Terrarium: Artworks by Jae Hi Ahn and Plant Displays by Jennifer Williams Opens December 3

Through February 26, 2012

Terrarium: Artworks by Jae Hi Ahn and Plant Displays by Jennifer Williams Opens December 3
Jae Hi Ahn, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Green #9), 2011.

Release Date: November 16, 2011

Terrarium, an exhibition featuring the work of artist Jae Hi Ahn and Brooklyn Botanic Garden curator Jennifer Williams, opens in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery on Saturday, December 3. Featuring Ahn’s mixed-media sculptures and large-format C-prints alongside Williams’s landscapes under glass, the exhibit continues the gallery’s exploration of the relationship between humans, horticulture, and contemporary art practice.

In Terrarium, Ahn and Williams meditate on the manipulation of nature and its dialogue with artificial environments. Jae Hi Ahn’s work reimagines nature, looking for a hidden life in synthetic materials. By seeking out the organic potential of man-made objects and places, she creates new environments that are evocative of botanical forms and landscapes, tributes to the many wonders of the natural world. For the work exhibited in Terrarium, Ahn spent time at BBG studying plants in the Aquatic House, several of which are the subjects of her brightly tinted, large-scale images.

Jennifer Williams, BBG’s curator of interior displays and the Washington Avenue gardens, has created a series of diverse displays showcasing miniature environments under glass. The plant combinations Williams has developed for the exhibit echo the forms and textures of Ahn’s work, providing a living counterpart to the artist’s terrariums, imagined in two- and three-dimensional work.

As early as 500 BCE in Greece, plants were kept under glass for protection and display. But the modern terrarium can be credited to a 19th-century London physician, Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward. By chance, while studying a sphinx moth emerging from a chrysalis kept in a closed bottle, Ward discovered grass and a tiny fern growing in the moist earth inside. His observations of these and other plants thriving in glass-enclosed environments led to the development of the “Wardian case.” The use of this transparent, sealed container vastly increased the survival rate of plants being transported over long distances, advancing both botanical science and horticulture. Today, terrariums remain popular for growing a wide variety of plants in the home, including orchids, ferns, mosses, and carnivorous plants.


Jae Hi Ahn grew up in the small city of Dangjin, South Korea. She credits her rustic upbringing for the way she perceives the world, including densely urban settings like Brooklyn, where she lives and works. Her current work is supported by a 2011 Brooklyn Arts Council Community Arts Fund award (funded by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs) and a Puffin Foundation grant.

Jennifer Williams is Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s curator of interior displays and the Washington Avenue gardens. For more than 12 years, she has been creating horticultural displays for the Steinhardt Conservatory and other areas of the Garden.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is dedicated to inspiring the public by displaying and studying plant life. Through related classes, events, and publications, we aim to arouse public awareness of the fragility of our natural environment, both local and global, and to provide visitors a variety of ways to enjoy plants in their own lives. By displaying art that explores the connections between humans and plants, BBG's Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery advances our mission through a different lens. The Steinhardt Gallery is a multiuse space on the lower level of the Steinhardt Conservatory and is equipped to display two-dimensional works and small installations. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
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