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‘Natives in Paradise’ exhibit on display at ‘Ding’ Darling
January 3, 2018

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Botanical artists Pauline Goldsmith and Cynthia Rice, who both hail from South Florida, are paying homage to native Florida plants and butterflies during their "Natives in Paradise" exhibit at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

The exhibit, which runs from Jan. 2 through Feb. 27, takes place in the Visitor & Education Center. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Goldsmith, who is a scientist by trade, began painting scenes of flora and fauna about eight years ago.

"For many years, I buried my artistic genes, but a few years ago, I went to a local class that taught botanical art and suddenly my science and art genes came together," Goldsmith said. "It was a natural fit."

Rice, who lives on Sanibel, started out as a art history major. She later went on to own her own landscape architecture and garden business which she sold in 2004. Rice said she began pursuing botanical art over a decade ago.

"I've always been in love with plants. It was a perfect connection for me," Rice said. It's interesting because no matter how much you think you know about a plant, when you sit down to paint it, you learn all sorts of new aspects and dimensions. You get more deeply in love than you were before you started."

All of the paintings are done in watercolor. Between Goldsmith and Rice, there are a total of 30 pieces on display. Both women are involved with the American Society of Botanical Artists. Goldsmith, who was previously a board director is now a member while Rice is the treasurer.

For the exhibit, Goldsmith chose to highlight endangered species. Two of those species include the Schaus swallowtail butterfly and the dingy purplewing butterfly.

"There are only hundreds left of the Schaus (swallowtail) butterfly," Goldsmith said. "They only exist around the islands of Key Largo and Biscayne National Park."

Other subjects include portraits of Florida natives like devil's claws, the pitcherplant, a varnishleaf, seagrapes and wild azalea.

Rice said that botanical art has a long, rich history. The origins date back to pre-Christianity.

"(The art) evolved because plants were medicines. If you wanted to pick the right medicine, you had to know what the plant looked like. So, in the medieval times, the monks would draw pictures of plants from their herb gardens and circulated them through Europe to tell people which is poisonous and which were going to cure which ailments. You really had to be accurate in your depictions," she said.

Present day, Rice said that many artists use botanical art to shed light on certain endangered species.

"We are visually trying to draw attention to the importance of conservation and record species that may disappear. It's another dimension of the whole tradition," Rice said.

The takeaway? Both women hope people become more observant and mindful of plants.

"For so many people, plants are just in the way, they don't even count. That's a point of view I can't figure out, it's so foreign to me," Rice said. 'I'd really like to get more people interested in botanical art here on Sanibel. It seems like the logical, perfect place to have botanical artists get together and have some fun."

All of the pieces can be purchased via email from paulinegoldsmith@aol.com or treasure@asba-art.org.

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