In the heart of Kingston, Ontario

Sarah Alford

at Kingston Art Gallery

The Natural System

Artist Statement: These images stem from my studies in nineteenth-century natural philosophy and the ways in which botanists coped with the rapid influx of exotic plants into Britain. Natural historians found they could no longer depend on classical texts as references and existing plant classification fell into complete disarray. To cope, botanists invented and promoted a new and unstable pre-Darwinian taxonomy, the Natural System, through the wide-spread dissemination of botanical illustration. These photographs are inspired by the composition of early nineteenth-century dried herbarium specimens and the ways in which botanical illustrators brought those plants back to colour and life on the page. While, the macro-photography is a way of thinking about how the technical advances in nineteenth-century microscopes allowed for deeper understandings of the vitality of plants, and their uneasy demarcation on the border between life and nonlife.


Sarah Alford is an Assistant Professor in Craft History and Theory at the Alberta University of the Arts. She has undergraduate degrees in Jewellery/Metalsmithing and Art History from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (2004), and was awarded a Fulbright to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned an MA in Visual and Critical Studies (2009), and MFA in studio through the department of Fibre and Material Studies (2010). Alford taught both studio and Art History courses at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design before earning her PhD in Art History and Art Conservation at Queen’s University, Kingston, on the subject of Art Botany in British nineteenth-century design reform, and was awarded the distinction of Queen’s Outstanding Humanities Thesis, (2018). She has exhibited across Canada, Scotland, and the United States, including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.


Unit 4 - 35 Johnson Street
Kingston, Ontario

Open Hours

Open by appointment only.