An "Enchanted Earth" awaits in Queens
by Lisa A. Fraser
Jan 12, 2012 | 25384 views | 0 0 comments | 993 993 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Orchidballet, one of the photographs in the "Enchanted Earth 2.0" exhibit at the Queens Botanical Garden.
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“Photography is my preferred medium. Through the viewfinder otherwise ordinary subjects are transformed into images I have never seen before. I try to capture a moment, an emotional response, an instant of being that will vanish in a heartbeat and to preserve, at least for a little while, a tiny strand of the vast web of existence. Through the process of photography I am able to achieve some small measure of serenity.” – Barbara Leven.

This quote by Astoria-based artist, Barbara Leven, holds true, finding its way into a viewer's subconscious as they take in her work.

Leven's collection of photographs of nature, "Enchanted Earth 2.0", is currently being displayed at the Queens Botanical Garden as part of their Art in the Garden series.

Leven, a photographer for 25 years, didn't start out with an intention to go into photography, nor did she start out with a love for the natural world. Both managed to find their way to her throughout the years. And now, she has embraced photography and nature fully.

Leven majored in art at Queens College, specifically painting. But unable to find her voice as a painter, she decided to turn to a medium of expression of which she knew nothing about.

"After I graduated I couldn't find a voice and I thought if I picked a medium I knew nothing about, I could explore it without feeling like I couldn't break the rules," she said. "It was very immediate."

It was the instant gratification of a photograph, compared to the lengthy time of completing a painting that drew her in.

All self-taught, during the 90s, she learned Photoshop tips and tricks and after 9/11 decided to become a full time fine art photographer. Her work has been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"I walked around the city taking photos of more abstract things like decaying walls or dilapidated fences," she said, calling them "urban relics."

Eventually it evolved into photos of nature. In 2005, Leven found out her father was not going to have much time left and someone suggested that to find peace, she should visit a garden. "It really was a whole new experience which became a whole process for me," she said. She journeyed to New York City’s botanical gardens armed with a camera and started capturing.

She enjoys photographing all stages of nature from buds to mature flowers as well as dying flowers and plants.

"It's important because it gives you a sense of your own maturity and the life cycle," she said.

Her exhibition at QBG came about when Joyce and Ed Morrill, ambassadors, working with Darcy Hector, director of development and Susan Lacerte, executive director of QBG , invited her to be the inaugural exhibit in the Gallery of the Visitor and Administration Building for the 2011 - 2012 season. She has 20 pieces on view.

"I hope viewers can find the connection and the relationships of themselves between plants, the environment and the whole cosmos," she said.

For her, photography is about light and time. Through the lens she says she “seeks to unlock some secret the subject holds either in its perfection, or its decay; to discover something I have not seen before so that I might more fully understand in a spiritual sense the cycles of life of which I too am a part.”

The exhibition is on view through January 31 at the garden, located at 43-50 Main Street, Flushing. A catalog of the exhibit is also available at the garden or on More of Leven's work can be seen on her website,
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