Lead artist Claudia Stevens collaborated with the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) Arboretum to create “Traditional Botanical Works,” using botanical painting to illustrate biotic and cultural knowledge of the Native Amah Mutsun tribe that has been lost through the centuries in California. In traditional botanical painting, as practiced by Stevens, each flower is painted from a real-life specimen, bringing close attention to the complexity of the plant’s structure. The finished paintings were presented as a traveling exhibition to multiple sites along California’s central coast, and were displayed at the Arboretum. The related research was incorporated into an interpretive sign at the University of California Arboretum’s Amah Mutsun Re-learning Garden.
The paintings and accompanying ethnobotanical texts highlight how the Mutsun lived with and used plants for food, fiber, tools, and medicine. The project’s collaborative team included Sara Reid, a Native American ethnobotanist, Val Lopez of the local Mutsun Tribal Council, and Brett Hall, the Arboretum Manager and botanist. Later, Joan Norvelle and Rick Flores developed the interpretive sign with input from the Tribe.
Claudia Stevens is a fine artist, specializing in botanical painting, who also does scientific illustration for publication. She blends her fine art background with her illustration skills to create works of fine art that are also scientifically accurate.
The UCSC Arboretum is a non-profit organization under the UCSC Foundation. It serves as a living museum and nature preserve, home to world botanical treasures, and is a major Monterey Bay area educational center for the conservation, understanding, and appreciation of plants. The Amah Mutsun Relearning Garden at the University has been established to honor the local Native Americans and preserve their knowledge of the many uses of native plants.