Copyright 2010 • Susan Kathleen Black Foundation • 719-748-7778 •

Susan Kathleen Black Foundation

Blossom II ~ Art of Flowers

Exhibition History

In the world of floral art, there has not been a recent, major competition or exhibition equivalent to the blockbusters of other specialty subjects such as animals, birds, national parks, or the West. Blossom ~ Art of Flowers was conceived to fill this void and showcase the quality and diversity of the best work with a floral theme being produced today.

CONCEPT: Flowers were a favorite theme of artist Susan Kathleen Black (1948–2000). The mission of the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation is art education. The concept of an international, juried art competition and exhibition, the purpose of which is to recognize creative achievement in current art with a floral theme, was a natural outgrowth of this fortuitous combination. To encourage participation, the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation opened the competition to all artists, promoted it worldwide, and offered generous awards. To ensure quality selections, it assembled not one, but two juries of top-notch experts. To share the resulting exhibition with audiences nationwide, and to document Blossom ~ Art of Flowers, a museum tour was organized and this catalogue was published.

DEFINITION: During initial preparations for Blossom ~ Art of Flowers, one of the first questions that came up was, “Just what is a flower?” Definitions seemed as abundant as types and varieties of flowers themselves. This range, drawn from a quick search on Google, is representative:

1. flower -- a plant cultivated for its blooms or blossoms
2. flower, bloom, blossom -- reproductive organ of angiosperm plants especially one having showy or colorful parts.
3. flower, prime, peak, heyday, bloom, blossom, efflorescence, flush -- the period of greatest prosperity or productivity.
4. Strictly, an angiospermous reproductive structure bearing pistils or stamens or both, and usually sepals and petals. The so-called flower of conifers is the male or female strobilus before and during pollination.
5. The reproductive part of a plant that is colorful and makes seeds.

CONTEXT: Flowers have been portrayed by artists for centuries. Perhaps the most lovely and revered in classical western art are those in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish still-life paintings. Early modern art is replete with floral imagery of another kind. Think of the exuberant irises, poppies, and sunflowers of the idiosyncratic, post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), and the billowy-colored flowers of German expressionist Emil Nolde (1867-1956), whose art was eventually banned by the Nazis because they considered it degenerate. In the middle of the Twentieth Century, flowers served as a source of inspiration for one of America’s most well-known and beloved female artists Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Much by way of allegory has been read into her paintings. Of course, flowers have been prominent in art of other cultures and traditions, too; art of Asia with its many cultures comes to mind, as do traditions such as western, scientific botanical illustration. My point here is, flowers have been a subject of art and a source of inspiration for artists around the world for time immemorial. These days, flowers inspire artists as much as ever, as evidenced by the floral art of the 970 artists from fourteen countries who submitted 1,742 entries to this competition.

CRITERIA: Only flat, two-dimensional art could be submitted to this competition, but this encompassed a wide array of media including: oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, gouache, mixed media, pencil, pen and ink, tempura, batik, alkyd, scratchboard, hand-pulled lithographs, woodcuts, etchings, engravings, and serigraphs. Also, size restrictions were placed on entries (due to space limitations at The Houston Museum of Natural Science). To guide members of the jury in their selections, they received the following instructions before they began their task of narrowing the field down to sixty-one:
1. Quality should be given first priority. This should be based at least in part on:
a.) creative composition and design
b.) competent technique and handling of media
c.) overall strength of individual artworks
d.) ability to capture the essence of the floral subject
2. Diversity of final selections should be prioritized next, with consideration given to:
a.) inclusion of different types and varieties of flowers
b.) worldwide geographic distribution
c.) diversity of medium and styles and techniques
d.) diversity of imagery
3. Flowers may be combined with other subject matter including portraiture, landscapes, still-lifes, animals, historical subjects, etc., but the essence of selected artworks must be floral in nature.

CONCLUSION: I hope the information contained in this brief introduction will add to your enjoyment of the artworks depicted in this catalogue. As Curator and Tour Director, I also hope that you are one of the privileged few who will have the opportunity to view Blossom ~ Art of Flowers firsthand at any of the venues on the tour, so that you will have the kind of authentic, memorable experience I was so fortunate to have at the exhibition’s premiere.

David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
Curator/Tour Director