Natalja Kent, photo of "Oncidium tigrinum" Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models, Harvard University Herbaria/Harvard Museum of Natural History © President and Fellows of Harvard College

Orchids: Attraction and Deception

Brett Day Windham, "Tropicalian Diptych," 2020, Cyanotype, gouache and watercolor on rag paper. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Orchids: Attraction and Deception

February 4, 2021 - August 1, 2021 view exhibition 3D VIRTUAL TOUR

For our second changing exhibition, the Barry Art Museum is thrilled to present Orchids: Attraction and Deception. The exhibition was created by the museum staff, along with incalculable input from a diverse team of Old Dominion University students, artists, and art historians, and in collaboration with Darrin Duling Associate Director at the Kaplan Orchid Conservatory and Lisa Wallace J. Robert Stiffler Distinguished Professor in Botany at Old Dominion University. Located in our rotating gallery, the exhibition will present works of art relating to the visual allure, ecological idiosyncrasy, and cultural impact of orchids. Timed to coincide with the bloom cycle of orchids at the Kaplan Conservatory, the exhibition schedule will include public programming in partnership with the Conservatory, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Oak Springs Foundation, and the Barry Art Museum. 

When artists begin to investigate orchids as subject matter, the results are as varied and deep as the plants themselves. According to the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance, there are more than 25,000 species of flowering plants in the orchid family. The work included in this exhibition ranges widely, mirroring its inspiration – one of the largest and most diverse plant groups on the planet.

Is this a show about orchids? Yes, but orchids are just the tip of the melting iceberg, the canary in the shuttered coal mine, the indicator species for our greater world, the cipher for our evolving culture. From pure botanical fascination to climate change, from historical model-making to the history of collecting and colonization, the twelve contemporary artists represented approach the orchid from very different angles. This international group of artists has independently discovered the orchid as subject matter through rigorous research and poetic intuition. Working in printmaking, sculpture, photography, ceramics, glass, paper, and varied hybrid media, their work is thoughtful, insightful, challenging, and beautiful – and designed to provoke you to think deeper about that favorite design magazine staple, that easily overlooked supermarket flower, the orchid. 

The Cross-Pollination Lectures is a series of conversations between artists and botanists that will accompany the exhibition. Visit our Public Programs Page for more information and to register. 

All recordings of the past Cross-Pollination Lecture Series are available to watch on the Barry Art Museum Youtube Page.




Multimedia Tours We invite your group of 10 or more to join us on Zoom for a guided, 45-minute tour of Orchids: Attraction & Deception with the Museum’s Artist Educators.

Availability: Monday-Thursday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Friday 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Schedule a Virtual Tour *Requires a Zoom Account*


Exhibition Advisory Board:
Brett Day Windham, Independent Artist, and Writer | Darrin Duling, Associate Director at the Kaplan Orchid Conservatory | Lisa Wallace, The J. Robert Stiffler Distinguished Professor in Botany at Old Dominion University

Community Partners:
The Arthur & Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory | Norfolk Botanical Garden | Oak Spring Garden Foundation

Programs and Exhibitions Are Made Possible By Our Generous Museum Sponsors:
Dragas Family Foundation | James A. Hixon | Mrs. Connie Jacobson | Thomas G. Johnson, Jr. | Linda H. Kaufman | The Rutter Family Art Foundation | John O. Wynne

Exhibition Card Graphic Design by ODU Ph.D. Student and Museum Internship Graduate, Jeannine Owens