California Birds and Plants – Papercut Artwork by Daniela Yew
October 2023 – January 2024
California is a biodiversity hotspot, and home to not only many native and endemic species but also many introduced species. Birds and plants are easily observed, even in an urban environment, and show an amazing variety of shapes, patterns, and forms. The goal of this exhibition is to show the range of plants and birds found in California, from a tiny Townsend’s Warbler to a giant Australian eucalyptus tree, and inspire people to protect this amazing place we call home.
The works are based on personal observations of the birds and plants depicted, many of which can be found in the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Bay Area in general, as well as research done online and through published nature guides. The artist’s aim is to be as scientifically accurate as possible as well as artistically creative. Viewers familiar with these birds and plants may be able to recognize them easily, while others can appreciate them as works of art, and may even be inspired to look for them in the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
Papercuts are painterly and sculptural at the same time. The image slowly emerges as pieces of paper are cut away, working from the inside out, until at last the finished piece can be lifted up. What draws me to this medium are both the limitations and the possibilities of creating something from a single sheet of paper with just a (very sharp) blade. I need to think strategically since everything needs to stay connected in one piece. From farther away it might look like a simple drawing, but a closer look reveals the intricate details and the play of light and shadow between the papercut and the background.
As a librarian, I am proud to say that a chance encounter with a library book brought me to papercutting as an art form. Ugo Mochi’s amazing papercut illustrations for Hoofed Mammals of the World showed me that accurate scientific depiction is possible with just a knife and paper. Through trial and error, I developed my own style, which draws inspiration both from the natural world around me and from old natural history illustrations. Spending time in nature as well as studying plants and animals has been my interest ever since I was a child growing up in rural Germany. Moving to California and making myself familiar with all the new flora and fauna of my adopted home has only deepened my interest. My goal is to show the beauty of nature in my art and inspire viewers to love and protect the natural world around us.