Herbarium Terrae is the result of an exploration undertaken by Ysabel Molina, seeking to investigate bioforms that resemble plants, seeds, or animals. The artist meticulously researched her natural environment in Spain, documenting not only the earth’s sediments but also the thriving flora, fauna, and botany that encompass it.
The culmination of this project emerges in a series of captivating three-dimensional sculptures blending ceramic, wood, fibers along with pigments, minerals, and other raw materials.
Assembled to create an imaginary herbarium of organic forms, these sculptures capture fragments of the artist’s imagination and reveal a singular planet of creatures inspired by the external, physical world.
Fascination towards plants and nature – the beginning
Ysabel Molina: When I reflect on the origins of my fascination for nature, it may sound cliché, but it all began during my childhood at my grandfather’s farm. He was a farmer, and I fondly recall spending many summer vacations in Los Andes (Táchira, Venezuela), where I was born. The region lies in the hottest part of the state, boasting a landscape reminiscent of a jungle, with scorching days and powerful storms, accompanied by the mesmerizing phenomenon of ‘El relámpago del Catatumbo’ (The Catatumbo Lightning). As my grandfather played music using a leaf, we would sit in front of the house, savoring those moments.
Around the age of seven, my sister and I started staying at his farm for several months every year. Looking back, these memories evoke strong emotions, and it wasn’t until later in my adult life that I realized the enormous impact they had on my inner world and my love for nature.
Ysabel Molina: I could speak at length about the magical fruits I enjoyed and the beauty of the seeds I discovered. To describe a few of the species I found there, I copied this little description: ‘The mountain vegetation includes specimens such as the lace pine and eucalyptus. Apamates and Creole cedar are abundant. Mangoes, guamas, rose apples, soursop, guavas, and other fruit trees are common throughout most of the state.’
It was a time when I fell deeply in love with the seeds, curious flowers, and leaves I uncovered during my explorations. I was equally captivated by stones, which I used to create tótems, and with my sister’s help, I even made natural fiber brooms.
As I transitioned into adulthood, my fascination endured. I continued to search for seeds and plants, observing their cycles and collecting them with no specific objective other than to appreciate their beauty and learn about them.
Ysabel Molina: This three-dimensional project delves into the exploration of bioforms—organic creatures (both botanical and animal) resembling either plants, seeds, or plants that mimic animals. To initiate this endeavor, I embarked on documenting and researching the natural environment surrounding me in Spain. My observations extended beyond registering the earth’s sediments; I also documented plants, tiny animals, and various aspects of botany.
The genesis of this project germinated in my mind long before it materialized. Slowly, I transformed the captured fragments of my imagination into a singular planet of creatures. These beings emerged from my reinterpretations of the diverse elements that my inner world absorbed from the external, physical world.
Clay as a medium
Ysabel Molina: Clay is the language of the land from which soil, vegetation, flowers, and trees are born. As a ductile material, it connects humanity with the earth that has nurtured us throughout millennia of history. Our earliest artistic expressions emerged from this very substance, incorporating sediments, clay, soils, and pigments—all derived from the mineral world, an integral part of nature.
To me, clay embodies a primitive symbolic language, evoking a profound connection to my ancestral expression of nature. While I’m also drawn to other materials like wood, fiber, and even recycled elements, working with clay reinforces this link to my roots.
Furthermore, clay offers a myriad of possibilities. I appreciate the inherent value it holds as a sculpting medium. Just as we can carve soft alabaster, clay deserves equal recognition as an excellent natural material for artistic compositions. Today, I am delighted to witness more artists embracing clay as a medium to represent their ideas.
Collecting and processing natural materials
Ysabel Molina: In northern Spain, I collected soil and minerals, and using these raw materials (oxides), I have achieved some results I love while identifying areas for improvement. This creative process has been a true learning experience, one that demands ample space, patience, time, and dedicated research. Experimenting with pigments, minerals, and raw materials has proven to be the most enlightening aspect, and I find myself enjoying the journey. This newfound passion for raw, natural, and mineral pigments marks a significant chapter in my artistic pursuits.
Interview with Ysabel Molina by Rita Trindade | Images courtesy of the artist.