Madge Evers is an educator, gardener, and visual artist whose work celebrates decomposition and regeneration. She has been paying close attention to signs of fungi since 2015, when she began making mushroom spore print art. Referencing photosynthesis and the ancient collaboration in mycorrhiza, her practice involves foraging for mushrooms and plants, and sometimes includes the cyanotype process and paint. The New Herbarium, an exhibition of her spore print art, is at the Brattleboro Museum until February of 2023. She was a 2021 Mass Cultural Council fellowship finalist in photography and has attended artist residencies on Cape Cod and Maine. Recent residencies at Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Kinney Renaissance Center at UMass allowed Evers to interact with landscapes and their histories. She taught for 25 years in Rhode Island and Massachusetts public schools, and now works as a full-time artist.
I’m interested in the transformative qualities inherent to decomposition. I have adapted the spore print, a process typically used by mycologists and foragers to identify mushrooms, to create biomorphic works on paper. Sun, wind, and water influence mushroom spore production and help me explore organic material as subject, as process, and as medium – a compostable one. In whatever form the work takes, my goal is to portray the strangeness and familiarity of growth, decay, and regeneration.
In The New Herbarium series, I re-imagine the centuries-old process of collecting and preserving plants for science and art. In traditional herbaria, botanical specimens are pressed and arranged on paper. I also collect and press plants, then depart from tradition as I use the plants as stencils to create mushroom spore monoprints and botanical photograms. Originally inspired by Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium, the evolving series depicts the harmonious and chaotic forms of fungi and plants. Like all herbaria, the images represent, and transcend, time and place.
Leaves and flowers in The New Herbarium compositions reference photosynthesis, foundational to thriving ecosystems and human life. Mushroom spores make visible the ancient and intimate collaboration between plants and fungi called mycorrhizae, a process that, Merlin Sheldrake notes, “underpins our past, present, and future.” Spores conjure fungi’s powers, honed over eons, to pave the way for plant life and to heal and nourish us. My work literally depicts plants and fungi, but more figuratively reflects both our entangled dependence with the changing environment and the potential for transformation within those changes.