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Natural Dyes:

Works Imbued with Plant Pigments from

Forests, Gardens, and Grasslands


Kamiak Butte

Lawson Gardens

Phillips Farm

Idler's Rest

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Rather than painting or drawing the landscape, I wanted to create an abstract-expressionist depiction of where I was by utilizing the natural materials surrounding me. I would pluck certain plants and rub them into the paper or canvas surface to create a layered, tactile intimacy between the artwork and the Palouse region. The plant and soil varieties would communicate harmoniously within the paper/canvas works just as they did within the location in which they were made.


The gestural line work and paint-like application of the raw materials were not only meant to embody the visual aspects of the land, but to also stimulate kinesthetic empathy; perhaps allowing the viewer to transport themselves into that specific place with the smells of the flora, the sound of the birds, and the feel of the sun and wind. Periodically I would close my eyes and allow my inner being to fully experience my location. I would try to take in every sensation and picture in my mind what color or non-objective form that impression could visually make. Upon opening my eyes I would search for those specific hues and apply the organic matter to my surface to try to emulate that distinct place and time. I wanted my visual interpretation to transport the viewers of the art pieces to where I was at that precise moment

Rather than utilizing traditional art mediums, my use of site-specific pigment expanded on my understanding and appreciation of the area. I wasn’t drawing or painting the landscape; the landscape was the force designing the image. The process became a collaboration between artist and place, which encouraged an ephemeral quality within the piece. The remnants of plant matter dried into the fibers of the surface of the work strengthens this connection between the Palouse and the people who interact with it. The series of work provides a sense of place, of time, of gratitude.                                

- Annie Cunningham




Annie Cunningham earned her Masters of Fine Arts from Washington State University. How the human form interacts with its surrounding environment is a key component in much of Cunningham's pieces. Visit her website here.

page design by Ellen McNary

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