“Flowers, Poetry, and Light” Pairs Art of Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and Poet/Singer-Songwriter Patti Smith for First Time Ever in a Botanical Garden Setting
An immersive, multisensory art exhibition that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Patti Smith has called “beguiling” is entering its final month on view at the Downtown Sarasota campus of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light pairs the iconic flower photography of Mapplethorpe with the nature-inspired lyrics \and poetry of Smith, set in dialogue with original horticultural installations created by the Selby Gardens staff. The indoor-outdoor show will remain on view through Sunday, June 26, throughout the 15-acre campus.
“This is the sixth edition of our Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition, and many return visitors have called it our best yet,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “To see Robert Mapplethorpe’s exquisite flower photography illuminated by the vivid words of Patti Smith is a profound and enlightening experience. Add in the stunning vignettes of ‘living art’ created by our talented Selby Gardens horticulture team, and you have a multidisciplinary show that is truly one of a kind.”
Flowers, Poetry, and Light is built around six photogravures created by Mapplethorpe in the 1980s at Graphicstudio, the studio and print workshop at University of South Florida in Tampa, which generously loaned the pieces to Selby Gardens for display in its Museum of Botany & the Arts. But the heart of the Gardens-wide exhibition is the relationship between Mapplethorpe and creative soulmate Smith, who emerged together as vanguard artists in 1970s New York City, and the effect each had on the other’s legendary artistic output.
The show begins before guests even enter the Gardens, with a spectacular yellow trumpet tree outside the Welcome Center set in a black-and-white, cube-like frame, suggesting Mapplethorpe’s famous use of geometric frames and light and shadow. Once inside, visitors proceed through Selby Gardens’ world-renowned Tropical Conservatory, which has been transformed through a series of vignettes to evoke a photographer’s studio and gallery featuring “living art” in the form of framed and suspended plants, a foliage-filled gallery space, and more. Back outside in the Gardens, guests will encounter eight more original, plant-centric installations inspired by the artists’ work before arriving at the Museum, housed in the historic Payne Mansion. The Museum installation includes three galleries, which first tell the artists’ shared story through reproductions of archival photographs taken by their peers before diverging to explore Smith’s and Mapplethorpe’s respective artistic evolutions.
The exhibition attracted Smith herself to visit and perform at Selby Gardens twice this year, in February and again in April. At the second performance, CEO Rominiecki announced that Smith had accepted the invitation to become Selby Gardens’ first Artist in Residence, with return visits being planned for 2023 and 2024.
Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light continues at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus through June 26. Access to the show is included in general admission. Tickets may be purchased online at selby.org or in person at the Welcome Center. Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus is located at 1534 Mound Street.