‘She Blooms in Winter’ plants garden-worthy art in The Broad Gallery

Virginia Strobach, a special education teacher and illustrator based in Washington, D.C. is one of the six artists featured in "She Blooms in the Winter." Photo by Gracie Quillon

Aaron Royce, Contributing Writer

Flowers of every variety are blooming at The Broad. Paper dogwoods, acrylic poppies, printed cactus blossoms and more have turned the open-floor coworking space’s gallery into a verifiable art garden. Floral paintings, drawings and collages by local artists who identify as women have overtaken the space, turning it into a flower-laden wonderland.

Rebirth, growth and enjoying of the present with botanical imagery are prevalent themes in The Broad’s newest exhibit, “She Blooms in Winter.” Most visitors wore floral-printed dresses, blouses and jewelry to the opening reception on Friday.

“Florals bring warmth and beauty into the environment, so it was important to express that,” said exhibit curator Michaeline Sander. 

Paintings, collages and illustrations were seamlessly hung between couches, propped near tables and placed at focal points throughout the gallery space.

The featured artists — Sam Gray, Tucker Noelke, Raven Smith, Virginia Trobach, Nikki Painter and Amy Smith — are native to D.C. and Virginia. Each artist, although their mediums vary, created floral pieces to highlight humanity with nature.

“The Broad’s mission is supporting women, so it’s special to have space to focus on women artists here in Richmond,” Sander said.

Gray’s drawings and paintings highlight humans’ connections to nature; her acrylic painting of an individual embracing blossoming red poppies is one example.

“For a while, I called myself an anthro-botanical surrealist,” Gray said. “The pieces I have in this show reflect that merge of humans with plants and the dissolving of identity with nature.”

Gray says the exhibit’s themes highlight flowers’ relationship to nature. 

“Flowers are looked down upon as feminized and for aesthetics,” she said. “They’re beautiful, but also create fruit and food. We can’t ignore nature, and need to remind ourselves to appreciate it.”

“To have this experience, I feel so lucky. Bringing these amazing women artists together, and meeting them, has been the best experience.” — Tucker Noelke

Trobach, an illustrator, believes the theme is an appropriate alleviation from winter, especially considering Richmond’s lush nature. 

“Daffodils pop up in winter, but in Richmond they come up everywhere,” she said. “When flowers come out in spring — so much attachment to Richmond is to nature.”

Raven Smith, an illustrator who made paper collages highlighting indoor plants, hopes the show encourages others to enjoy the present.

“Richmond has a lot of fast-paced business ethics, but you get bored,” Raven Smith said. “Nature is a reminder to slow down and realize the beauty in your surroundings. The outside world is just as beautiful as fast-paced life.”

Collage artist Painter was driven to join “She Blooms” by the themes of her new pieces and an appreciation for The Broad.

“I recently started a body of work that includes botanical subjects,” she said. “This seemed like a great context. The space is cool, it’s an intimate setting, and it’s a treat to be part of the show.”

Painter says the Broad’s uplifting of women’s art fosters collaboration and encouragement.

“It’s important that women are represented in any space,” she said. “This is a female-specific space, so it’s nice for them to enjoy work by women artists. It makes a really mutually supportive environment.”

Exhibits like “She Blooms in Winter” can introduce artists to new audiences. This is timely for Noelke, a painter and senior at James Madison University, who connected with Sander on Instagram to be featured in her first exhibit.

“I do lots of floral pieces, so when Michaeline told me about the show, I had pieces ready,” Noelke said. “I work with feminism and beauty, what it means to me and to others.”

Overall, Noelke says “She Blooms” gives female artists greater recognition. 

“To have this experience, I feel so lucky,” said Noelke. “Bringing these amazing women artists together, and meeting them, has been the best experience.”

“She Blooms in Winter” will be displayed at The Broad (209 N. Foushee St.) until April 15. For information on gallery hours, visit wethebroad.com. 

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