San Francisco Botanical GardenAbout San Francisco Botanical Garden
Artist's Reception
Thursday, January 21

Original paintings and giclée prints are available for sale with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Library

Art Exhibit

Chasing Color: Painting California's Native Flora through the Seasons

By Erika Perloff
January 3 – April 30, 2016

The Helen Crocker Russell Library is delighted to present Chasing Color: Painting California's Native Flora through the Seasons, a beautiful new exhibition by Santa Cruz-based artist Erika Perloff.

Erika Perloff paints vividly with pastels in the plein air tradition, highlighting the beauty of California native flora. Chasing Color tracks the seasons from spring and summer wildflower displays in desert and mountains, to fall leaf changes, to winter conifers covered in snow.


The Project

Chasing Color took Erika around California, seeking out specific plants to paint in the landscape. She painted fir trees from a raft on the Trinity River, backpacked into the high Sierra to paint sky pilot at 13,000 feet, hiked and sketched in the ancient bristlecone pine forest, followed the fall color to paint aspen and cottonwood in the Owens Valley, and hunted rare plants along trails by the bay. Despite the historic drought, Erika was able to find color everywhere. Wildflowers in Humphrey's Basin put on an amazing show, and the dogwoods in Yosemite bloomed as always. Sometimes the plants play the supporting role in her paintings, and sometimes they are the divas. The paintings are meant to give an impression of the flora and habitat, not to be specific portrayals in the botanical sense.

In describing her technique, Erika says, "All the paintings in Chasing Color are painted with soft pastel, a medium that allows for direct application of pigment that can be done fairly quickly in the field as lighting conditions change. Pastels use the same rich pigments as oil, acrylic, and water color, but contain very few added ingredients, making pastel the most permanent of all art mediums. Developments in pastel papers in the last decade have created surfaces that hold many layers of pastel, allowing the artist to build up the image with thick and thin layers. Due to pastels' crystalline structure, light plays over the surface of the paintings and creates a luminosity that is very well suited to capturing our light-filled western landscape."

Erika Perloff

Erika Perloff is a landscape painter based in Santa Cruz, California. Working in the plein air tradition, Erika paints on location to create smaller pieces and completes larger paintings in the studio from her studies and field observations. Her work has been exhibited in galleries, solo and museum shows throughout California, and hangs in private and corporate collections across the country.

Erika's love of plants developed early. She grew up in the Bay Area and spent weekends hiking with her family on Mount Tamalpais and in other local parks and open space lands. The goal of these trips was often to seek out seasonal plants in bloom, such as wild azaleas or calypso orchids. Summers were often spent in the Sierra on in family backpack and Camping trips. Erika's plant loving mother worked in San Francisco and was fond of "dumpster diving" in the Strybing Arboretum dumpsters, and created a fabulous garden from found cuttings and seedlings.

Erika studied biology and natural history as an undergraduate, which served her well in her work in education: as a naturalist, classroom teacher, park ranger, and in developing school gardens and curriculum. Her love of native flora inspires her work as a landscape painter today.

Erika has been drawing and painting all her life and has studied art under some of the nation's premiere plein air painters including Kim Lordier, Terri Ford, Bill Cone, Colleen Howe, Marcia Burt, Randy Sexton, and Lorenzo Chavez.

More of Erika's work can be seen on her website, or in her Santa Cruz Studio by Appointment.


General Exhibit Information

The Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture is recognized as one of the finest horticultural resources in the nation. Its 27,000-volume collection ranges from new gardening titles to antique herbals. The Library is open, free of charge, from 10am–4pm, every day except Tuesdays and major holidays.

Exhibitions of plant- and garden-related drawings, paintings, photographs, and educational displays run for four-month periods. The artwork in our exhibitions are available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Library. For more information, call (415) 661-1316 ext. 403.

Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries

Member of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries
An international organization whose purpose is to initiate and improve communications among persons and institutions concerned with the development, maintenance and use of libraries of botanical and horticultural literature.
SFBGS and San Francisco Recreation and Park Department San Francisco Botanical Garden's beauty and value as a major cultural resource are the result of a successful public/private partnership between San Francisco Botanical Garden Society and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.

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