SARASOTA, Fla — Russian-French painter Marc Chagall has been considered many things — a Surrealist, a colorist, a modernist — but never really a naturalist. Yet that’s the tack that was taken by the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens as they approached the construction of an exhibition presenting several of the artist’s works. The result, Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams, may sound initially gimmicky but gains conceptual momentum the further one explores the living tableaux staged within the Selby conservatory and grounds.
“If you start looking at his work, you’ll see flowers all the way from 1919 to his death in 1985,” said Mischa Kirby, Director of Marketing and Communications for Selby Gardens, on a tour through the exhibition. Plasticized reproductions of some of Chagall’s stunning stained glass works act as backdrops and points of inspiration for installations created out of living materials by Selby’s horticultural and floral design teams. These scenes within the conservatory are titled “A Cathedral of Plants,” and they are the welcoming salvo intended to forge a connection between Chagall’s works and their botanical inspiration.