German Village Gazette

Franklin Park Conservatory Exhibits offer flower power, fantastic plastic

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The Franklin Park Conservatory is pairing petals and plastic in its annual Orchids! show, on display through April 7.

The theme of this year's flower exhibit is based on the work of Aurora Robson, who uses discarded plastic bottles in her sculptures, some of which are also being featured at the conservatory.

Amanda Bettin, horticulture and design supervisor at the conservatory, said flowers and synthetic containers aren't as incompatible as they might seem.

"The colors of her art are so vivid and exciting and with orchids, maybe more than other plants, you can find any color of the rainbow," Bettin said. "So it's a great combination."

The exhibit is on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at the conservatory, 1777 E. Broad St.

Cost for admission is $11 for adults, $9 for senior citizens and students, and $6 for children ages 3 through 17. Conservatory members receive free admission.

The display offers a more modern and geometric plant layout, nine hanging baskets, or "orchid chandeliers," and a striking gradation of colors, which play directly off of Robson's pieces, Bettin said.

Another feature is the Tillandsia curtains, in which the plants are glued to galvanized wires that are vertically hung.

The spider-shaped plants are epiphites, meaning they absorb water and nutrients through leaves not roots, so they don't need soil, Bettin said.

"It's fantastic," she said. "What we try to do is set a new standard for each exhibit.

"We feel like we've done it again," Bettin said. "Each year we try to top ourselves."

Meanwhile, Robson's exhibit, Sacrifice plus Bliss, is on display through April 28. It includes sculptures, as well as junk-mail collages and oil and acrylic paintings.

The Chester, N.Y., artist repurposes plastic she finds on land and in waterways across the globe.

The sheer amount of the non-biodegradable waste is distressing, Robson said.

"I'm not surprised by it but I do find it disturbing," she said. "It makes sense. It's durable, lightweight, economical material. It's being used so widely. We're in the age of plastic."

Robson, 40, spent a four-week residency with the conservatory over the summer and worked with other artists and students in the area.

In her Quality of Mercy sculpture, she used litter from the Glen Echo Ravine in Clintonville and other places throughout central Ohio.

If the sculpture is sold, Robson will donate the money to environmental groups in the area.

"I'm trying to harness the energy of other people caring," said Robson, who graduated with degrees in art history and visual arts from Columbia University.

She said she didn't start using plastic bottles in her art because of the environment.

"I started working with them because they were light, free and everywhere," Robson said. "It was also largely about their formal qualities, their shape."

"It's fantastic. What we try to do is set a new standard for each exhibit. We feel like we've done it again. Each year we try to top ourselves."

--AMANDA BETTIN

Franklin Park Conservatory

horticulture and design supervisor

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