The same motion repeats, as if by reflex, at the first sight of these flowers on the five gigantic projections now at the Norton Museum of Art. Within seconds, images of water lilies take over the museum’s various social pages. Some even take video. In a way, the entire world is watching Mark Fox’s five-channel video installation Giverny: Journal of an Unseen Garden.
During the three months Fox spent in the birthplace of Claude Monet’s Les Nymphéas (water lilies) paintings, the American artist worked on capturing the least-explored face of the famous garden located outside Paris. The same fascination Monet developed for the shifts and effects of light above water, the artist-in-residence discovered but beneath the water surface.
The silent looped footage playing across five adjacent panels and mimicking Monet’s Musée de l’Orangerie installation almost did not happen.
Already touched by the invitation to visit one of France’s biggest attractions, Brooklyn-based Fox sought ways to leave his mark on the heavily exploited subject matter. The very site known today as the Monet Foundation sells an array of souvenirs to tourists desperately looking to build an exclusive memory. Although he had been given full access to the site, the pond itself was off limits. Then again, nobody mentioned anything about submerging a camera being held by a string. Fox eventually got permission and went on to film daily around the same times Monet is known to have painted. He documented the lily pond from full bloom to decay.
The impressionist master often produced in series in order to illustrate the changes light could bring to the same subject. Rather than a particular view, the focus of his paintings was the act of viewing. Paul Gauguin considered him “an eye, but only an eye.”
We are here to meet the new face of one of the most scrutinized artistic motifs on earth and to judge if it’s really new. We observe this murky environment get pierced by sun rays and come to life with enormous leafy creatures. Who knew water lilies were actually heavy feeders? Despite their commanding appearance, they display such lightness and elegance here.
Once convinced of its freshness, we feel compelled to participate in and share Fox’s Giverny take. While imagining ourselves there, we take our phones out, shoot and walk away as tourists with unique souvenirs.
Giverny: Journal of an Unseen Garden is on view through Oct. 30 at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. Through Aug. 21, it can be seen along with Roy Lichtenstein’s Water Lilies with Clouds, a 1992 reimagining of Monet’s water lilies with a print on stainless steel. Free admission through December 2018 as the museum undergoes renovations. For more information, call 561-832- 5196 or visit www.norton.org.