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Postings are excerpts from the exhibition catalog edited by Carol Woodin

Monday, June 21, 2010

Golden Barrel Cactus, Oil on Paper by Ingrid Finnan, US

Echinocactus grusonii

Listing: Critically Endangered, IUCN Red List

The Plant’s Story

Mexico is “diversity central” for cacti, a family native only to the Americas. Over 650 species of the world’s 1500 cacti make their home in Mexico. Golden barrel cactus is one of the many cacti found in only a very small area, in this case one of about 15 square miles. Growing on volcanic slopes at about 3500’ in elevation, it is estimated only 250 golden barrels remain in the wild. Its range was reduced in the early 1990s by construction of a dam flooding the Mactezuma Valley. El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden, Guanajuato, Mexico engaged in a rushed rescue effort to save the golden barrels and other rarer plants from the valley, incorporating them into their conservation-focused collection. Although development and grazing are the greatest threats to endangered cacti, there still remains a thriving market among cactophiles for illegally collected plants, which affects the already reduced populations.

The Artist’s Story: Ingrid Finnan

Over the years I have made numerous visits to the Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden, where the perfectly round form of the Golden Barrel Cactus has fascinated me. But how to make a round cactus suitably fit the rectangular format was the question. My solution was to flank the primary cactus with two others painted in more subtle manner, hoping to suggest that the species is vanishing. I begin by sketching a plant that has caught my imagination. On my sketch I make detailed notes of the dimensions and the colors of the plant and take numerous photos with a composition in mind. In my studio, I prepare a detailed drawing and transfer it to a sheet of watercolor paper. I quickly paint the whole image in thinned oils, laying in the lights and darks and capturing the colors as closely as possible. Then comes the time consuming process of refining the work, blending colors, adding textural effects, and fine details.

More of the plant’s story and the artist’s story can be found in the exhibit catalog, available at the exhibition venues or online from the ASBA.