Blooms of Inspiration

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by Anna Buckley

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Would a rose in any other form appear as beautiful? Jean-Michel Othoniel has the answer.

Othoniel’s Secret Flower Sculptures, on view at the Hostetter Gallery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, captures the essence of ethereal blooms in glass and aluminum sculptures. The work aims to embody natural beauty within physical form.

The first of two sculptures, Peony, the Knot of Shame, depicts a massive peony made of blown glass orbs colored in mauves and fuchsias with a vibrant golden inner loop. The title draws from floriography in which the peony symbolizes shame and bashfulness due to the myth that mischievous nymphs would hide among pedals of the peony, yet Othoniel’s work evokes feelings of awe. The piece is taller than the artist himself, it suspends from the ceiling in a stark white room and it appears as though not a single orb is the same shade as another within the lengthy chain.


Initially, the resemblance of the sculpture to that of a peony is not obvious. But the natural beauty of the peony becomes evident in the sloping curves, twisting loops, and varying colors.

The second sculpture, La Rose des Vents—meaning the wind rose—relies less on color and more on structure for its beauty. Installed outside as though the gold aluminum sprouted from the ground, the sculpture stands in mimicry of a rose and twirls on an axis with the direction of the winds. When spinning, the combination of round, connected orbs and solid, curved panels transform into a full-fledged golden bloom.

In 2011, Othoniel was an Artist-in-Residence at the Gardner, and the museum inspired much of his new work. To supplement the exhibition of his sculptures, Othoniel crafted a personal tour of the Gardner that highlights different works and elements that spoke to him artistically.

Secret Flower Sculptures will be on display at the Garner through September 7. If a rose is to be admired in any other form, let it be Othoniel’s sculpting.


Image Credit: Images courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.


Anna Buckley is an editorial intern for New Venture Media Group and a senior writing, literature, and publishing major at Emerson College.


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