Selby Gets Surreal with Dali Exhibition

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BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY FEB 7, 2020

This Sunday, Selby Gardens introduces a fully immersive garden experience produced in collaboration with the Dalí Museum called “Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Mind.” The exhibition of Dalí-inspired installations makes use of some of the artist’s favorite motifs, including juxtaposition, mind-bending perspective and patterns, all in an effort to evoke the essence of his far-reaching imagination. “You’re entering a Dalí dreamscape,” says CEO Jennifer Rominiecki, who prefaced a tour of the gardens with an apt introduction into the conceptual framework that guided the exhibition’s production. “We’ve highlighted recurring symbols,” she says, “to mix the expected with the unexpected.” Once inside, horticulture specialists and Selby’s own Curator-at-Large Dr. Carol Ockman took over for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a surrealist’s botanical wonderland.

Beginning in the conservatory, the first installation features a spiral arrangement of dangling air plants. The spiral motif is littered throughout the exhibition and was known to be one of Dalí’s obsessions along with his affinity for the Fibonacci sequence. The next installation invites visitors to sit inside an Escher-esque cube, with a water feature and more Dalían symbology like eggs and eyes placed strategically throughout. The third installation introduces another major contributor to the exhibition, famous landscape photographer Clyde Butcher. Butcher was commissioned by the Dalí museum to photograph the rocky coastal vistas surrounding Dalí’s Catalonia home, and massive prints on breathable mesh form the backdrop for some of the exhibitions more ambitious plant arrangements. 

One of the more stunning examples comes in the form of a butterfly garden built specifically for the exhibition. Inside the screened-in structure, a black and white Butcher print gives the space a sense of immense volume, while strategically planted tropical plants form a seamless, real-world foreground. Native butterflies flutter around as an actual sea breeze washes through the structure, adding to the surreal illusion that one is standing on the cliffs near Dalí’s Catalonian home. 

Other more bizarre installations pay homage to Dalí’s penchant for placing objects in unexpected places. Boats make their way into surprising places—in trees or amongst desert plants—and baby grand piano planters offer a striking focal point for the wandering eye. “If we can turn it into a planter, we do,” says Director of Glasshouse Collections, Angel Lara. Finally, inside the Museum of Botany & the Arts, visitors can catch a glimpse of rare pieces from the Dalí Museum’s vaults. The collection, called Flordalí, includes 10 photolithographs of the artist’s surreal take on scientific botanical illustrations. Each stunning piece is a small glimpse into the wild imagination of the artist, with symbology that references many of his interests in math, religious archetypes, medieval and renaissance art, and even the space race with its accompanying obsession with flying saucers. According to Dr. Ockman, the lithographs have not left the vault since 2006, owing largely to the light-sensitivity of the medium. “It’s just a wonderful, rare opportunity,” says Ockman.

The Salvador Dali: Gardens of the Mind exhibition opens to the public this Sunday, February 9 and runs through June 28. 


Photo taken by Andrew Fabian.

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