The Big Picture: Ecological Art

Two eyes printed onto petals

The underlying structure of leaves—a veritable maze of branching or looping veins—plays an important role in the functions of plants. How efficiently can they transport water and nutrients? Can they resist damage? How resilient are they to environmental stressors? Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Professor Benjamin Blonder hopes to better link leaf venation to ecological function, research that could one day guide the design of things like more efficient roads, drainage systems, and synthetic organs.

Juniper Harrower, BS ’06 Genetic & Plant Biology, is an artist-in-residence at Blonder’s Macrosystems Ecology Laboratory. Now a first-year master’s student in the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley, Harrower—who earned a PhD in environmental studies with a focus in eco-art from UC Santa Cruz in 2019—creates art that explores the role that plants play in constructing our identities and how our activities influence and shape their development. Shown here is an art piece Harrower created using sunlight and phytochemistry to print an image of her eyes onto leaves, then partially decaying and dying it. This piece was part of an installation displayed at an exhibit at the UC Botanical Garden in March

Learn more about the exhibit and the Blonder lab's research in our photo essay