'Nature nerd' creates vivid compositions showing the bright side of fungi

Jill Bliss
© Jill Bliss

We may swoon over the beauty of flowers and trees, but the forgotten heroes of the dark, dank and moist are most certainly fungi. These multi-talented organisms can do amazing things: remediate oil spills, sequester carbon and even help trees communicate.

Based on a small island in the Salish Sea, artist, educator and self-professed "nature nerd" Jill Bliss creates these visually delectable compositions out of local fungi and other foraged plants and objects found around her island home, as a way to show another side to these oft-reviled entities. Calling them Nature Medleys, Bliss photographs these images as a way to show her commitment to the local bioregion that she lives in.

Jill Bliss© Jill Bliss
Jill Bliss© Jill Bliss

Having grown up on a farm in northern California, Bliss spent time in big cities on both coasts before finally selling her house and most of possessions in 2012 to undergo a "self-imposed sabbatical to reconnect with the slower natural pace and living things" that she adored as as a child. That sabbatical has since become a new way of life, with Bliss taking on seasonal work during the summer to support her artistic endeavours and creative research. She says:

Summer is my season for working with others, learning and sharing my knowledge about the natural world here in Cascadia and encouraging visitors to explore and learn about the natural world that surrounds them wherever they live.

I equally relish big blocks of time in the winter to draw, paint, think, explore. I satisfy my nomadic nature by holing up in various off-grid cabins on small islands, preferably with wild animals and semi-feral people for neighbors, mentors and muses. These are the months for hibernation, quiet reflection, close observations of discreet moments in nature, art making, sleeping, reading, cooking, chopping wood, stoking wood stove fires, hiking & kayaking in the rain. Sometimes in my PJs.

Jill Bliss© Jill Bliss
Jill Bliss© Jill Bliss
Jill Bliss© Jill Bliss

Bliss' vibrant and fresh compositions challenge our preconceived notions about mushrooms being dark and dirty things. They are in fact, quite intriguing -- exhibiting characteristics that might usually be associated with both plant and animal kingdoms.

Jill Bliss© Jill Bliss

Bliss' series of photographs, which she calls "Nature Medleys," often prominently feature the underside of mushroom caps, showing the gill structure or lamella underneath. Interestingly, the various ways these gills attach to the stem in various types of fungi can be used to classify them. Here are some cross-sectional diagrams of different types of gills:

Debivort at the English language WikipediaDebivort at the English language Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

There's always fascinating stuff to learn if you dig a bit deeper. Calling herself a "modern nomad of the Salish Sea," Bliss has also put down roots recently, putting her life savings into a small plot of land where she is now building a homestead. Bliss offers prints and more of her photographs and lovely artwork; a portion of Bliss' earnings are donated right back into local environmental and social justice organizations. To see more, visit Jill Bliss and check out her online store here.

Tags: Artists | Arts | Gardening | Photography

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