Jennifer Rominiecki, CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, has headed the Jean & Alfred Goldstein exhibition series for six years and is proud of the work she and her staff have shown.
The series illuminates respected artists and shows their work in the context of the greenery of Selby’s botanical garden. And during those six years, she and curator Carol Ockman kept hearing requests for a particular artist – the French impressionist Claude Monet.
It’s a natural fit at first sight. Monet worshiped his flower garden and water garden in Giverny, France during the 19th and 20th centuries, and many found it useful to highlight such material on Selby’s downtown campus.
But Rominiecki found that a choice was still too obvious.
“I’ve heard from a number of members and supporters that we’re doing Monet’s garden in Giverny,” she said. “But the thing is, (Monet) has already been done in a lot of ways. We really tried to come up with artists that you don’t necessarily associate with nature and find a surprising connection.”
Serendipity came a few years ago when Rominiecki was looking for work by various artists and discovered a number of paintings by pioneering pop artist Roy Lichtenstein – known for its bold colors, thick lines, Ben-Day dots, and comic book and vintage advertising inspiration. His work added a different twist to Monet’s water lilies and haystacks.
So, thought Rominiecki, what if the gardens filtered Monet’s well-known works through Lichtenstein’s bold Pop Art style and then continued to interpret the art in Selby’s tangible 3-D space?
Selby Gardens recently opened its Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s garden is becoming popular! Exhibition that runs through June 27th. The exhibition includes a range of installations, newly constructed creations, and museum pieces that the staff hope will provide a full overview of the different styles of both artists.
On the Selby campus are now familiar parts of Monet’s life and work, some of which are modeled with heavy black outlines and other visual details to create a more pop art feel.
The employees built red and yellow dotted haystack models. The koi pond now contains Monet’s water lilies, as well as some Lichenstein-inspired onomatopoeia. The conservatory is now full of Lichtenstein constructs, Ben Day dots, ornate murals, weeping willow structures and tropical flowers. A Japanese-style bridge spans a small pond created by Selby staff and painted through Lichtenstein’s lens.
It’s quite a bit of design work, and Angel House, manager of the Glass House collections, jokes that the company may have dyed his and other employees’ hair gray.
“We did well, but (the transition from 2D to 3D) took a long time to wrap our heads around,” said Chris Elenstar, garden manager. “We like the juxtaposition of the simple two-dimensional (art) mixed with the flowers.”
The exhibition in the Museum of Botany and Art offers comprehensive information about Roy Lichtenstein, before continuing with photos from Monet’s gardens and loaned paintings of Lichtenstein’s interpretations.
Collecting all of these works of art took some work.
Rominiecki borrowed a Lichtenstein painting of Monet’s haystack from Selby supporter Flora Major and was finally able to exhibit loaned paintings of the water lilies from the Pérez Museum of Art in Miami. Other items were found at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.
The employees started planning the exhibition a year ago. The choreography and installation of the new creations took place two weeks before the exhibition opened. The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the estate were involved in the design of the exhibition in order to contribute to the various creations
Rominiecki particularly enjoys a massive replica of Monet’s house – with a dark, thick outline – surrounded by various types of flowers found in his gardens at Giverny. Watching guests interact with the art was exactly what she was hoping for when the exhibition was launched.
“I love to see people who go to (the work of art), sit at the bench and become part of the work of art,” said Rominiecki. “We want people to be part of the installation and really immerse themselves.”