art, Nature, New England, New Green Economy, Science, Uncategorized

Glass Flora: A Very Harvard Natural History

Glass flora in Cambridge, Mass

A wonderful blog post about iced flora inspired this post about glass flora — glass flowers that is — in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This is a permanent collection at the Harvard Natural History Museum.  It’s housed in one of those rare coordinates where art, craft, nature, beauty and research flourish together.

In the image to the right, the flowers shown are each made of glass, mostly blown glass.  It makes sense when you think about it:  what else could capture the luminosity of a live plant?  Ingenious.

The flowers were made to be botanically correct.  There are thousands of glass plants and flowers on display.  The specimens took over 50 years to complete: one glass bit at a time.

It really is mind blowing.  In a pleasant sort of way.

The models were made from 1887 through 1936. The Blaschkas’ studio was located in Hosterwitz, near Dresden, Germany.   Professor George Lincoln Goodale, founder of the Botanical Museum, wanted life-like representatives of the plant kingdom for teaching botany.  At the time only crude papier-mâché or wax models were available.  These glass flowers are elegant, understated (but revelatory for it).  They can only happen once in the arc of the human race: exquisitely unique to this time and place.

photo by kmhurley,

art, Nature, New Green Economy, Saving the World

Contest: Beauty in Nature

A contest everyone can join: show the world where you see beauty in nature.

wonder of nature example
long island sound at sunset

The thrust is this: when we teach our eyes, ears and other senses to focus on the wonders of nature, we open ourselves to the experience of beauty & wonder of the natural world. Just as when we get into city life we open ourselves to the great things about that realm, or even when we open ourselves to suburban life (it does happen) we find lovable aspects.

These days – the thinking goes – the world needs artists to reveal and remind us of the wonder of the natural world.

Can you help?

The U.S. EPA, Generations United, the Dance Exchange, National Center for Creative Aging, and the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., have announced this poetry, essay, photo and dance contest.

Here’s the catch: entries must be from a team of two or more persons:  a young person and an older person.

Can you do it?

The creative work should express the “sense of wonder” that you & your team feel for the beach, the sky at dawn or dusk or night, the ocean, forests, birds, wildflowers — wherever nature is beautiful to you.

Come on, writers!  Also: dancers and videographers and directors.  Use live performers.  Use movement in nature: birds landing, wind in the trees, snow falling, a deer crossing a field, a fish struggling against a stream current… or just plain rain.

In 1951 Rachel Carson published her second book The Sea Around Us.  The New York Times Book Review wrote, “Every person who reads it will look on the sea with new pleasure.”  That’s kind of the whole idea.

Have fun!  Have art.

2011 Contest: Submissions are due June 10, 2011.


MJ Blanchette: Current Favorite Artist

Last week I discovered this painting.

It was in a gallery downtown, in the Seacoast town I call home.  The gallery, to its credit, had many interesting and beautiful works, it had paintings and books and other wonderful things.  But tucked behind the gallery owner’s desk, there on the wall, was this:

MJ Blanchette Painting

It was one of those times when a piece of art strikes you so deeply you are still thinking of it a week later.  Doesn’t happen often.  When it does, it’s exciting enough to be shared.

Definitely check out Blanchette’s site at — the work is even better in real life, if you get a chance.

Blanchette exhibits around New England.

Let me know if you love it.