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Painting the Elusive

Fresh Flowers: CFA exhibition heralds spring

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More than 40 artists are represented in the gallery exhibition. Photos by Kimberly Cornuelle

Claude Monet’s water lilies, Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Georgia O’Keeffe’s iconic poppies and calla lilies, and Damien Hirst’s blue roses all attest to the powerful lure of flowers to painters over the centuries.

A new exhibition, opening today at the Sherman Gallery, celebrates the genre of floral painting—leaving the wallflowers at home. Presented by the College of Fine Arts School of Visual Arts, the show, titled Fresh Flowers, represents the work of more than 40 artists using oil, pastel, and collage to depict flowers that pop with color and originality. Fresh Flowers is on view through April 29, with an opening reception today, March 23, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

“Certain subjects hold an interest from grade school all the way to the grad students I teach,” says exhibition cocurator Dana Frankfort, a CFA assistant professor. “Across the board, the flower captures that.”

Frankfort says it is the elusiveness and complexity of flowers that entice artists. “The flower is a still life object, but it’s also translucent,” she says. “Trying to paint a petal isn’t the same as painting wood—the light passes through.”

flowers3Cocurated by painter Rodney Harder, Fresh Flowers includes the work of both formally trained and untrained artists. “A number of the paintings in this show are from the self-taught movement,” says Harder, who is also an art teacher at the Collegiate School in New York City. “They are so astoundingly beautiful that it’s impossible not to respond—for a lack of a better word—joyfully.

“I like that it would be challenging to open up the boundaries of who makes art, and what is seen as art,” he says.

The exhibition will be hung in the salon style, but Harder says they hope to “not force stories.”

“I want to juxtapose, or present, work without labeling it,” he says, “using it in a fresh way.”

flowers_1hWhile stretching boundaries by including varied media and known and unknown artists, the exhibition also identifies the traditional role that flowers have played in culture, marking events from birth to courtship to death.

“How many private emotions are here presented—condolence at a death, get well wishes, declarations of love and, of course and forever, a public expression of the emotion we feel in the presence of beauty,” writes poet and essayist William Corbett in the exhibition essay for Fresh Flowers.

Fresh Flowers is at the Sherman Gallery, George Sherman Union second floor, 775 Commonwealth Ave., through April 29; gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. An opening reception is tonight, March 23, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu.

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