Hetch Hetchy Flora: Flowers For Flower's Sake
The book cover resembles the plant press used by California botanist Willis Jepsen. The plant press was also used in the popular pastime of the 19th century to press flowers into 2-dimensional bouquets. An example of contemporary flower press work can be seen on the left. Donna Thomas actively performed love for nature by hiking in Yosemite. When using a flower press they would have arranged the flowers into aethetically cohesive bouquets. The same emotional satisfaction found in the flower press, Donna Thomas seems to have found in her watercolor paintings of the Yosemite wildflowers. According to Donna, “my practice of painting in the field or “en plein air” began eleven years ago as an excuse to be outside in the Sierra Nevada, to sit still and visually engage myself with the scenery.”
The wildflowers appear in the following order: Harlequin Lupine (displayed here), Harvest Brodiaea, Narrow- leaved Mule Ears, Pansy Monkey Flower, Mimulus Layneae, Purple Owl’s Clover (shown below), Williamson’s Clarkia (shown below), Wooly Sunflower, Yawning Penstemon. Using string, Donna and Peter Thomas sewed the full page paintings into loft dried granite-like handmade paper from cotton rag and blackberry fiber. This can be seen in the paper detailing thumbnail above. All of the text in the book is handwritten and calligraphed.
The book has 9 watercolor paintings of different wildflower found in the Hetch Hetchy area. This has historically become a popular tourist site both for its existing beauty and for the fact that it is protected and still available thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Thomas intends for her paintings to be seen as aesthetic and specimens of her hiking experience for the viewer of her book. This is done for the same reason botanists surveyed the Yosemite area. They wanted to bring the beauty of national parks in the West to a public not able to access it.