Aspen-area artist Jody Guralnick is one of the first exhibiting artists in the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Freyer-Newman Center. The center is the final piece of the organization’s $116 million redevelopment plan that has taken a decade to come to fruition. The indoor-outdoor space encompasses 100,000 square feet of classrooms, art galleries, research labs and a library billed as “a physical manifestation of the Gardens’ celebration of the fusion of science and art.”
The pandemic delayed the center’s grand opening last spring, and since then, the building has been opening in phases in accordance with public health orders. Now that visitors have finally started streaming in, they will see a collection of paintings and sculpture that belongs to Guralnick. Her exhibition, “Prima Lingua: First Words of the Earth,” opened last week after also being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guralnick’s work encompasses the smaller bits and pieces she finds on hikes around her home and studio in Castle Creek.
“I’m very inspired by all these small building blocks, like lichens and I love seedheads, and flower heads,” she said. “I’m sort of out every day with my magnifying loop, looking at what I can find to look at.”
Like a scientist, she classifies her foraged finds through different artistic mediums. Tiny shells are used to cover a delicately curved vase, and flora and fauna become colorful imprints painted on to panels. Pinecone scales become the thatched roof for a miniature porcelain figure. Each piece taps into the mycelial network that roots trees to the fungi growing beneath the forest floor.
“I love great botanical illustrations, but that’s not what I want to do,” Guralnick said. “I want to talk about the sensation of understanding that we’re all connected. Everything is connected.”
Guralnick said she hopes her interpretation of that connection gives viewers a bigger picture of the earth’s beauty, right down to its microscopic level. The impacts of climate change have also more recently resonated in her work.
“I keep thinking my role as an artist is to have a voice in climate change, and specifically to say here are these tiny building blocks that are exquisitely beautiful, so complex, so fascinating, and if you don’t look at them, you can’t try and preserve them,” she said.
“Prima Lingua: First Words of the Earth” is on display at the Freyer-Newman Center through March 14, and tickets are available at the Denver Botanic Gardens’ website.