Botanicals: An exhibit by Monica Rico

The collection encapsulates spring in New England

Laleh Panahi / Daily Collegian

Laleh Panahi / Daily Collegian

By Laleh Panahi, Collegian Staff

The chaos of finals week is all too familiar. Eyes are laser-focused on the laptops in front of them. Iced coffees are an arm’s reach away, serving as fuel to produce “A” worthy work. With the perpetual pattering of typing across keyboards, the tense fidgeting and the hushed tones of concern over exams throughout campus, it is easy to long for an escape. Chances are you’re eagerly anticipating Moodle’s submission confirmation email, the closing of all your tabs and,  frankly, leaving the stress of school behind. Fortunately, you do not have to wait until summer for a taste of this relief.

Monica Rico’s Botanicals exhibit, quietly tucked away in the Seed Library at Lederle Graduate Research Tower, provides a beacon of serenity during times of stress. This exhibit, which runs through May 13, features intricate block prints and textiles by Rico, a New Hampshire-based artist. The atmosphere is serene, calming and bright, encapsulating the beauty of spring in New England.

For those unfamiliar with Lederle, it is the graduate study and research center at UMass, located near the Physical Sciences Building. Lederle consists of a yellowish low-rise building and tower; the Seed Library is in the lower rise building on the third floor. The library’s bright, vibrant green walls make it inviting and impossible to miss.

Upon entering the Seed Library, one’s eye is drawn to the variety of media used to create a botanical theme. An aesthetically pleasing and elaborate puzzle stands proudly on a shelf, depicting a garden scene. An unboxed puzzle, also on theme, is placed nearby. There is a shelf in the corner of the library with green gardening tools, like watering cans. There are bookshelves filled with books on gardening and botany. One of the focal points is a large wooden cabinet containing different compartments, labeled in pink, orange and green. These compartments each hold a variety of herb, vegetable and flower seeds organized alphabetically. Most of the seeds are labeled clearly and contain information about the planting season, so that even inexperienced gardeners can yield successful results. Upon browsing the flower section, I found Blazing Star, Mammoth Magenta Celosia and Butterfly Weed to be my favorites. Additionally, there was a space for others to donate seeds they harvested from their crops, promoting sustainability.

What was arguably the most notable, however, was the glass case that contained Rico’s beautiful botanical block prints. Rico’s artwork features imagery associated with the springtime, such as beehives, flowers, wisps of grass and birds. These detailed patterns and designs were engraved onto blocks. Most of the artwork was done in black and white, but for some pieces there were tones of pastel pink. There was a journal placed at the top of the glass case, where viewers could write messages or their interpretations of the artwork. The sentiments in the journal were highly optimistic, kind and positive, and everyone seemed to appreciate the beauty of the Seed Library and the exhibit.

The Seed Library is definitely worth the hike to Lederle, and the environment is very calming and comforting. There is something for everyone, and with the variety of materials available it is easy to be stimulated and engaged.

Laleh Panahi can be reached at [email protected].