Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs and Patti Smith’s lyrics bloom in Selby Gardens Florida


Robert Mapplethorpe, Hyacinth, 1987.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Selby Gardens) highlights the creative practices of Robert Mapplethorpeone of the most important photographers of the 20th century and legendary singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith in an immersive, multi-sensory exhibit on the 15-acre downtown Sarasota, Florida campus of Gardens. Marking the sixth edition of Selby Gardens’ annual Jean & Alfred Goldstein exhibition series, which explores the work of major artists through the lens of their connection to nature, the exhibition features a selection of iconic orchid photographs , hyacinths and irises by Mapplethorpe, and Smith’s poems on flowers and nature and his music, in dialogue with new horticultural installations inspired by the work of the two artists.

On view until June 26, 2022, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: flowers, poetry and light is curated by Dr Carol Ockman, at-Large Curator of Selby Gardens and Robert Sterling Clark Emeritus Professor of Art History at Williams College.

According to Jennifer Romiecki, President and CEO of Selby Gardens, “This is the first time that Selby Gardens has featured the work of a living artist and a contemporary photographer in the series, this exhibition creates an immersive experience for our visitors. Our gardens and flower shows will set the stage for a unique cultural encounter and exchange with two of the most iconic artists of our time.”

Installation image of a living still life, lit and framed to evoke the same classical principles that Mapplethorpe embraces in his work, to be seen as part of the exhibition.

Mapplethorpe and Smith met the day Smith moved to New York in the summer of 1967. Their enduring relationship, through which the two spent time as artistic collaborators, lovers, and ultimately friends, proved formative. for the creative practice and artistic production of the other. Flowers, Poetry, and Light brings Mapplethorpe and Smith together in a garden, showcasing works by each inspired by nature during the counterculture movements of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

The Selby Gardens Tropical Conservatory, world famous for its collection of orchids and bromeliads, is reimagined as a photography studio and gallery, complete with drop cloth, light boxes and live plants framed and hung like still lifes. The Conservatory-wide experience is enhanced by the sounds of Smith’s iconic album, Horses, whose cover features his portrayal by Mapplethorpe and serves as the first dramatic visual upon entering the Conservatory.

The Museum of Botany & the Arts presents Mapplethorpe’s stunning flower photographs, including orchids, irises, and hyacinths, made at the Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida in Tampa, as well as Smith’s haunting writings and words . Reproductions of historic photographs of the two artists, their friends, lovers and living spaces tell the story, along with Smith’s own words.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe IV, 1969. Photograph © Norman Seeff

Throughout the exhibition, horticultural installations inspired by the two artists’ creative practices evoke vignettes of their shared histories in color palettes that reference their work – with rich, deeply colored varieties for Smith and tiered flora. of gray for Mapplethorpe. Some installations position the viewer as the photographer, looking through the viewfinder, and others evoke a gallery with framed plants as living art or a cityscape such as the area around the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where both lived early in life. love relationship. Archival footage, music from two of Smith’s early albums, and his own narration from his award-winning book Just Kids enliven the visitor experience. A poetic walk featuring verses from Smith’s work offers moments of reflection in the gardens and highlights the rich symbolism of the flowers.

“Through this unique and immersive installation, visitors can explore Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic strategies for capturing beauty, including his debts to classical sources and the specific ways in which he uses light, composition and color in images of flowers,” said Dr. Carol Ockman, the exhibit’s director. conservative. “These tenets of classicism, sensuality and beauty are carried from the museum into the gardens and conservatory, and are brought out in the resounding words of Smith, Mapplethorpe’s lover, close friend and muse.”


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