Oil on Canvas, 48" x 36", 2020
Orchid: Cypripedium tibeticum
Native Range: Sichuan China, Chinese Himalayas, Bhutan, Assam, and India
Conservation Status: Threatened
“Through my orchid studies, I have met and worked with many interesting people from all walks of life in different professions, cultures, and places. We all share the same fascination and passion for the beauty of these remarkable plants.
One such friend and ally is Wenqing Perner, for whom this painting is named and dedicated. In 2003, Wenqing and her late husband, Dr. Holger Perner, a world-renowned German botanist and orchid specialist, established their company, Hengduan Mountain Biotechnology, in Wenqing’s homeland of Sichuan, China. She currently operates two separate nurseries in Sichuan, one of which is in the countryside of Chengdu on the vast Sichuan Plain. The other sits nearly 10,000 feet up in the Hengduan Mountains in the southeast corner of the Tibetan Plateau, often called the “Roof of the World”.
The Hengduan Mountains region is one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot according to Conservation International, the area must first, have a high percentage of plant life (at least 1,500 endemic plant species, meaning species found nowhere else on the planet) and second, have lost 70% of its original vegetation.
Biodiversity hotspots represent just 2.3% of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s endemic plant species, and nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian endemic species.
Wenqing has tirelessly dedicated her life to the conservation of Chinese orchid species as a respected grower, international lecturer, environmental educator, and botanical tour guide. Her company is one of the few entities in China that has the clearance to send her seed grown plants abroad. She is a passionate conservation advocate working hard to grow China’s rare and endangered orchid plants from seed, a process that can take 5 years or more, and she then transplants them back into her region’s biodiversity hotspot.
A stunning example of one of Wenqing’s lady slipper orchids, Cypripedium tibeticum, is the subject of my painting, “Wenqing’s Passion”. Commonly called the Tibetan Cypripedium, this orchid’s growth seems to defy the jagged mountainous landscape.
Bright green leafy stems push through rocky crevasses, developing into magnificent burgundy blooms. Large 4-inch flowers with beautifully striped petals sit atop 8-inch stems and have large puffy pouches, distinctive to lady slipper orchids.
Wenqing spent countless hours providing me with the information I needed to create this work, a painted visual interpretation of her story of orchid conservation. Indicative of my multilayered painting process, I sculpted botanical impressions into the under layers of the painting, implications of a place where plants may soon become fossils.
Through one of the most beautiful orchids I have ever seen, Cypripedium tibeticum, Wenqing and I found common ground in our efforts to preserve biodiversity. We have developed an international friendship that transcends all borders and cultures.”