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Eco-artist and Fine Art Professor Elizabeth Demaray Becomes the Inaugural SciArt Artist-in-residence in Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers University

September 25, 2020

The Chrysler Herbarium (CHRB), in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, is pleased to announce the creation of a new SciArt Artist-in-Residence Program. This is a cross-disciplinary platform for creative practice and innovative collaboration between contemporary arts and natural sciences. This residency offers artists unlimited access to Chrysler’s extensive collection of specimens (or digital collections, during pandemic restrictions), the opportunity to pair up with herbarium researchers and the undergraduate ‘Herbarium Army’ to explore and expand the visualization of biodiversity, sustainability though creations of artworks, exhibits, and more.

Lichen infront of building. Zoom in
Lichen for Skyscrapers
Elizabeth Demaray, site-specific, community artwork, 2011.

Lichen for Skyscrapers promotes culturing lichen on the vertical surface of high-rises in urban centers. In addition to being beautiful and creating oxygen, when propagated on urban structures lichen can also bring down ground temperatures in cities and sequester water when it rains. Photo credit: Elizabeth Demaray.

On September 1, 2020, the Chrysler Herbarium welcomed Elizabeth Demaray as the inaugural SciArt Artist-in-Residence at the herbarium for two years. Demaray’s research and art exploration focus is the relationship between the natural world and the built environment. In this vein she designs alternative forms of housing for hermit crabs, cultures lichen on the sides of skyscrapers, and builds floraborgs, which are entities that are part plant and part robot.

The Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers University is the last international herbarium in New Jersey, and contains about a quarter million specimens going back about 200 years from across the globe. A herbarium is a scientific museum for plant, algae, and fungal scientific specimens, with examples ranging from weeds of the 19th century ballast heaps in the harbors of Camden and Elizabeth, NJ, to rare orchids and gentians, and newcomers like invasive mile-a-minute and tree-of-heaven. These specimens provide unique and invaluable scientific snapshots in time of plants, places, and people (the collectors, some famous, some anonymous), and can help trace the history of the landscape, the continuous evolution of plants, and the changing world of the future with urbanization and climate change.

As the SciArt Resident at Chrysler Herbarium, Demaray will work on multiple artworks in collaboration with the herbarium staff. Chief among these is the Camden Colorfield Project, which focuses on planning zones of blooming indigenous wildflowers in Camden, NJ. Herbariumresearch will alsosupport the Manhattan Tundra Project which is an initiative that proposes emergent ecosystems on the tops of skyscrapers in lower Manhattan. While at the Chrysler, Demaray also hope to use data from the collection’s extensive library of lichens in order to identify best practices for vertical cultivation in an urban context.

Map of Camden with colors.
Camden Colorfield Project
Elizabeth Demaray, site-specific, community artwork, 2019.

This five-year community art initiative makes “Earth Balls,” for Earth Day. Made out of soil and clay, these balls also contain indigenous wildflower seeds which bloom is specific color hues. Each Earth Day, the community of Camden NJ creates and plants these balls in specific hue zones across the city that correspond to the colors of the rainbow. The Camden Colorfield Project envisions the entire city of Camden NJ as a colorfield painting, utilizing blooming wildflowers in the colors of the rainbow. Photo credit: Elizabeth Demaray.
More Information about the Camden Colorfield Project

These works and other projects at the Chrysler Herbarium are supported by the herbarium’s Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis and other projects funded by NSF, which provides resources for online access to local flora herbarium specimens for the public, educators, and researchers. The Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis project help trace and predict flora changes over the last 200 years and going forward for the urbanized and suburbanized Mid-Atlantic corridor, and is run jointly with University of Pennsylvania (Morris Arboretum), Howard University, The New York Botanical Garden, Drexel University (The Academy of Natural Sciences), Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, and Delaware State University. The new Chrysler Art/Sci Residency will provide exceptional opportunities for visual and artistic implementation and exploration and cross-disciplinary interpretations of such scientific data.

Talking about her 2020–2022 residency Demaray states the “Chrysler Herbarium is an extraordinary institution. Much of my work concerns our culture’s interactions with the natural world in an urban context. So, I’m am particularly interested in their collections from cities in the Mid-Atlantic area and am looking forward to pairing with herbarium researchers to identify the kinds of life-forms that move through the urban streets and airs and self-colonize the tops of high rises, as well as the sidewalks and abandoned lots of our cities to create novel green spaces.”

Chrysler Herbarium Director Lena Struwe adds, “It is a delight to welcome Elizabeth Demaray in this role as Artist-in-Residence and her innovative work fits especially well when we envision how science and education will engage with the arts and crafts areas in our society. Botany has traditionally been a border zone between arts and science, with botanical illustrations, form and function of plant parts, and horticulture and plant discovery being key parts of the field. To bring an artist into the herbarium will create unlimited and exciting possibilities for collaboration and creation of new ways to showcase the resilience of plants, the often unseen urban flora, and the adaptation of the diversity of plants to a new world.”

Manhattan Tundra Project.
Manhattan Tundra Project
Elizabeth Demaray, site-specific, community artwork, 2021.

This project proposes the creation of emergent eco-systems on the unpeopled, unused, tops of modernist buildings. This artwork also utilizes computer vision, so that individuals who live or work in one of these urban structures, can logon online and see whatever life form may be currently colonizing the top of their building.
More Information about the Manhattan Tundra Project


Dr. Lena Struwe, Professor and Director, Chrysler Herbarium, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick,

Prof. Elizabeth Demaray, Associate Professor, Camden College of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University-Camden,