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'Natural Conditions' opens at Botanical Gardens

There will be more than flowers pleasing the eyes of visitors this summer at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. A newly introduced art series will also be there to greet guests.

The series, known as Shayne Dark: Natural Conditions, was dedicated Thursday in a formal ceremony on the front lawn of the Botanical Gardens. The series, which features pieces both outside and inside the site's classic greenhouses, was brought to the Botanical Gardens through the Public Art Initiative, a partnership involving the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Erie County and City of Buffalo.

It's the same initiative that brought Shark Girl to Buffalo's waterfront last year. The display at Botanical Gardens is the first under the partnership that unites two cherished local cultural institutions.

"Such collaborations are extremely important to Buffalo's economic and cultural resurgence and the renaissance that we're experiencing today," said Albright-Knox deputy director Dr. Joe Lin-Hill. "We need these special partnerships to continue in new and meaningful ways for the benefit of Western New York, its residents and its many visitors."

Dark, who hails from Canada, told reporters that his works are inspired by nature. One of the outdoor installations known as Tanglewood, a tall network of blue-painted logs, was inspired by childhood memories of watching driftwood flowing from a nearby mill and collecting into a pile.

Other speakers shared the opinion that it makes sense to bring Dark's display to a site where the flowers and other natural growth can also be seen as art.

"If you think about it, what's the difference between what's behind me and and some of the plants and flowers that are inside this building?" said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, standing at a podium on the front lawn of Botanical Gardens and pointing to Tanglewood. "If you look at them, you say 'I don't think I've ever seen a flower like that before.' What's to say that isn't, in somebody eyes, a flower just as well?"

Shayne Dark: Natural Conditions will be on display at the Botanical Gardens until October 4.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.