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Impressionism Meets Pop Art At Selby Gardens Nature Exhibit Inspired By Monet

A green footbridge over a pond with 2D water lilies next to a garden.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
A take on Monet's iconic green Japanese footbridge from his French garden in Giverny, spans a pond at Selby Gardens, embellished with Lichtenstein-style water lilies.

Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein was best known for his comic-book-style. But he was also a fan of impressionism and created a series of modern takes on paintings by Claude Monet.

"Roy Lichtenstein: Monet's Garden Goes Pop" brings together artists from two different generations and styles at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

But Jeannie Perales, Selby's Vice President for Museum Exhibits, says the pop artist and the impressionist actually had a lot in common.

"So Claude Monet in the 1800s, his concept was to debunk the one-of-a-kind masterwork, and so he created serial images, multiples, of water lilies, haystacks, the cathedral. Along comes the 1960s and that's what the American pop artists were doing and that's exactly what Roy Lichtenstein did,” she said.

Starting in the 1960s, Roy Lichtenstein created a series of reimagined works of Monet’s impressionist paintings. Six of his rare prints are on display at Selby's Museum of Botany and the Arts.

Two prints by artist Roy Lichtenstein hang in a gallery.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Lichtenstein’s water lilies and haystacks screen prints inspired by Monet are also on view at Selby Gardens.

The garden team took inspiration from the artwork to figure out how they could translate that to the grounds.

Director of Horticulture Mike McLaughlin says it made sense to mimic Lichtenstein's use of patterns with plant material.

"Plants that have dots or stripes is really tipping the hat to Lichtenstein,” he said. “If you look at his work, you'll see certain themes that show up over and over again, and one of them are that sort of these diagonal stripes. And then of course the dots, styled after the printers dots that were used in printmaking."

McLaughlin notes that some of the plants used in the exhibit will have to be switched out as the seasons change.

“You know, we really had to evoke the gardens of Giverny, right? These are temperate gardens in a subtropical setting,” he said. “Some of the plants we have now like foxgloves are working right now. But they won't in May and June. That's a challenge because of the duration of this show. We go from dead of winter to full of summer.”

Selby's marriage of two seemingly distinct artists can be compared to a really good cover song, with just the right balance of interpretation and tribute. Creative plant displays can be seen throughout the gardens, like flowers in a rainbow of colors, 2D pop art water lilies floating in a koi pond and a replica of Monet's iconic Japanese footbridge spanning a newly built pond.

Green, orange and pink plants
Cathy Carter
Plants with dots and patterns mimic Lichtenstein's artistic style inside the conservatory at Selby Gardens in Sarasota.

Selby Gardens President Jennifer Rominiecki says the show allows the horticulture team to become artists themselves.

"Gardens and art are a natural fit,” she said. You know, it's another medium. There's visual arts, performing arts, well living art, that's what our team excels in."

And Rominiecki says the series is designed to be interactive.

"With a regular museum exhibit, often it’s a passive experience,” she said. “You walk by and look at an art work and then you leave and so in this exhibit, the living art medium of plants enables you to smell, to touch, to sit amongst."

"Roy Lichtenstein: Monet's Garden Goes Pop," is on viewthrough June 27.

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