The exhibition, Meaningful Beauty: The Vibrant Vocabulary of Honeysuckles, is on view in TCNJ Art Gallery now through March 27. The exhibition celebrates the diversity of honeysuckles, and explores how differences in form allow various species of the plant to effectively communicate with their environment. Through a blend of artistic and scientific imagery — including illustration, animation, photography, maps, and diagrams — the exhibition conveys key concepts in evolution and plant form. The exhibition further engages visitors of all ages through digital and interactive technology, including projection, kiosks, as well as extensive use of augmented reality to blend art with science and personalize the experience for each visitor.
The exhibition was designed and produced by TCNJ students and faculty, marking the culmination of a year-long collaborative effort between TCNJ School of the Arts and Communication and School of Science. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the project builds on innovative research from collaborating scientists at TCNJ, Yale University, and St. John’s University. Following its run at the TCNJ Art Gallery, the exhibition will move to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum in Boston in late spring.
Honeysuckles are the focus of the exhibition and related research, because they so effectively demonstrate how plants use fusion to change their form, which can lead to new ways to communicate with their surroundings. These innovations are clearly seen in honeysuckle flowers, fruits, and leaves — structures which in some species have evolved to fuse together and can affect interactions with the insects and animals that pollinate their flowers and disperse their seeds. Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology Wendy Clement, students in TCNJ’s Biology department have been directly involved in investigating the evolution of fusion and honeysuckle diversity using genomics and studies of plant morphology from living plants and museum specimens.
“Undergraduate students have played a key role in all facets of our work on honeysuckle biology leading to new discoveries and a deeper understanding of the evolution of plant diversity. The development of this exhibition was also strongly influenced by students’ ideas and perspectives. Collaboratively, we have worked to create an experience we hope will have visitors seeing plants in a new way,” Clement said.
In a course led by Professor Chris Ault, students in TCNJ’s Interactive Multimedia major workshopped concepts, developed prototypes, and produced the diverse content of the exhibition, mixing more traditional forms such as illustration with digital elements including animation, 3D models, data visualization, and augmented reality.
“It’s been really gratifying to be a part of such a diverse collaboration — between Botany and Interactive Multimedia, between students and faculty, between TCNJ and the Arnold Arboretum. We’ve all informed each other’s ideas and perspectives in interesting, unexpected ways. And the result, I think, is a fascinating blend between the experience of an art gallery and a science museum,” Ault said.
Meaningful Beauty: The Vibrant Vocabulary of Honeysuckles will be on view in the TCNJ Art Gallery located on the first floor of the Arts and Interactive Multimedia building from February 22 through March 27. To coincide with the exhibition, TCNJ is planning a Botanical illustration workshop and a Cut Paper Herbarium workshop in March. More information can be found on the project’s Instagram and Twitter accounts.
For more information about TCNJ Art Gallery and hours visit: tcnjartgallery.tcnj.edu/visit