Selby Gardens opens Monet goes Pop! with art work by Roy Lichtenstein
Staff members at Selby Botanical Gardens acknowledge they could have gotten carried away with inspiration when designing their newest art-meets-nature exhibition “Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s Garden Goes Pop!”
“We just went a little crazy,” stated Mike McLaughlin, the manager of horticulture, who worked with a group of team members to change the conservatory and motives in an range of whimsical displays that reflect Lichtenstein’s Pop art interpretations of classic works by French Impressionist painter Claude Monet of his own gardens in Giverny, France, and his famed haystacks.
“There was a lot to work from,” McLaughlin said of the latest entry the Jean and Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series, which opens today and continues through June 27 in Selby’s downtown Sarasota campus. The show has featured botanical-related art work by Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.
This year’s exhibit includes several big Lichtenstein prints of Monet’s gardens made with his recognizable Ben-Day dots, thick outlines and contemporary variations of water lilies, in addition to yellow and red sprinkled variations of their haystack paintings. They are on display from the Museum of Botany along with the Arts.
“We’re always examining the relationship of the arts to nature with a master artist,” stated Executive Director Jennifer Romeniecki. “It’s a unique way of presenting artists in the unique lens of a botanical garden.”
After past displays, Rominiecki stated she had been approached by many people with thoughts for different musicians to feature. Among them was Monet due to the depictions of those Giverny gardens. But which have been too literal an interpretation of that which she’s been attempting to attain from the sequence.
“We try to do a surprising connection between the artist and nature. So who is an artist you wouldn’t expect to do nature?” Rominiecki said. “And that came around to Lichtenstein because of his water lilies and haystacks. We first had to secure the artwork before creating the exhibition.”
The Lichtenstein bits on display include private collections( such as Sarasota collector along with philanthropist Flora Major, the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, the Perez Art Museum in Miami and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.
Pop artwork is work “that is willfully drawn from other sources,” stated Dr. Carol Ockman, Selby’s curator-at-large who worked closely together with all the gardens staff to make this year’s gardens transformation. She stated Lichtenstein, who died in 1997 at age 73, first rose to prominence through his variations of comic book and marketing pictures.
“But then he moves on and takes famous artworks and he takes the notion of high art and knocks it from its pedestal,” she explained. “At the same time, he does something paradoxical. He makes it high art again because he paints it, makes screen prints or sculpture, all circulated in the art world again. He also makes it really accessible to a large public, which I think other art forms don’t do in quite the same way.”
McLaughlin and Angel Lara, manager of glass home collections, stated they took their particular screen ideas off the combination of their first Monet masterpieces and Lichtenstein’s variations of these.
Inside that the glass-enclosed conservatory, you will find screens with tropical plants developed to recreate the appearance of Monet’s own gardens, but on the walls behind them, are photographic pictures of Monet’s gardens and home together with the sort of Ben-Day dots which were featured so prominently in Lichtenstein’s functions. (Ben-Day dots were called for Benjamin Day, an illustrator and printer, and date back to the 1870s).
In a single segment, visitors will visit a backyard with a glistening pool of water created from Rowlux, a substance that Lichtenstein used from the 1960s, using cut-out water fountains which seem like they came straight in a Lichtenstein print.
Similar variations of these water lilies pop up round the garden grounds, such as in the koi pond.
There are 10 outside vignettes about the grounds where people can observe a melding of their artists and character, such as a depiction of the front of Monet’s house with Lichtenstein embellishments. Rominiecki needs guests to interact with the screen.
Walking north across the walkway, a Japanese-design bridge spans a tiny stone-lined pond generated by Selby personnel, resulting in a collection of trellises which will become covered by vines. Most of those structures have been painted in a distinctive bluish-green related to Monet paintings.
Inside that the Museum of Botany along with the Arts, there’s a short photographic history of Lichtenstein, resulting in the screen of those loaned prints which dominate the walls. Three of the biggest feature a shiny material which enables visitors to view themselves.
“We’re reflected. Parts of the viewers are reflected in the prints themselves,” Ockman said. “Talk about confounding, talk about putting us in the pond. It just doesn’t get any better to me. One artist riffing off the other.”
This the fifth season of this Goldstein Exhibition Series, that is now Selby’s hottest yearly attraction. Last year’s Dali display was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, which compelled Selby to shut for 2 weeks. Rominiecki managed to expand its stay for a couple weeks.
She said visitation was powerful since Selby reopened last May. “We have excellent safety protocols and the community can feel safe coming to the grounds and seeing the 10 outdoor vignettes.”
‘Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s Garden Goes Pop!’
On screen through June 27 in Selby Botanical Gardens’ downtown Sarasota campus, 1534 Mound St., Sarasota. Included with regular admission, $25 adults, $15 for kids 4-17 and free to members. For further info: 941-366-5731; selby.org