An Intersection of Art and Nature at Selby Botanical Gardens

Todays News

Pictured: Studio in Tropical Conservatory. Photo courtesy of Selby Gardens.

How do you pay homage to two of the most iconic artists of the 20th Century? In the case of photographer Rober Mapplethorpe and punk-rocker Patti Smith, you pair their work with nature. A new attraction has arrived at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden’s 15-acre Downtown Sarasota Campus. From Feb 13th through June 26th, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light, an exhibit curated by Dr. Carol Ockman, Selby Gardens’ Curator at Large, will bring a new way to immerse yourself into Mapplethorpe and Smith’s work.

“Our exhibition explores their mutual interest in flowers and the natural world as part of their larger iconic bodies of work. We’ve taken Mapplethorpe’s high-art floral photography and placed it alongside lyrics and prose from Smith’s work,” says Greg Luberecki, Vice President of Strategic Communications at Selby Gardens.

Mapplethorpe and Smith’s relationship - which ranged from artistic to romantic and ultimately platonic - paved the way for some of the great nature-inspired artistic works during the counter cultural movements of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In an attempt to reinvigorate that bond, Selby Gardens’ Tropical Conservatory has been repurposed in the style of Mapplethorpe’s photography. “ Upon entry visitors are met immediately with the music from Smith’s debut album Horses, as well as an enlarged photo of the album’s cover art which was a portrait of Smith taken by Mapplethorpe,” recalls Luberecki.

Inside of the conservatory a series of vignettes incorporate living plants into conceptual designs that evoke Mapplethorpe’s approach to photography. “There’s a small pond that is surrounded by a photography studio, a long ‘living’ wall with orchids hanging as suspended living art, and a set of framed flowers that play with light and shadow.”

Throughout the exhibit various interactive horticultural installations depict the balance between Mapplethorpe and Smith’s work. Visitors can have their picture taken with orchids reminiscent of Mapplethorpe’s famed photographs and listen to a turntable that sits amongst a colorful burst of flowers, playing yet another one of Smith’s albums.

The exhibit also traces the history of Mapplethorpe and Smith’s relationship. “Visitors will move from the South gallery which tells of their early years together, to a foyer that focuses on Smith, and eventually to the North gallery that features four of Mapplethorpe’s famous flower photographs. It’s a highly conceptualized exhibit that both pays tribute to each artist and fits right in alongside the rest of what Selby Gardens has to offer,” says Luberecki.

Pictured: Studio in Tropical Conservatory. Photo courtesy of Selby Gardens.

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