Botanica Magnifica : Pam Rogers’ Artistic Process Revealed

By Phil Hutinet on March 21, 2017


Pam Rogers
Summer Solstice
Plant, mineral and soil pigments, graphite and ink
28 x 36 inches

Demystifying Artist Open Studios and the Artistic Process

Introduced in August of 2016, the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop’s Resident Gallery Artist program seeks to connect the Capitol Hill community with working artists and their process.  Now in its 45th year as an arts organization with a proven track record of “building community through the arts,” CHAW’s Resident Gallery Artist program provides a safe space for artist experimentation while functioning as an artist incubator that interacts with the public.

On August 26, 2016, Carolina Mayorga inaugurated the Resident Gallery Art program with Life of a Pink Fly, where she worked on a series of drawings in CHAW’s gallery during public open studio hours.  Mayorga drew a series of studies, all pink colored, resulting in a 10 x 12 foot mural of a pink fly. Just as Mayorga’s residency allowed visitors to examine her artistic process and culminated into a final exhibition, so will Pam Rogers’ Botanica Magnifca.  Rogers begins her residency on March 1, 2017.

Hannah Jacobson, Director of Marketing, Development, & Strategy at CHAW states that, with this iteration of the project, “[Rogers’] residency will take the mystery out of the artist open studio hours.” In particular, the open studio format at CHAW during the residency will allow visitors to see how Rogers creates her work, literally from scratch, as she uses found plant material to create two and three dimensional works. In addition, through a series of informal discussion between Pam Rogers and the community during open hours, participants can ask questions of the working artist and deepen their understanding of her creative process.

CHAW Gallery Residency Manager, Ellen Cornett adds that Rogers will in effect “create [three dimensional] artworks that wrap around the gallery.”

Pam Rogers
Last Day
Graphite, ink, watercolor, handmade soil and plant pigments, mica and carbon
40 x 30 inches

Pam Rogers

DC-based artist Pam Rogers was born in Boulder Colorado and studied Art History and Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She holds a BA from Wellesley College, an MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Botanical Illustration through a program based in Kew Gardens, England.

A life-long love of nature and a fascination with humankind’s relationship to it inspires and informs Rogers’ work. Rogers’ examination of human intervention in nature and nature’s reclamation of the manmade results in a visual dialectic where recognizable forms, through the use classic botanical illustration, and abstractions, in the form of spilled ink or objects which appear familiar yet have no recognizable equal in nature, confront one-another in large colorful compositions. While regionally renowned for her paintings and drawings, Rogers also creates sculptures and site-specific installations with found plant materials often incorporating twine, nails and other manmade binding materials which contort and confront the natural elements of her work.

While the artist uses botanical materials to create her three dimensional work, the artist also makes her own inks and washes from found natural elements such as soil and plants. Rogers also makes her paper from both invasive (introduced by humankind or “human”) and non-invasive (native or “non-human”) plant species.  In so doing, Rogers concludes that “Materials and process drive my work.”

Just as Rogers’ finished drawings and sculpture describe the often contentious and yet sometimes symbiotic relationship between humankind and nature, her finished works also reflect this dynamic from their inception.  As Rogers collects plant materials to make inks and to create forms both two and three dimensional, she too manipulates the natural world while gently letting it influence her.

Ultimately, Rogers hopes her audience will “Find the wilderness that each person holds inside, the element of the non-human. By adding the elements of beauty found in nature, presented with a twisted side, I challenge the viewer to question what lurks beneath. It is at this point that the work begins to take on the persona of botanic magic realism.”

Botanica Magnifica

During Rogers’ residence at CHAW, she will continue her process of using found plan materials to create both two and three dimensional works. The materials will come from locally found species, both native and invasive.

To realize Botanica Magnifica, Rogers explains that she will create a series of “narrative scrolls using Hajji, mulberry and large-scale paper utilizing artist made pigments and inks sourced from plants, soil and minerals with a local connection.”   From these scrolls, Rogers will bind plants in the gallery space “offering visitors a chance to see the process, watch it develop in the space and ultimately seeing the final creation.”

Roger further states, “I will be highlighting and focusing on the way materials and process drive and shape the work I create using natural materials sourced from local plants species, both invasive and native, I will create an installation that is sculptural in form mounted throughout the gallery.  Engaging the community in the project will include interaction during the creation of the sculptural pieces and the work on paper.”

Pam Rogers. Image courtesy of the artist.

Pam Rogers Q&A

Phil Hutinet  What is your process?
Pam Rogers  I am definitely a materials and process based artist.  My process varies; often my 2-D work is started with laying down pigment that I have made from soil, plants or minerals.  This can be in a water-based form or as handmade ink. As the pigments starts to move and flow over the paper or canvas or panel, I let it dictate what narrative or images that I will develop.  I work back and forth doing drawings and paintings on the work.  Often I have a concept in the back of my mind, some event or place or person who I try to evoke in the work but that often happens after the initial color is placed on the substrate.  Many times I have been driven to add certain elements to work and not really understand it other than it speaks to me only to find that when the work is finished, it makes total sense about a current situation I am in.

PH  What medium(s) do you employ?
PR  I use a variety of mediums.  My work is most often recognized for the pigments and inks that I make from plants, soil and minerals.  I also use graphite, carbon, and some commercial paints. The commercial pigments that I choose to use are all from a soil or mineral base, often in ground form and I add the gum arabic to hydrate them.

PH  Who has influenced you work?
PR  I look to many artists who have impacted my work and process. Walton Ford, Amy Cutler, the Dutch still life Painters, I am fascinated with the way the Dutch would have mounds of flora and fauna- decaying aspects all woven into each still life. I also look to the Moche pottery painters of Northern Peru and, Andy Goldsworthy.  There is also a distinct Asian influence in my work, especially with the aspect of negative space and in the presentation of narrative in painting.

PH When did you first begin making art?
PR I have always been making–starting as a child but I did not seriously begin to make art with a conceptual interest until 2009. I have a background in Art History and Anthropology and that has definitely driven my work.

PH What is the relationship between the environment in which you live and your work?
PR This is the driving force behind my work. I want the work to be grounded in the location where it is made and I do this physically through creating the paint, ink and sculpture work with a majority of locally sourced materials.  I am influenced heavily by what I see walking to the studio or the gallery to work. I have found myself picking up various plants, seedpods and grasses as I started the residency program and have been excited to use things I have found in the neighborhood. This makes the residency work very much part of this community and environment.

PH What do you hope a viewer will take away from your work?
PR I want the viewer to wonder what is reality vs. what is not what could possibly become reality as well. I think that there is an underlying discomfort in a lot of the imagery and I like this as an impetus to make the viewer confront what is underlying in our life.  Ultimately each viewer will take away something that is personal to them, something that rings true to their experiences, life and vision.  I make an effort to have the viewer to enjoy an element of beauty but wonder what lurks beneath.

Pam Rogers
You Left when the Forsythia Bloomed
Bound suspended plant
Plants (locally sourced including forsythia, English Ivy, magnolia, hydrangea, thyme, sage, rosemary and others), metal, fiber
80″ x 4 ‘
Site specific for Carroll Square Gallery/Hemphill

PH What is your preferred material with which to sculpt?
PR I use live plants for the most part with some added metal hardware and natural binding materials.  I collect local plants; some I cut others are found in yard waste.  I create the sculptures with a general form in mind but again; the plants actually dictate the ultimate outcome and form.

PH When did you first start making three-dimensional pieces?
PR I started making three-dimensional pieces in 2010.  It was after I had been painting for about a year and found I wanted to understand the botanic forms better and creating sculpture seemed a way to accomplish this.

PH Describe your use of both large and small formats
PR I work in large and very small size formats with sculpture. I like to play with scale – using the small is my favorite aspect as it pulls the viewer in and offers an intimate relationship with the object and the viewer.  The large-scale work- oversized is my attempt to personify the object, the in a sense be come anthropomorphic objects.  The large-scale work becomes very much about a person and often I think of them as male or female.  I like to suspend them at eye level so the viewer has to interact with them as they would another person.

PH When painting, how does your selected color palette inform your work?
PR Obviously the materials dictate my palette and that leads to distinct colors.  It is interesting that my palette tends to vary slightly with the season. As there is less and less chlorophyll in the plants the duller and less vibrant the colors become.  Certain blooms and flowers that are found in the spring and summer show up in my work yet they are not in the work created in the fall or winter.  I tend to use more commercial sourced pigments in the winter, which leads to some surprises, but overall just the less vibrant environment leads me to paint with a duller and less vibrant palette.

PH What do you believe is value of painting in the 21st Century?
PR With the rise of conceptual, performance and digitally based work, the mantra “painting is dead” seems to still be a discussed issue.  Painting seems to still be an artistic form that one can see that direct hand of the artist clearly. The unsteadiness, the less than perfect, thickness of line, and the emotion of the day is in a painting or drawing. There seems to be still something about the way these tangible elements resonate with the viewer. Something that draws people into the world that painting creates.


Residency Duration
Residency March 1-April 18, 2017

Public Hours
March 1, 6, 10 and 11, 14, 15, 21, 23, 25, 29, 31 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
April 3, 5 and 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Demo and Happy Hour: Fri., March 10 from 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Opening Reception: Fri., April 7 at 6-8 p.m.

CHAW’s Gallery is located at 545 7th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003.  Reach the gallery by phone at 202.547.6839 or visit CHAW online at


The Gallery Residency at CHAW is generously sponsored by longtime Capitol Hill resident Wade Carey. To sponsor future residencies, contact Hannah Jacobson at 202.547.6839