streets that I will return to complete the Orquidefilia mural and resume a life dedicated to the perpetuation of art, nature and culture.
Through some bit of wisdom or fluke, I first found myself working with Juan at the Orquideafilia plant store a few years ago. In my downtime I would sketch and paint the plants in the shop. Somehow these drawings eventually ended up wrapping around the block. But I left the mural unfinished. While drawing, the old haunting idea of studying botanical illustration would come back to me. I had played with the idea of studying botany in college but shied away from it for a fear of math and the hard sciences. I had long since discovered botanical art, and wanted to explore it more deeply.
So I moved to Seattle to pursue a certificate in Natural Science Illustration (NSI) at the University of Washington. With a lifelong love of plants and the arts, taking the NSI program was a stubborn declaration of my commitment. Through the NSI program I had the chance to work with many inspiring illustrators, botanists, and plant lovers. The program solidified my desire to pursue the arts and that I wanted to do this in a way that brought attention to the earth and our connection to it.
Returning to work again at Orquideafilia, we want to expand the plant store to include a tea shop and space for art and nature-related events and workshops. Juan approaches the work he does with a strong sense of collaboration. It is largely through his encouragement of my crazy ideas that I will offer weekly workshops in botanical illustration at the shop.
Biology student draws orchid using a reference photo. @ Bianaca Ana Chavez, all rights reserved
The workshops will be offered by donation to the community and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The idea is to create a space where plants and art supplies are provided so that all people have to do is come with an open mind ready to explore and share their techniques with each other. Really, I am still pretty green to all of this — I am learning along with everyone else. The beauty is that we can grow together.
The name Orquideafilia came from combining the two words orchid (orquidea) and the Greek -philia, or filia. A love for orchids. This is what we have.
To support both the mural project and the development of a space for art, nature and culture, I created a one-month only pop-up online art store and donation page on my website. My goal is to raise $3,000 to cover the cost of travel, the art supplies to complete a large-scale mural, and the administrative cost of programming community events and workshops for one year.
To buy original artwork or donate to the project, please click on the following link – http://www.biancaanachavez.com/shop.
For more information about workshops and events, you can contact me directly through my website at www.biancaanachavez.com.
Bianca and fellow graduates of the Natural Science Illustration program at the University of Washington participate in Endless Forms Most Beautiful at the
Burke Museum in Seattle, WA.
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