New botanical mystery on display at Faux Museum

Past the small curated gift shop of antique postcards, curious pamphlets, oversized classic candy, and other oddities, past the quiet and delightful gentlemen, Tom Richards, seated behind the counter, lies the Faux Museum‘s (139 NW Second Ave.) latest visual journey The Lost Secrets of the Bennett-Brackett Portfolio.

Detailed, technical sketches of plants—peculiar plants that you can’t quite identify—line the walls of the museum. These pieces are the crux of the exhibit, a collaboration between Richards, the museum’s curator, and local artist Jessica Brackett, who drew the pieces. The sketches, at once delicate and scientific, are difficult to identify because they’re complete fabrications of Brackett’s—“faux plants” she calls them. “We wanted to make the drawings become a documentation of a grand conspiracy that spanned the ages,” says Brackett. It was she who suggested the notion of a turn-of-the-century lady explorer, the fictional Ms. Bennett-Badger-Brackett, who would follow the “bread crumbs of a secret government conspiracy.” It was Richards who suggested “a larger context involving conspiracy theories and ancient greats like Socrates and Galileo,” according to Brackett. By the end of the collaboration, Brackett notes that the fruition of their planning was equal parts artist and curator.

The exhibit tells the tale of Ms. Bennett-Badger-Brackett who stumbled upon some highly unusual plants during her natural plant expeditions more than a century ago. The plants may or may not have led to “some kind of fountain of youth or panacea, or maybe even something so grand as a unified theory of everything.” A government cover-up of her work quickly ensued.

Brackett’s sketches vary from her own style to that of typical 18th and 19th century botanical illustrations. In addition to the fictional explorer’s work on display – including Ms. Bennett-Badger-Brackett’s work desk, perfectly preserved – the Faux Museum houses its usual hands-on favorites, including the bamboo sound pod and offbeat keyboard room.

Explore the Faux Museum’s critical thinking botanical mystery exhibit The Lost Secrets of the Bennett-Brackett Portfolio now through Dec. 31.

— Mary Locke

Photography by Jayna Milan.



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