Art that begins in the landscape: Local artists build their palette from nature

For local artist Jacqueline Maloney there are no walls separating her studio from her living space and no doors between her home and the natural world. In her kitchen, bouquets of herbs hang in the windows. Shelf mushrooms are glued to the walls creating a little ladder of fungi. Tall turkey feathers fill the corners, and books upon books about art in nature swallow the coffee table.

“My artistic process is healthiest when it is almost seamlessly folded into my daily life,” Maloney says. “If I’m painting a portrait of a plant, I want to be consuming the plant, conversing with it, noticing it in the woods.”

art from nature asheville

“Midnight,” by Jacqueline Maloney utilizes ink made from black walnut hulls to achieve its rich brown hues. Image courtesy of the artist

Maloney’s work is inspired by the cycles and seasons: by medicinal plants that grow wild in the forests; by bugs, birds, water, wind, fire and stone. Many of her pieces are drawn with black walnut ink, a deep-brown hue that weaves through her work. It’s ink that she creates herself, spending the better part of a day tending a fire and boiling the hulls down into a concentrated decoction.

“I am seeking and learning ways to surrender more deeply to the task of respecting the environment [that] supports my existence, learning about all the life around me, honoring it by finding ways to describe it to others,” Maloney says.

The care Maloney pours into each batch of ink infuses her art with something unique — a richness that comes from her own personal experience with her surroundings. Though her creations are distinct, Maloney isn’t alone in this pursuit. Many artists in Asheville are turning to the earth beneath their own feet to fuel their artistic expression. They are alchemists who add rusted nails soaked in vinegar to a batch of boiling rainwater to yield mordant to dye clothes or blend clay with egg whites and crushed stone to make paint.


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