A new exhibit at Lyman Plant House and Conservatory created by Professor Colin Hoag and his students, uses archival images and Plath's writing to shed new light on the celebrated alum's life and literary inspiration.
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The Plant House as Studio
In her first-ever art class at Smith this past fall, Ella Larsen Giangrave ’25 discovered a new source of inspiration: The physical structure of plants.
In class sessions led by art department lecturer Susan Montgomery and staff of the Botanic Garden of Smith College, “I learned not only to take inspiration from my observations of plants, but to utilize the various forms, textures and patterns I saw to create original works,” Larsen Giangrave says.
Her sculptures, including one titled “Fiddlehead,” which uses a branch, a reed, copper wire and embroidery floss to represent the delicate coils of new fern leaves, are among dozens of student artworks on display in “Into the Glasshouse,” an exhibit that opens at Lyman Plant House on Friday, Jan. 20. A collaboration between Montgomery’s drawing and studio art foundations classes and the botanic garden, the exhibit uses plants as the point of departure for student drawings and sculptures made from branches, roots and other natural materials.
Montgomery has incorporated visits to the botanic garden in her classes in previous semesters, but this is the first time her students have exhibited the results of their investigations in the plant house.
The “Glasshouse” project was supported by a botanic garden curricular enhancement grant. In addition to learning about plants from Conservatory Curator Jimmy Grogan and Greenhouse Horticulturalist Lily Carone, students spent time at Lyman observing, sketching and finding inspiration for their artworks.
“Being at the botanic garden and talking about how plants are actually built informed their work in a completely different way,” notes Montgomery. “It was wonderful to see how students responded visually.”
Artworks in the exhibit reflect an array of styles, including ink-and-graphite drawings, airy paper designs and sculptures crafted from branches and slabs of wood. Students have also produced a website that offers detailed descriptions of pieces created for Montgomery’s drawing and studio art classes.
Muneera Alshagawi ’25J, an engineering major whose “Water Lilies” sculpture is part of the “Glasshouse” exhibit, says she hopes visitors to Lyman “will learn a little more about plant biology and how plants and art can be connected.”
“I’m happy to have my work displayed in the plant house,” adds Alshagawi. “And I’m happy that it is back in the place where it was made and inspired.”