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Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer

Part 2: April 21 through August 26


Main Building – 1st Floor North and West Galleries


Jonathan M. Singer
Polyradicion lindenii (Lindl.) Garay
Orchidaceae, Orchid Family
Southern Florida
Leafless epiphytic herb, flower to 4 in. (10cm) long
Digital photograph
Image courtesy of the Artist


The New Jersey State Museum is pleased to present "Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer," an exhibition that features the acclaimed botanical photographs of this Bayonne-based artist. Singer's images of rare and exotic plants photographed in large scale and exquisite detail will be presented in two parts to allow the Museum to exhibit a greater number of these impressive works. Part One is on view from January 28 through April 15, and Part Two will be on view from April 21 through August 26. Organized by guest curator, Dr. Karen Reeds, this exhibition unites two of the State Museum's subject areas – Natural History and Fine Art – and looks at Jonathan Singer's extraordinary images through both of these lenses.

Museum Director Anthony Gardner says of the exhibition, "As an institution that explores art, history and science, the cross-fertilization of ideas between these subjects is something we strive to bring to the forefront. Jonathan Singer's photographs remind us of the importance of plants in the biodiversity of the planet, and highlight the beauty found in flowers and plants and the pleasure to be found simply in looking."

About the Artist: Photographer Jonathan M. Singer (b.1948) picked up his first camera at the age of five and immediately focused it on flowers. He planned to become an artist like his mentors, the New York painters, Ilya Bolotowsky and Willem de Kooning. During the Vietnam era, he set aside that dream and, at his mother's urging, went into medicine instead. For decades he practiced as a foot surgeon in Bayonne, New Jersey, until Parkinson's disease forced him to retire.

In 2003, just as digital cameras became widely available, Dr. Singer returned to his original passion and began a new career in photography. Experimenting ceaselessly with the digital medium, he first trained his Hasselblad camera on classic guitars and urban graffiti, but soon made flowers his special subject.

In close collaboration with scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Botanical Garden, Singer has undertaken major projects to record rare and endangered plants from all parts of world. His work has been collected by the Smithsonian Institution, Huntington Library, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, and honored by the first Hasselblad Laureate Award and by the Linnaeus Silver Medal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. His books, Botanica Magnifica: Portraits of the World's Most Extraordinary Flowers & Plants (2009) and Bonsai: Art & Nature (2012) bring Jonathan Singer's compelling vision of the natural world to a wider audience.

About the Guest Curator: Guest Curator Dr. Karen Reeds is a Harvard-trained historian of science and medicine and an independent exhibition curator, based in Princeton, New Jersey. A Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, Dr. Reeds is a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. Formerly, she served as science editor at the University of California Press and Rutgers University Press. Her engagement with Jonathan Singer's botanical photography grows out of decades of research into the history of scientific illustration. She has mounted exhibitions on New Jersey's medical history, on wartime medicine and veterans health, and on the great Enlightenment scientist, Carl Linnaeus. Her books and exhibition catalogues include: Come into a New World: Linnaeus and America; Visualizing Medieval Medicine and Natural History, 1200-1550 (co-editor); A State of Health: New Jersey's Medical Heritage; Botany in Medieval and Renaissance Universities; and Today's Medicine, Tomorrow's Science: Essays on Paths of Discovery in the Biomedical Sciences (co-authored with Judith P. Swazey).

The exhibition is supported in part by the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum through the Leah P. Sloshberg Curatorial Fund.