Press Room

NMWA showcases women artists’ uninhibited views of flora and fauna in Super Natural exhibition on view June 5–Sept. 13, 2015

Apr 28 2015

Rather than merely documenting beauty, historical and contemporary artists focus on little-seen creatures, invented beasties, strange plants and their bodies within nature

WASHINGTON—The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) presents Super Natural, an exhibition focusing on historical and contemporary women artists’ unrestrained absorption with nature. Rather than merely document beauty, artists in this exhibition engage with the natural world as a place for exploration and invention. The exhibition’s paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos present singular plant specimens, little-seen creatures, invented beasties and the artists’ own bodies tucked into the natural landscape. On view June 5–Sept. 13, 2015, Super Natural underscores the way in which historical women artists’ renderings of nature directly inspire today’s artists.

Composed of art from the museum’s collection as well as loans from notable private lenders, Super Natural includes 50 works and installations by 25 artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Maria Sibylla Merian, Patricia Piccinini, Rachel Ruysch, Kiki Smith and Sam Taylor-Johnson. This exhibition will provide context to NMWA’s biennial exhibition Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015on view at the same time, which explores the complex relationships between women, art and nature.

“Throughout history, artists have been inspired by nature. This summer visitors will be able to enjoy two exhibitions exploring women’s complex reactions to the natural world within their art,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “Both exhibitions demonstrate that women artists, historical and contemporary, are often adventurous, inventive and subversive when dealing with nature in their work.”

From antiquity, women were linked with nature due in part to their generative, life-giving capacities. In art, the female form often stood as the allegorical representation of Spring, Earth or times of the day. Historical women artists took up the subject of nature, but not always in the genteel manner or on the small scale typically expected of them. They created lavishly detailed still-life paintings, botanical studies and images of insects and reptiles. In Super Natural, these historical pieces are juxtaposed with contemporary artworks depicting fruits and flowers at monumental scale or consumed by decay, as well as animals, real and imagined, evoking wonder and fear.

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National Museum of Women in the Arts