MARIE SELBY BOTAN­I­CAL GAR­DENS

Marc Cha­gall in bloom, his­tor­i­cal exhibit runs through late July

RSWLiving - - CONTENTS - BY BETH LU­BERECKI The Beth Lu­berecki is a Venice, Florida–based free­lance writer and reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

Marc Cha­gall in bloom, his­tor­i­cal exhibit runs through late July

To say that the artist Marc Cha­gall ap­pre­ci­ated na­ture might be a bit of an un­der­state­ment. Af­ter all, the mod­ernist once pro­claimed, “Art is the un­ceas­ing ef­fort to com­pete with the beauty of flow­ers―and never suc­ceed­ing.” Sara­sota’s Marie Selby Botan­i­cal Gar­dens saw an op­por­tu­nity to explore the Rus­sian-French artist and his work in a way that had never been done. “Marc Cha­gall has been stud­ied many, many times,” says Jen­nifer O. Ro­miniecki, Selby Gar­dens’ pres­i­dent and CEO. “But he has never been stud­ied in the con­text of his love of flow­ers and his love of na­ture. So this exhibit is a his­tory-mak­ing mo­ment.”

“Marc Cha­gall, Flow­ers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams” runs through July 31. The in­flu­en­tial 20th-cen­tury artist’s work and words have been woven through­out the nearly 15-acre site, which fea­tures plant­ings rem­i­nis­cent of Cha­gall’s beloved French Riviera. “The in­ti­macy of our gar­dens is re­ally con­ducive to a gar­den-wide in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” says Ro­miniecki.

Selby’s glass-walled con­ser­va­tory has been trans­formed into a “cathe­dral of plants.” Or­chids and other col­or­ful blos­soms in­ter­mix with re­pro­duc­tions of six stained-glass pieces Cha­gall cre­ated for churches and a sy­n­a­gogue, which cre­ate dif­fer­ent ef­fects de­pend­ing on the time of day. “The color and light just ab­so­lutely dap­ple through­out the con­ser­va­tory,” says Ro­miniecki.

Cy­press trees, bougainvillea and other plant­ings form vi­gnettes through­out the gar­dens’ grounds that bring a French Riviera feel to Florida’s Gulf Coast. Date palms sway in the breeze at a point over­look­ing Sara­sota Bay, and neat rows of salvia evoke a field of French lavender (which would have been too tem­per­a­men­tal for these parts).

In the gar­dens’ Payne Man­sion, 16 archival photos se­lected by Cha­gall’s es­tate help il­lus­trate the Lithua­nian-born artist’s life and ca­reer, which took him to Rus­sia, France, New York and fi­nally back to France's Côte d'Azur. He died in France in 1985. Also on dis­play: four vases used by Cha­gall to col­lect the blooms he of­ten painted.

The exhibit’s cen­ter­piece is Cha­gall’s mas­ter­work

Cy­press trees, bougainvillea and other plant­ings form vi­gnettes through­out the gar­dens’ grounds that bring a French Riviera feel to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Lovers, painted in 1937 around the time he ob­tained his French cit­i­zen­ship. The artist and his first wife, Bella, float amid a large bou­quet of red and white flow­ers against a blue back­ground; they over­look a vil­lage rem­i­nis­cent of his Lithua­nian birth­place. Two other Cha­gall paint­ings on view— Bou­quets of Lilacs at Sain­tPaul and Cou­ple with Lilies of the Val­ley— come from a pri­vate col­lec­tion and have never been shown. Through­out the exhibit’s run, Selby Gar­dens will host classes, mu­si­cal per­for­mances and other events. “It is said that when Cha­gall thought a paint­ing might be fin­ished, he would hold a flower or rock up next to it,” says Dr. Carol Ock­man, cu­ra­tor at large for Selby Gar­dens. “And if it looked good, he would say OK. So na­ture was the test.”

Wil­liam and Marie Selby left their Sara­sota home and grounds "for the en­joy­ment of the gen­eral pub­lic." Its nearly 15 acres today ac­com­mo­date a re­search cen­ter, ex­hibits and gar­dens for some 140,000 an­nual vis­i­tors.

Re­pro­duc­tions of Cha­gall’s stained- glass work ( left and bot­tom right) cre­ate dra­matic ef­fects as the sun shifts through­out the day. His The Lovers ( top right) cen­ter­pieces the exhibit. Cha­gall is a mod­ernist master whose works fetch mil­lions of...

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