The opening reception for Bloom, an exhibition currently at the SCAD Museum of Art showcasing Natasha Bowdoin’s installation work was held Thursday, July 9th. Literally blooming off the walls, Bowdoin’s site-specific installation Garden Plot is a blend of sculpture, literature, and painting. The piece’s exaggerated foliage captures Savannah’s current vibrant and colorful summer season.
When you first look at Garden Plot, you’re immediately taken aback by its size. Stretched across 70 feet, there are hundreds of ornate and vibrant yellow, red, green, and blue flowers, all hand cut and contoured by peering highlights and shadows. Each cutout works together to create an elaborate floral landscape all varying in size, giving the garden scene its unique rhythm.
With layers upon layers of carefully cut out snippets, the physical presence and organic flow to Bowdoin’s piece allows you to get lost in the garden she has created. While the materials used for this piece are two-dimensional, the impression is anything but that. With flowers layered together, some extending three feet toward the viewer, standing in front of her work makes you feel small, lost in a labyrinth of botanic creations.
In Garden Plot, Bowdoin brings the cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words” to its literal conclusion. You’ll notice when you take a closer look, there are letters on the flower petals rhythmically painted throughout her installation, derived from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 “Nature” essay, Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 novel Walden, and Ernst Haeckel’s printed illustrations of sea creatures and lunar maps. The words in Bowdoin’s installation are illegible, but they hint to a language she created from those writings. It’s a visual allegory for nature’s beauty and voice. The piece offers viewers the opportunity to appreciate its beauty subjectively. Connecting to the text is not crucial to understanding the piece, but rather a supplement.
Deciphering the text on the petals is a mesmerizing frustration, like listening to a beautiful song or dramatic movie in a language you do not understand. Bowdoin’s use of literature in her piece is not only an interesting way to juxtapose fine art and writing, but also a way to compare language and nature in the same context. Through words and voice, literature is just as beautiful and organic as nature in the way it is composed. Garden Plot makes us feel as if we can blossom through the language and its message.
Taking two art forms and combining them into one, Natasha Bowdoin’s solo exhibit goes beyond the garden she has created in the museum. Given that literature and nature are two different languages, she leaves the impression that their creation and presence can coexist together. Giving us so much to absorb in her installation, Bloom presents itself as a flora of literary voice.