Former Davis resident Catherine Watters — daughter of longtime residents Jim and Janine Stevens — is a co-founder of the Alcatraz Florilegium, an exhibition of botanical drawings and paintings documenting the plants of the Gardens of Alcatraz, which opened this month.
The exhibition, a project of Northern California Society of Botanical Artists in collaboration with the Garden Conservancy, will be open to island visitors through Dec. 31 in the Alcatraz Prison Band Rehearsal Room. It includes 45 works of art depicting a variety of plant growing on the island. They were created by NCalSBA artists and selected for the exhibition by a jury.
Many of the plants in the exhibition are documented as historic survivors on Alcatraz. In 2003, the Garden Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy formed a partnership with the National Park Service and set to work to restore the gardens. Staff and volunteers removed the overgrowth, recovered “survivor” plants hidden beneath the tangled mess, and began to restore and enhance what remained of abandoned gardens that had been created decades earlier by wardens and prisoners.
For more than a century, gardens were an important part of everyday life for the officers, families and prisoners confined to Alcatraz by sentence or duty, a news release said.
Exhibition entries were selected for criteria of fine art and science, including composition, drawing, technique and scientific accuracy. NCalSBA artists visited the island—some of them, several times — to view and select a plant to depict, with guidance from Garden Conservancy staff. Artists spent between 50 and 150 hours on each piece of art, in a range of media including watercolor, graphite and colored pencil.
Organizers of the Alcatraz Florilegium project were NCalSBA members Lyn Dahl, Sally Petru and Watters, together with Shelagh Fritz, the Garden Conservancy’s project manager for the Gardens of Alcatraz.