Art from Nature Focuses on Our Fragile Ecosystems
“I call my art botanical fiction,” said Jim Proctor, an artist who has taken time off to volunteer at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden for the past five years.
As an artist, Jim works exclusively with native plant materials and aggressive weeds. He creates works that range from whimsical, tiny sculptures to very serious large pieces such as his buckthorn art. “I have a vision of a future public art project I call ‘The Buckthorn Menace.’ This unrealized project is intended to bring attention to the problem of buckthorn and other invasive plants that are threatening the Twin Cities.”
Once a more traditional artist, Jim has seen his art evolve since his years as a student at St. Olaf College. “I broke the 2-D barrier when I stapled some plant matter onto one of my paintings,” he said.
Since then, Jim’s art evolved into the kind of intricate and often fragile, delicate creations he makes today. Materials from nature are essential to Jim, and in fact he received a travel grant in 2001 from the Jerome Foundation that allowed him to tour parts of the country in his search. “I don’t use just any plant material,” he says. “I start out with things that are not already manipulated by man, so I don’t use any garden or hybridized plants. Currently I’m using plants that are native to the Midwest, as well as invasive plants and alien weeds.”
Most recently Jim has made several creations using buckthorn. "It’s one plant I can rip out of the ground and not feel guilty about,” he said. “With no natural enemies and aggressive dispersal, buckthorn out-competes native wildflowers, shrubs and trees. Our natural areas are rapidly becoming buckthorn mono cultures, and the problem is very severe.”
Jim said that his first buckthorn art was an outdoor, on-site project. “I created a giant alien dandelion, using an existing rooted buckthorn tree as the stem.”
Since then, Jim’s buckthorn art has been featured in local art exhibits and a studio open house. And his latest buckthorn sculptures are made from materials removed from - you guessed it - Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. A native of Ohio, Jim is a graduate of St. Olaf College with a double major in art and religion. He has exhibited his art at the Minnesota State Fair, Intermedia Arts, Grinnell College, No Name Exhibitions at the Soap Factory and the Todd and Bockley Gallery. He has been the recipient of grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation and a fellowship at he Blacklock Nature Sanctuary.
Note 1: Article by newsletter editor Lisa Locken
Note 2: This article was published in the Friends newsletter the Fringed Gentian™ Fall 2004, Vol. 52 #4.
In 2006 Jim took charge of coordinating the Friends Invasive Plants Action Group, made up of volunteers from the Friends and the public. This group was successful in removing invasives within the Garden, so that the Garden Staff could handle the annual upkeep. The group has since turned its attention to the area in the buffer zone around the Garden. Jim joined the Friends Board of Directors in May 2005 and remains on the Board as of 2017.