Exhibition Review: "Freaky Flowers" at September Gallery in Kinderhook | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Flora and flowers abound as a lavish theme throughout art history. The great American modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe, for example, was unabashed in her adoration of flowers. She once commented: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.” The current exhibition “Freaky Flowers” at September Gallery in Kinderhook (through May 28) is a celebratory homage to O’Keeffe’s sentiment, and the 27 artists included in this show offer their singular “world-giving moment” through floral-thmed artworks that both captivate and provoke. An irrational visual riot with over 80 artworks that express blossom energies in some capacity, this exhibit is four years in the making and includes paintings, drawings, collage, sculpture, ceramics, video, and installation.

click to enlarge Exhibition Review: "Freaky Flowers" at September Gallery in Kinderhook
"A Kept Man" by Han Cao

With flowers as the curatorial focus, there is playful glee to be found at every turn. Lyrical visions of floral embodiments are represented in charming acrylic paintings by Nicole Basilone, lovingly hand-embroidered photos by Han Cao, entrancing painted works by Sarah Alice Moran, and a mysterious set of ink and collage works by Amy Ross. A series of joyful mixed media works on paper by Jennifer Dierdorf bring a smile, notably her Center Piece (2017) with the word ‘cunt’ rising from a vase overflowing with a wild bouquet, a flirtatious wink toward the erotic nature of this subject. The more curious conceptual motif, however, is the “freaky” aspect of these florally inspired incarnations. An arresting painting by Melora Kuhn titled Banished (2012), for example, features two female figures clad in black sitting below a cherry blossom tree that explodes with life. Their unrelenting gaze and gothic garb embody a macabre strangeness set against the exaltation of flowers just behind them. Another sumptuous example is a painting in the style of the 17th-century vanitas tradition by Huê Thi Hoffmaster titled Flowers of Reality No. 2 (2022). This work also encapsulates a realm of deathly allure and alchemy associated with the fleetingness of flowers.

click to enlarge Exhibition Review: "Freaky Flowers" at September Gallery in Kinderhook
Courtesy of Allison Schulnik and P·P·O·W, New York
"Two Resting Unicorns" by Allison Schulnik

While glorious floral-blow-out paintings and intimate works on paper comprise the volume of this exhibition—indeed a celebration of sylvan glamour in varying proportions—smaller sculptural pieces and ceramics by Melinda Kiefer Santiago, Caitlin Rose Sweet, Alison Owen, and Becca Van K. balance the room with quirky 3D botanic creations. Two works by Allison Schulnik further lighten the mood with images of frolicking unicorns, a token magical creature that relishes the garden environment and seems born of an untamed flower herself. An element of divine mysticism infuses this exhibition like a welcomed waft of seductive incense, and one is naturally elated by the diversity of enchanted artworks in this show.

click to enlarge Exhibition Review: "Freaky Flowers" at September Gallery in Kinderhook
"Revolving Door" by Katie Minford

The flipside of flowers is, of course, their brevity. Perhaps this is why we love them ever more, knowing that the brutal brièveté de la vie—the truth of flowers—is the same truth for all. In this regard, the apex artwork is a ritual altar titled Revolving Door (2023) by Katie Minford. Laden with flowers, candles, fringe, and other symbolic offerings, this installation invokes the grace and decay of the natural world. Thus, we admire the freakish nature of flowers as faithful seasonal muses that provide timeless insight in the cyclical order of everything—they give and give fully, and then they are gone.

Taliesin Thomas

Taliesin Thomas, PhD, is a writer, lecturer, and artist-philosopher based in Troy, NY.
Comments (0)
Add a Comment
  • or

Support Chronogram