Dee Mangulins, executive director of Butterfly Wonderland, was in a restaurant one summer evening and overheard a couple discussing the works of a sculptor they had just seen.
Intrigued, Mangulins kept listening until he heard the artist’s name. It turned out to be Jim Holbert, who works primarily with clay and metal to create visually stunning pieces.
Mangulins Googled Holbert and contacted him for an idea that would merge art and nature.
The result was “Art in Bloom”, a unique display of handmade floral sculptures displayed among thousands of butterflies in the Butterfly Wonderland conservatory.
Holbert admits the job was easy for him because he knew it would be a great opportunity to showcase his art.
“For any artist publishing their work, the number of people viewing the work is key,” he said. “Here, I have an automatic audience of people who come to see the butterflies. It was a great opportunity to do so. »
After agreeing to work with Mangulins, Holbert consulted entomologist Derek Kellogg to map the locations of his sculptures – and quickly discovered that it would be a difficult task to complete.
“From there I met Derek and we started mapping locations,” Holbert said. “The challenge then became how to take what I was doing and adapt it to this place.”
Holbert began bringing prototypes to the conservatory and realized that the pieces would have to be taller than he had originally planned.
“The first time I brought a prototype, it got lost in the lush, dense look of the butterfly conservatory,” he said. “I really had to increase my scale to make things stand out or else they would get lost.”
Holbert also had to design a color scheme that wouldn’t overshadow the rest of the sunroom.
“The goal was to make sure the work didn’t overshadow the real stars of the place, the butterflies,” he says. “The aim is to add a splash of color as butterflies are attracted to color and my work really accentuates and enhances the experience of people visiting.
“Everything in the conservatory is this rich porous green color and I worked hard to find color combinations that would complement this backdrop.”
He also took on the challenge of proving the connection between the natural world and the artistic world.
“A lot of times people are used to thinking that natural things and man-made things are two separate things that have no connection to each other,” Kellogg said.
“Jim’s work is great at showing the interconnectedness where the natural world and the man-made world can blend and complement each other.”
Not only do the colors of the stems of the sculptures blend with the natural plants, but the flowers attract species of butterflies that are naturally drawn to their colors.
“It’s really cool to be able to see how well we are able to mimic the things that butterflies naturally attract,” Kellogg said. “A lot of the pieces reflect the colors of a lot of the flowers in there. . Because of that, you’ll see the butterflies that are attracted to the flowers of those colors being attracted to the flowers of the same color on the carvings.
Kellogg thinks it also enhanced the beauty of the conservatory.
“One of the things it really does is it gets people thinking about this space that’s more than just a place where there are lots of butterflies and a few random plants,” he said. “Everything has a purpose and even an aesthetic purpose where there is a beauty that exists in exhibits like this that really enhances and brings out.”
Holbert also hopes his sculptures provide a unique way for younger audiences to view the conservatory.
“I really wanted this exhibit to be an addition to their experience,” he said. “Of course, kids can’t approach the sculptures and study them like an adult would, but seeing a butterfly land on the sculpture is really fun.”
In total, Holbert has produced 10 sculptures with an 11th in progress and a 12th in development.
Additionally, Art in Bloom’s sculptures at Butterfly Wonderland are available for purchase and Holbert will donate a portion of proceeds to the Butterfly Wonderland Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and conservation-based initiatives. .
Holbert will create smaller-scale pieces that will be displayed in the lobby and sold as well.
“I want people to appreciate my work and I want it to have a positive impact on their experience here,” Holbert said.