By Tara Bennett
A selection of over 50 stunning watercolor artworks will be on display at the LSU Museum of Art from now through Aug. 3 located on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts.
Depicting an array of Louisiana plant life, “Flora of Louisiana: The Baton Rouge Connection” features the work of world-renowned botanical artist Margaret Stones, who was commissioned in 1976 to create six watercolor drawings to celebrate the American bicentennial and the 50th anniversary of LSU’s Baton Rouge campus.
“The exhibition is entwined in a particular moment of time in Baton Rouge history,” said Jordana Pomeroy, the executive director of the LSU Museum of Art. “The flora is unusual in Louisiana, and is one of the treasures of the U.S. If you love Louisiana, you’re bound to appreciate what she was able to observe and produce on paper.”
Due to the popularity of the six original drawings, LSU officials decided to expand the “Native Flora of Louisiana” by commissioning Stones for 200 more drawings, which Stone completed in 1987. The “Native Flora of Louisiana” project currently numbers 224 drawings, all of which are housed in LSU Libraries Special Collections located in the Hill Memorial Library.
According to Pomeroy, “Flora of Louisiana: The Baton Rouge Connection” features a third of Stones work, showcasing watercolors of specimens that were collected in East Baton Rouge Parish. Amongst the specimens are the blue Celestial Lily, the pink Southern Crabapple, the white Alligator Bonnet water lily and the orange Carolina Lily.
“We wanted to stay specifically within in the Baton Rouge parish for the exhibit,” said Pomeroy, who encourages visitors to take advantage of the entire project in the Hill Memorial Library. “You can spend hours in these galleries, and we have a major corpus of her work. It’s something to be really proud of. It’s an open collection, looking at each piece is very intimate, and you can engage her process and feel what it is that moved her into this specific area of painting.”
Stones is ranked among the 20th century’s most accomplished botanical artists.
Stones, who never tired of drawing flowers, was captivated by the flora of Louisiana, many of which that can be found in swamps and many people’s backyards. For her process, Stones had to be on site, leaving her home of England to travel to Louisiana in order to truly capture the wide range of specimens, which attracted her.
“We had a kind of magnolia that fascinated her,” said Pomeroy. “She drew it all from life, and they had to be fresh. She was really interested in everything, and she loved what she was doing. You can feel it in her work.”
Along with the exhibit, the LSU Museum of Art and Hilltop Arboretum will present a walking tour hosted by horticultural expert Neil Odenwald and botanist Lowell Urbatsch to experience the plants in real life, which inspired Stones to immortalize them through her watercolor paintings. The program will be held on June 15, July 20 and Aug. 10, from 3-5 p.m. each day at the LSU Museum of Art, followed by visit to the LSU Hilltop Arboretum for a tour of the 17 plants collected by Hilltop’s donor, Emory Smith. Space is limited for this event. Tickets are $10 for the exhibit and walking tour and are available at the LSU Museum Shop or by calling 225 389-7210.
General admission to the LSU Museum of Art is $5 each for adults and children age 13 and over. Admission is free to university faculty, staff, and students with ID, children age 12 and under, and museum members. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.lsumoa.com or call 225-389-7200.