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Witsell's Essay Highlights Value of Artist's Work to Arkansas's heritage

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, December 21, 2018

Theo Witsell, ecologist/botanist and curator of the ANHC Herbarium, published an essay entitled “A Valuable Contribution to the Scientific Record” to accompany the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas’s “Elsie Mistie Sterling: Pencil and Persistence” exhibit. The Center’s collection features more than 400 of Sterling’s botanical paintings dating from the early 1940s.

Not originally from Arkansas, Elsie Mistie Sterling was born in Chicago and attended the Chicago Art Institute. She married Dr. Richard Sterling, and when the family fortune was lost during the Great Depression, the Sterlings traveled across the south, making a living off Elsie’s artwork. As they traveled, she sketched the wildflowers she saw on her travels, adding color later with paints, ink, and colored pencils.

The Sterlings eventually settled in Rogers. Elsie exhibited her work at the Clothesline Fair in Prairie Grove and the Ozarks Arts and Crafts Fair, which is now known as the War Eagle Arts and Crafts Fair.

Witsell’s essay, “A Valuable Contribution to the Scientific Record,” is available online at . The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas’s online gallery of Elsie Sterling’s work can be viewed at .


Top left -- Winecup (Callirhoe digitata), a native grassland species uncommon today, is featured in Sterling's artwork. Photo by Eric Hunt. 

At right -- Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), a declining species that Sterling drew from plants growing in the grasslands of Rogers, Ark. Photo by Eric Hunt. 

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