For thirty years, Joan Keesey has focused her eye and her watercolors on the wild flowers of Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park. Keesey's goal as an artist is to illustrate as many of these remarkable plants as possible. However, because the growing season in the Sierras is relatively short, she must spend winters closer to home and painting the native flora of the Santa Monica Mountains. In an artist’s career, projects like these stand out for their dedication to and documentation of a specific place.
"Wild Flowers of Mineral King" is a huge undertaking--an ongoing endeavor. Theodore Payne Art Gallery is honored to present an exhibition of a selection of Joan's watercolors to date. What inspires her about this location? "It's magical! Mineral King is a glacial valley like Yosemite, only higher and smaller.” She cites its peaks, many over 13,000 feet, and its rivers and streams. “The winter is harsh, but in the spring, after the snow has melted, the rebirth is spectacular when delicate plants struggle to the surface."
Joan calls herself a botanical illustrator, explaining that botanical illustrators are precise and the painting is tight. "We try to be botanically accurate, but we are creating ‘Plant Portraits’ (a term coined by painter A.R. Valentien) not scientific illustrations." She does not use photographs to create her work and usually paints in her studio from a cutting of the plant. In Joan's opinion, "Photography cannot capture the information that the human eye can see. Looking closely at a flower or leaf, a lot is lost in a photograph.”