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What Do You See in The Garden?

The Garden exhibition, located between the Early American and Modern Art Galleries, takes you on a journey exploring flowers in different contexts to celebrate the connection between art, design, nature, and literature. Florals and greenery are timeless themes that provide examples of how humans connect with nature and ideas of growth, passage of time, and beauty. By enveloping you in immersive spaces, the feeling of being in a garden is brought indoors through a site-specific installation, detailed rendering of flowers, and new forms of ornamentation, reflecting on the nature of beauty in the process. The Garden looks at the myriad of ways artists use flowers for ornamentation, empowerment, and as an exploration of human experience.

Below you will find a preview of what you will see when you come into The Garden.

The Language of Flowers

On the walls are passages from The Language of Flowers, a book written in 1848. The flowery style of writing serves as a literary inspiration to describe the experiences in the show. Written by Louise Cortambert, under the pseudonym Charlotte de Latour the book is likely based on Le language de fueures and was revised by Frederic Shoberl. This book’s purpose, during the height of the romantic age which looked to emotion and nature, was to explain the cultural and poetic significance of different kinds of flowers and gardens.

Installation by Jessica Pezalla

Jessica Pezalla’s installation—made specifically for the space at Crystal Bridges—is made up of delicate folded-paper florals and foliage that canvas the walls and envelope the artwork and architecture, creating an immersive environment that puts us into a simulation of a garden space. Pezalla runs Bramble Workshop which is a creative design studio based out of Portland. Using recreations of florals, she crafts ornate storefront and window displays and installations, bringing the outdoors indoors.

From floor to ceiling, her work creates an enveloping context for Harriet Whitney Frismuth’s Roses of Yesterday, a sculpture cast from 1923 to 1940 which could appear in actual gardens or outdoor spaces

Rebel Walls Wallpaper

Bold wall patterning covers large sections of the walls in two rooms in the exhibition. In the first example, large antique roses and wildflowers are paired with detailed studies, a majority from the nineteenth century. In the downstairs gallery, bright green leaves climb a lattice grid to create a simplified garden context for a room containing largely contemporary art.  This paper, designed by Rebel Walls is created in their studio similar to how a garden grows; the company states, “We see our studio as a greenhouse where we let both our and your wallpaper ideas grow and come alive.”

The wallpaper references decorative motifs and domestic spaces to give context to the art works and serves as another example of a designer drawing inspiration from nature to adorn an indoor space. Along with the art on the walls, the addition of wall paper visually immerses us in pattern while also suggesting familiar spaces like home.

"Climbing Chlorophyll" Rebel Walls design

“Climbing Chlorophyll” Rebel Walls design

Garden Flora Room: Flora C. Mace and Martin Johnson Heade

Trained as a sculptor, Flora C. Mace was a student of glass artist Dale Chihuly. She became entranced by flowers after completing her studies and moving to a fifty acre farm in Washington State. Mace was initially interested in the history of traditional methods of plant preserving like plant collecting and herbeveria, which uses pressing and mounting specimens and typically results in a loss of the plant’s vibrant hues and natural beauty.

Using her understanding of glass and sculpture, Mace invented a new method of preservation. After extensively observing the flower in real life, she harvests it when it is in a prime blooming stage. She dries the plant in oolitic sand gathered from Utah’s Great Salt Lake to stabilize the color of the plant. Next Mace deconstructs the plant; taking the plant apart, drying its components, and then reassembling the parts. She creates the sculptures by imbedding the specimen in composite glass, creating an effect of slowed time.

Mace’s highly technical process connects to Martin Johnson Heade’s floral studies both visually and conceptually, even though Heade’s work was made over 200 years before Mace’s sculptures. Both artists received formal education in art and the technical renderings of botanical specimens highlight a scientific approach to observation, displaying the flower’s colors and forms in detail removed from their surroundings. Mace, though, uses actual flowers in her work, creating sculptural objects that emphasize three-dimensional viewing and contrast Heade’s flat paintings.

In the book Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace, writer Daniel J. Hinkley describes Mace’s work as showing passion for gardens reveling in “the marvels of birth, death, decay, and rebirth inherent to each. Like a garden meant to last the ages, the work embodies passionate observation, deconstruction, resurrection, and then polish. The subjects are not just frozen in time, and are instead crafted by comprehending the mysteries embodied within each.”

Wild Ornament Room: Delany Allen, Kendall Carter, and The Neil Lane Collection

Delaney Allen’s photographs of bodies and objects shrouded in familiar floral prints suggest introspection, yet also reference historical portraiture. The patterns are decorative, repeating over the hidden body and climbing up the background wall, carrying associations of domestic and interior space. The floral fabric wraps around a figure, creating a literal immersion into the ornamental cloth. These photographs explore themes that relate the garden to humanity and provide an example of Allen’s exploration of hiding as he tries to lose himself in the fabric and pattern of the environment.

In Uncovering/Covering writer Sydney S. Kim says of Allen, “The work is truly about landscape and the questions raised when it is both witnessed and fabricated by a singular and single point-of-view. There is longing and confusion in this introspective work…. Purposefully half-hearted attempts at self-concealment point towards a startling self-awareness. Not entirely in search of answers, Allen’s lens looks out into the world and, ultimately, turns inward towards himself.”


Kendell Carter uses flowers as empowerment. As homage to “Black Excellence” today, Carter paints symbolic abstract portraits that use flowers for their uplifting and powerful nature. In this series, Carter uses clast latex and aerosol to make beautiful patterns from layered drips, painted flowers, and letters that spell out “black love”. These patterns reference floral ornamentation, but take this ornamentation outside of a exclusively decorative context through their gestural and celebratory nature.

The titles for these works reference the Emmy television awards and two actresses, Kerry Washington, nominated for her role in Scandal, and Taraji P. Henson, who was nominated for her role in Empire, to celebrate these strong Black women. Here he references fine art and nature with elements of celebrity, empowerment, and fashion.

Jewelry collected and created by celebrity designer Neil Lane is paired with books from our library’s special collection. The jewelry traces its own history of the floral form, including work by Louis Comfort Tiffany and David Webb.

Be sure to also check out our“inspiration board” in the Wild Ornament room to find your own inspirational images, art, and poetry relating to flowers.

Also pick up the self-guided flower tour and go outside to see connections from the art to real gardens and flowers on our grounds.