Exhibit remains in the visual arts gallery through October.
By Blanca Granados
The preservation of plant species is essential to human survival, Dornith Doherty, and a University of North Texas professor and award-winning artist brings this subject to light through art.
Doherty opened her exhibition “Mediated Garden” in the gallery in the visual arts center Sept. 12 before giving a lecture in the auditorium of McAllister Fine Arts Center.
This exhibit showcases the completion of her project Archiving Eden. She depicts the interaction of art and science through arrays of preserved seeds from international underground seed vaults.
Around 50 people attended Doherty’s exhibition on opening day, including many art students.
It took Doherty 10 years to accumulate the photos because she traveled all over the world to locations such as Australia and the North Pole, said fine arts sophomore Ashley Bueno.
Another fine arts sophomore, Michelle Delgado, shared her opinion on Doherty’s visuals of art and science intertwined.
“It’s cool to see other people’s take with art,” she said.
In her lecture, Doherty talked about the international efforts to preserve life through seed preservation, its importance and of some of her experiences visiting seed banks and their conditions in each location.
Doherty has researched and visited 16 seed banks around the world. Two of the most notable were the seed vaults in the North Pole and Russia, she said.
The seed vault in the North Pole is located on an island, underground, arranged so if that all the ice melts, the vault will still survive, she said.
Doherty said she was allowed to go all the way into the vault although most guests are allowed only into an area where only photographs are displayed, she said.
People can travel all the way to the North Pole and still not be able to see the seeds unless they are donors or on exclusive tours, she said.
“It was crazy to think, being there, on one of the coldest places on the planet and one of the most biodiverse,” Doherty said.
“I imagined all this technology and special equipment, but the vaults are practical and low-tech,” she said.
It’s meant to be run by two people, she said.
The seeds are frozen, organized and sealed in a freezer-like room, she said.
Each nation that shares the same desire for this preservation of life sends in their collection of seeds, she said.
The seeds are decontaminated and prepared for centuries of storage, she said.
Unfortunately, not all seed banks have the funds to preserve the seeds as they should, she said.
Russia’s seed bank has to be one of the poorest maintained vaults, she said. It’s been there for decades thanks to Nikolay Vavilov, she said.
Vavilov set himself on a mission to preserve life for humans’ sake, she said.
Vavilov and his team of botanists collected the world’s largest collection of seeds in the 1940s. He traveled the world collecting seeds and protected them with his life, she said.
During World War II in the siege of Leningrad 1941, as Germany rampaged through Russia taking the food supply and leaving citizens hungry, Vavilov’s teams locked themselves in the vault to protect the seeds from being eaten.
Not one of them touched a seed, and they all died of starvation, she said.
Their efforts and what’s been added to the collection are at risk because of lack of funds, she said.
Seed banks are gravely important to the preservation of life, she said.
“These efforts are to preserve plant life and possibly human life itself,” she said.
“Even though we think of life as being infinite, it’s actually finite,” she said. “I could do this project for the rest of my life.”
Visual arts Adjunct Stacy Berlfein said she was intrigued by Doherty’s artistic techniques and purpose.
“It’s a very subliminal, very contemporary approach,” she said. “I like how she tied her artwork to society and environmental issues.”
Art is a great way to make people aware about an issue and become engaged, she said.
Presenting this issue in a unique a way to represent its value is something Doherty accomplishes well, she said.
The exhibit will remain on display until Oct. 31. Viewing hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
For information, call 210-486-1042.