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BFA student’s internship at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

For the past eight weeks, BFA student Chantal Snodgrass has been exploring the collections at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art with her supervisor Mary Savig, curator of manuscripts.  Together, they have been looking for sketches, paintings and images that depict flowers, as well as physical and pressed flowers. They narrowed their findings to approx. 45 artworks that will be featured in a future exhibition called "Bloom".

The exhibition weaves art and science together by focusing on how plants and flowers have inspired artists, and how artists have studied flora to make sense of their environments. Each artwork will present those two different perspectives. Chantal’s research focuses on the “art” side, noting artistic techniques and styles. Using her own basis of plant knowledge, she has been working to interpret what the artists may have been thinking.

The exhibition will consist of six cases featuring different artworks that have a unifying theme.

“My favourite theme is Constructions of Womanhood,” says Snodgrass. “It looks at works created by women artists who are not known for their floral illustrations. Yet during the early 20th century, most of these artists were painting or drawing flowers in the early stages of their careers. This case draws from identity politics and can be understood through many different personal lenses, with the image of the flower as an access point for interpretation.”

Chantal and Mary have also been working with the Smithsonian Gardens to gather different perspectives on the artworks. The gardeners’ interpretation will be presented alongside the more “conventional” art historic perspective.

"Bloom" will be presented in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum in February to coincide with the annual orchid show at the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC.