Art admirers gathered on Jan. 7 for the opening reception of Oakland University Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Hiberna Flores.” The show features the work of photographer Laurie Tennent and installation artist Lisa Waud.
The gallery was transformed for this exhibit.
Tennent’s incredibly detailed, large-scale photographs of flowers hang on black walls. Each of the pieces has a black background, and with the addition of well-placed spotlights, her colorful and vivid subjects appear to float on the surface.
Multiple areas of the gallery are enlivened by Waud’s lush floral installations, including a stunning display draped over the entryway.
“The exhibition started with the question: What is the difference between an object and a photograph of an object?” OUAG curator Dick Goody said. “Furthermore, if the object is a living thing, how does this inform its photograph?”
Over time, Waud’s fresh arrangements will decay, while Tennent’s photographs will remain intact. Goody said this changes a person’s perception of the nature of an image.
“Photographic scholarship has long since described how a photograph of a living thing is a memento mori (a reminder of death) because if it survives over time, it will be inevitably rendered into a memorial of that thing,” Goody said.
He said the installation emits hope in this bleakest part of winter.
“Using flowers as object and imitation, signified and signifier, life and art, the gallery becomes a place to contemplate the living and the dead and the interplay between the joy of existence and the grief of memorialization, which is in essence at the core of our preoccupation with the meaning of a photograph of the living, to inevitably become a remembrance of the once alive,” states the exhibition’s catalog.
Laurie Tennent is a Detroit-based photographer who has been working with flowers for 30 years.
Her work has been featured at The Chicago Botanic Garden, and her pieces were also chosen by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to display along the Riverwalk as part of a three-year installation, according to her website.
Elizabeth Bacon, Tennent’s assistant and artwork manager, said the work is fun to be around.
“It’s cold and wintery outside, but in here it’s still blooming,” she said.
Tennent meets with botanists and horticulturalists at different greenhouses, selecting a smattering of plant clippings to use. For example, Bacon pointed out one photograph of a fern that came from the Belle Isle Conservatory.
Lisa Waud is the founder of Pot & Box, a socially and environmentally friendly floral design company that uses flowers from its own garden and local farmers, according to its website.
She creates large-scale floral installations in places anywhere from restaurants to residential homes. Her work includes the Flower House Detroit in 2015, a project in which the walls and ceilings of an abandoned Detroit home were filled with American-grown fresh flowers and plants.
Goody believes this unique gallery will stand out to its viewers.
“I vouch that they will never have seen an exhibition of this sort before, and that they will remember it as something particularly touching,” he said.
“Hiberna Flores” will run through Feb. 19.
For a chance to hear Tennent and Waud discuss their work, there will be an Artists’ Talk and Catalogue Launch from 2-3 p.m. on Feb. 12. It will be held in Wilson Hall Room 208 and is free and open to the public.
The exhibition catalogue will also be available to purchase.
For more information, visit ouartgallery.org/.