Selby Botanical Gardens has brought Louis C. Tiffany’s “Pursuit of Beauty in Nature” to the Downtown Sarasota Campus in an exhibition featuring a variety of pieces from Tiffany Studios, including pieces that use Favrile glass. On display until June 25, every piece features designs that celebrate the beauty of the natural world. Tickets are $16 for visitors over the age of 17 and $11 for those five to 17 years old. With 42 unique Tiffany pieces, Selby’s 2023 Spring exhibition shares century-old pieces of art ranging from luminescent vases to four-foot tall mosaics aided by the collection of 200+ spirit specimens from the botany department.
Louis C. Tiffany—founder of Tiffany Studios and First Creative Director of Tiffany & Co.—was a prolific artist and interior designer who is most known for “Tiffany Glass.” Over the course of the company’s life, Tiffany became interested in stained glass as more than an art form, but also how it works chemically, later developing a type of iridescent art glass referred to today as Favrile glass. This type of glass is iridescent all the way through instead of just on the surface, allowing it to be utilized for stained glass windows, which isn’t something art grade glass was able to do before.
Selby’s permanent layout is a circular trail so exploring through the Tropical Conservatory near the entrance of the campus before heading towards the south facing path leaves the museum to be the finale near the exit on the north side of campus. Along the pathway there are seven notable temporary outdoor displays that take existing garden areas and bring in an artistic spin. Rooted in Nature, Sunset on Palms and Living Lampshade are the highlights. Around the gardens, there are quotes from The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany (1914), written by Charles de Kay. These quotes give insight into Tiffany’s inspiration and pair with the rest of the garden’s natural appeal.
Rooted in Nature incorporates Guzmania flowers planted in the roots of Selby’s iconic Moreton Bay fig. The Guzmanias are planted in a geometric pattern visually similar to the bright colors in the leaded glass. The roots act as the seams that hold it all together.
Sunset on Palms will be towards the south edge of the campus, but the row of bright panels are hard to miss. The sunlight reflecting onto the four different types of palm plants blur the line between art and nature and reminds visitors that part of the beauty of the works displayed are how they interact with the natural environment around them.
The Living Lampshade is the standout horticulture display put together by Selby’s talented staff and volunteers. It features a gazebo covered in purple panels reminiscent of stained glass orchids from the ceiling cascading down the walls. The gazebo calls back to the Tiffany lampshades while adding a special touch by choosing orchid as the flower referencing Selby’s accomplishment as home to the largest collection of hybrid orchids in the world.
Within the museum, the displays are a mixture between Tiffany artworks and some hybrids that the botanists work hard to preserve. The exhibition has three leaded lamps that are notable for their lampshades, but also the designs of the lamp base shifting away from the need to account for oil canisters.
The Jack-in-the-pulpit vase is another standout. Made of grooved Favrile glass, the vase showcases the Arisaema triphyllum flower in a new light, as the rim shimmers in different shades of green, blue and purple. Out of all the pieces in the garden, the Fish and Irises mosaic has to be the crown jewel. The four-foot tall art piece shows what time and dedication to a craft can do. The use of rich shades and contrasting sheens of the glass makes this piece something truly special.
Selby set out to showcase just a fragment of the legacy of Tiffany Studios. They did that by honoring the inspiration of these pieces by blending the line between handmade art and the gardens they work on every day. There is so much thought put into the curation of these pieces: from including the pictures of flowers that the artisans at Tiffany Studios used as references, to showcasing pieces of their own collection of spirit specimens that the current botanists at Selby work to preserve. The exhibition will last until summer, when the introduction of new blooming plants will bring a new dimension to the displays while the horticulture team works hard to give visitors a consistent experience inside the exhibitions.