Gary Irish is a digital artist with a background in science and technology. He studied Geography and Botany graduating with a Master’s degree from Texas A & M University. After moving to New Orleans, he worked in the fields of digital image analysis and computer based mapping at NASA’s Earth Resources Laboratory. There he gained valuable experience in processing digital imagery captured by Landsat satellites. The use of a variety of software for the analysis of imagery data in support of basic scientific and applied research work provided him with initial insights into how image processing techniques could be used to produce art.
His long interest in plants has also contributed to the development of his art. He has written a number of horticultural articles and co-authored a book on agaves and yuccas with his wife the horticulturalist and garden writer Mary Irish. His many years photographing plants in both horticultural and natural settings has led to the creation of a large library of digital plant imagery that contributes many of the base images for his art.
He has been producing digitally developed, artistic images of plants for over 12 years. He utilizes software to manipulate an initial digital image producing a variety of image layers that are then composited into a final image. These final images reveal the artist’s personal interpretation of his plant subjects.
He currently lives in Castroville, Texas, near San Antonio, with his wife, cat, and extensive garden. There he continues to reimagine the plant world through his artistic images.
Before the advent of photography information about individual plant species was often presented in botanical folios consisting of collections of large drawings and paintings. The best of these collections contained images that were of both scientific and artistic value. The discovery and exploration of the New World lead to the production of many such folios, which helped Europeans, and later Americans, understand the diversity and beauty of the plant world. These large folios contained lushly produced hand-colored images which are still admired today, years after their initial production.
The images in this show are drawn from a large body of work which I call Plants of Texas which I view as a modern and personal botanical folio. They are entirely digitally produced representations of individual plant species, native to the state of Texas. While the need to convey scientific information in a botanical folio structure is not of great importance today, I believe that the use of this format can help us appreciate nature’s artistry at our door steps.
In producing these images, I have reimagined individual species in an artistic form that is meaningful to me. Sometimes, I want to enhance what I think is the essence of the physical image of the plant. At other times, I work to focus on a specific aspect or part of the plant that I admire. In some, I process backgrounds to capture a glimpse of the habitat where the plant grows or emphasize the play of light and shadow in the original image. In others, the direction of the image is influenced by personal feelings or moods that might make an image dark or light, energetic or calm.
In an age when we have become increasingly estranged from nature, I hope this modern and personal botanical folio will help mend, in some small way, the fraying bonds between humans and the plant world. My great wish is that viewers will begin to look more closely at plants and come to see the varied beauty and mystery of these life forms with which we share our planet and upon which our lives are utterly dependent.