Botanical brushstrokes

Students plant artistic roots


Nicole Nguyen

Smiling, freshman Sophia Nguyen poses with her artwork accepted into the Botanical Garden’s art exhibit. Nguyen scrapped and redid her artwork multiple times before settling on the final piece she submitted. “My art style is impacted by my friend and the styles of video games I like. I like their styles and try replicating them sometimes,” Nguyen said.

In the middle of the Botanical Garden’s newest art exhibition stands two familiar pieces. Freshmen Sofia Nguyen and Madison Wilson’s works of art were selected for the exhibition over hundreds of submissions from students across Saint Louis.

This year’s contest theme, “Urban Garden Dreams,” encouraged students to submit pieces depicting their perfect urban garden.

“[Design Arts teacher Kristi] Ponder gave us a few options for a project. When mine was done, she said I should turn mine into the Botanical Gardens [contest],” Nguyen said.

Nguyen’s piece, a watercolor painting of a desert garden with cacti, flowers and a bird, was inspired by her uncle’s house in Phoenix. 

“I liked the idea, and I thought it would be unique because you don’t find anything like that in [Missouri],” Nguyen said.

Depicting a barren tree in front of a city skyline, Wilson’s watercolor piece drew inspiration from a snow globe that she had initially planned to draw. Although she scrapped the idea of a snow globe, Wilson still wanted to incorporate it into her final piece.

The blue and reds in freshman Madison Wilson’s Botanical Garden art piece stand out from each other and create a juxtaposition in warmth throughout the piece, according to Wilson. She used watercolors and, inspired by a snow globe, created the piece now displayed in the art exhibitions. (Kristi Ponder)

“I didn’t like my piece, so it was shocking to find out I got chosen. I spent forever on it, and I had to redo it a bunch, and by the time I was done with it, I didn’t want to work on it anymore,” Wilson said.

The art exhibit opened May 2, 2023, and will be open until March 2024 in the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum.

“I love every [piece of] artwork that they have. I look up to the art styles [exhibited] and how they show who the artist is and [the artists’] hard work and efforts,” Nguyen said.

The artworks reflect a culmination of the students’ work on colors, perspective, and purpose in their respective art classes over the past year.

“I’ve had trouble accepting what I’ve created and being satisfied because you always find something you don’t like about it. [Ponder] helped me to embrace the imperfections and move past them,” Wilson said.

In the future, Wilson and Nguyen plan to continue pursuing art in high school and are considering making it a career.

“Sometimes I worry if pursuing art as a career is the right choice, but it makes me happy. Creating something meaningful and sharing it with others brings me so much joy.” Wilson said.