Bretta B. Sullivan Gallery, March 9 – July 22, 2018
From antiquity through the present day, artists and craftsmen have found inspiration in the flora, fauna, and other forms of the natural world. For many artists, the vase in particular has lent itself to flourishes borrowed from nature, often together with – or in the form of – flowers and birds. While the forms and functions of the resulting artworks vary widely, from emulations to adaptations, and from aesthetic beauty to utilitarian purpose, all share a common inspiration worth exploring more closely. From the embrace of natural forms by artists associated with Art Nouveau – a movement only recently reconnected by scholars to the classical tradition – to more complex representations of vases, birds, and flowers by post-war and contemporary artists, Inspired by Nature will illustrate the beauty and vitality of the natural world alongside its many uncertainties.
Drawn primarily from the Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition will include more than two dozen artworks from a variety of media and time periods, in two dimensions and three. Of particular interest is Sensuous Triptych (2000) by Betty Woodman, a prominent American ceramicist whose recent passing prompted renewed attention to her work here in Tampa. Brightly painted and made of fired clay, with elements of painting, drawing, sculpture, and more, her work defies categorization. And just as its three pieces come together as one, the front sides and back sides communicating with one another, so too will the larger whole engage in dialogue with so many other vases, birds, and flowers displayed nearby.