Artist Patrick O'Hara and his magnificent obsession

Wild About Wildflowers – Patrick O'Hara and his magnificent obsession

March 1, 2008

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Ironwood

Working from his home and studio in the village of Currabinny in Cork harbour, on Ireland's south coast, Patrick has spent forty years travelling the world studying and drawing wildflowers.

Over the past ten years, Patrick has been taking a special interest in the wildflowers of California, in the belief that they and their treatment could hold lessons for all mankind. Patrick's work has also drawn attention to recent advances in analytical chemistry that have led to the discovery of thousands of new-to-science chemicals in even the most common weeds of our temperate zones – not just in the tropical rain forests. Each of these chemicals has a purpose in nature and the quest to understand that purpose is driving much research into potential cures and treatments for many of our most terrible diseases. (For his artistic interpretation of these important aspects of plant science, Patrick was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1992 – and he recently repaid the compliment by dedicating two of his Californian paintings to Carl Linnaeus.)

He believes that there must be a new appreciation that our future care of planet Earth is vital in every sense of the word. There is no doubt that our climate is changing, and that pollution, urban development and intensification of agriculture are all pushing the "system" to a point when it can no longer repair itself. A belief by many scientists and influential thinkers that something can be done about this, is what Patrick finds so encouraging about California. There is no doubt that that there is a section of our population that is prepared to make life changes that can make a difference.

Conservation policies that are being pursued, not just in the National and State Parks and reserves but also in local communities and by big business, are setting a lead that others in America and the rest of the world would do well to follow.

Patrick is following in the footsteps of another Irishman who had a fascination with the native flora of California, botanist Thomas Coulter, who came over from Dublin in 1824 and spent ten years in California and Arizona making countless discoveries, collecting more than 50,000 specimens. His notes and observations made on these travels have only recently been appreciated as an extraordinary contribution to botanical science. O'Hara's art is not just a faithful and scientifically accurate portrayal of nature – his compositions and aesthetic designs have long shown that such a blend of art and science can speak to a very wide audience about our responsibility to nature. His paintings and sculptures pay tribute to the great botanists and intrepid explorers of the past, and he has stuck to his principles that he will only portray species that he has studied growing in their natural habitats; showing them growing with their associated fauna and flora and only producing original works himself.

Throughout his career he has tended to buck the trends: using new technology, he has re-invented difficult techniques last seen in the 18th and 19th centuries - for instance combined engraving and enamelling on crystal glass, and pâte-sur-pâte decoration on colored porcelain. The way that he deals with his subject matter fits precisely into the contemporary 'holistic' view of conservation and the environment – moving on from the traditional, and totally isolated, "Victorian specimen" image of botanical art.

Join us!
Patrick O'Hara Artist Opening & Reception
June 1, 2008  4:00–6:00 p.m.
Meet the engaging Patrick O'Hara and celebrate California's magnificent wildfowers
Free Admission
Reservations Required (805) 682-4726, ext. 652

March, 2008