Teacher explores connection between plants and nature


An ongoing exhibition features a La Jolla teacher who uses watercolor to illustrate the invisible connections between plants and nature.

Marsha Boston, an arts teacher at La Jolla Country Day School for nearly 20 years, is among the featured artists at “New Works, New Forms: Celebrating Five Female Artists,” an exhibition of recent abstract and representational works currently on display at Art Expressions Gallery in Rose Canyon. The other featured artists include Gisela Colon, Liz Jardine, Sierra Jolie and Leigh Rivers.

Boston, an Escondido resident who earned her master’s degree in fine arts from UCSD in 1983, speceializes in botanical scenes, but not your usual botanicals, according to Art Expressions Gallery owner Patty Smith.

“She has done a lot of work to investigate what she is painting,” Smith said. “If you listen to the stories about the plants she is painting, it’s really fascinating and very well thought out.”

Boston is currently studying the practice of indigenous herbalism, the use of sacred medicinal plants by California indigenous societies and shamans.

“I did a series that had to do with the use of California plants as culture plants in indigenous societies, and I was fascinated by the way the plants were used by the shaman,” Boston said. “They were able to use them in order to get into a frame of mind that would allow them to heal - the whole subject has to do with healing. Given our world situation, we need a little bit of healing.”

In recent years, Boston has also done a series focusing on genetically modified food crops. She said her work has evolved out of her concern over the uncertain realities of genetic engineering and the accelerated speed of human dominion over nature, as well as her reverance for the miraculous design of plants.

Boston has found that watercolor is the ideal medium to express what she calls the invisible qualities of plants.

“In terms of color, I’m trying to establish the relationship the plant has with its environment,” she said. “Watercolor works very beautifully with that because there are these transparencies. Watercolor gives you these kinds of layers, a sense of the invisible.”

That sense of the invisible helps illustrate plants’ connection with each other and other aspects of its surroundings, she said.

“Plants are pretty amazing in terms of knowing what is needed in a particular environment and putting out nutrients in order for other plants to survive. It’s an intricate web that is really exciting when you get into the connections.”

Boston also works out of a belief that her own adoration for nature is shared by less and less people today.

“It’s created when we’re young and able to go out in nature and establish a bond,” she said. “That’s a lot more difficult now that most people live in urban areas. That wonderful connection - it’s shaky.”

The other featured artists include Gisela Colon, a Puerto Rican-born artist who now lives in Los Angeles. She recently turned her attention to art full-time after practicing law for 12 years. She paints highly textured abstractions that include varied shapes and depths, irregular silhouettes and multi-paneled compositions that function as wall sculptures.

“I feel that I have been driven to abstraction by today’s urban existence,” Colon said in a statement. “My works are abstract symbolic three-dimensional portrayals of the urban landscape; they are about urbanism, urban power, city dwelling and the world we currently inhabit.”

Another featured artist, Liz Jardine, grew up in New York City but now lives and works in downtown San Diego. The sky and ocean with their endless color combinations and layers of transparent color served as inspiration for the vivid abstractions in this exhibition.

Sierra Jolie is a self-taught painter who works in the ancient medium of encaustic painting, using pigmented beeswax.

Leigh Rivers has been creating art for over 40 years. Her abstract paintings are meant to convey a thoughtful understanding of color and quiet motion on human perception.

Art Expressions Gallery is at 2645 Financial Court, Suite C. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment. Call (858) 270-7577 or visit