Selby Gardens Introduces Immersive Pop Exhibition

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY FEB 12, 2021

Last February, Selby Gardens showed how dynamic a “living museum” could be when it created a series of garden vignettes to accompany its exhibition of Salvador Dalí’s botanically-inspired photolithographs. That exhibition helped reaffirm the gardens’ mission to use interdisciplinary programming as it redefines what a garden attraction offers to its guests. This weekend, the gardens pull another rabbit out of their hat with a similar treatment of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop-inspired works that riff on Monet’s famous garden paintings.

Called “Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s Garden Goes Pop,” the immersive exhibition celebrates some lesser-known works of Lichtenstein that show how even a so-called “pop artist” can find inspiration in nature. “He was famous in the 60s for his sort of comic-strip, mechanical, industrial approach to art,” says CEO Jennifer Rominiecki, “but he did an entire series based on Monet’s Gardens at Giverny.” That series includes paintings like “Water Lilies with Clouds” and “Water Lilies with Willows,” which both take the imagery of Monet’s originals and renders those images in the graphical, hard-edged style for which Lichtenstein and some of his contemporaries were known.

Those pieces will hang in the gardens’ museum space, but the real fun happens outside. Like last year’s Dalí exhibition, the Lichtenstein program will feature immersive vignettes in some of the Gardens’ most iconic features. “We really feel like if Lichtenstein had dreamt up a garden based on Monet, this is what he might’ve had in mind,” says Rominiecki.

That “dream” came from hours and hours of research by Selby Gardens staff, including senior vice president for site operations and horticulture, Mike McLaughlin. “Through our research, we found some recurring motifs in Monet’s work,” he says, “the arched bridge with water lilies below it, lots of flowers, obelisks and arbors.” They captured those elements in the plant-based features of the vignettes, then overlaid those with architectural elements in the style of Lichtenstein. The result is a fun juxtaposition of styles that celebrates the way each artist found inspiration in green spaces.

“Lichtenstein playfully eviscerated Monet’s work,” says Rominiecki, “and I think visitors will find this sort of alternate universe that still feels familiar.” The exhibition opens tomorrow.

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