Does the science of botany need art and does art need the science of botany?
Plant ecologist Lyn Baldwin and visual artist Ila Crawford don't need to ask that question. The Thompson Rivers University instructors have long believed science and art combine marvelously to help students understand the natural world.
The pair has collaborated for years, writing papers together and taking turns instructing each other's students, with Crawford helping student scientists to draw plant life and Baldwin helping student artists awaken to the ecological beauty around them.
"More and more people are realizing that most post-secondary students, as well as the general public, suffer from 'plant blindness,' " said Baldwin of the driving force behind the pair's collaborations.
"We just take plants for granted; we don't think about how they make a living or what strategies they use to stay alive."
Earlier this month, Baldwin and Crawford took their collaboration a step further by opening a unique art exhibit.
Art & Science: Drawing & Botany features the juried art of more than 50 artists, botanists and students - from B.C. and beyond - whose work highlights how art supports botanical research and learning.
The show helped kick off the 49th annual Canadian Botanical Association conference, June 1 to 5 at TRU.
"We had over 100 botanists here and it was very exciting, because they were thrilled by the show," said Baldwin.
The artwork is on display at TRU's art gallery in the Old Main building. The work is diverse in style and content, ranging from sketches and watercolour paintings to heavy ink prints and multimedia sculptures.
The exhibit runs until Friday, June 21, and Crawford hopes visitors will see how art and botany go hand in hand.
"I think the combination of all the work gives a really broad view of the role of botany in human existence," said Crawford.
As an art instructor, Crawford asks her students to draw botanical elements in nature as an exercise in "paying attention to something they don't need to pay attention to on a daily basis."
Baldwin, in turn, asks her botany students to turn to art as a means of documenting the plants they study in the field and in labs.
"When you draw something, you learn differently," notes Crawford.
"It forces you to pay attention to the subject. When you physically have to draw it, you have to account for every bump and hair and every turn, every hole in the leaf, everything."
Art & Science: Drawing & Botany wraps up on Friday with a closing reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Many of the artists will be on hand to talk about their work.
Everyone is invited to attend.