RIDGLEY — So lush, delicate and exquisitely colored that you can almost smell them, Lani Browning’s floral oil paintings on linen fill the gallery in Adkins Arboretum’s Visitor’s Center. This Centreville artist is well known for her award-winning landscape paintings, but in her show “Bloom,” on view through July 26, she focuses exclusively on flowers. There will be a reception to meet the artist on Saturday, June 22, from 3 to 5 p.m.
“I simply love flowers,” Browning said. “Always have. They make me happy. I’m enjoying a more intimate way of expressing myself by observing flowers and ‘listening’ to their stories.”
It’s a tribute to Browning’s exceptional skills as a painter that each of the flowers she paints is an individual. Each blossom in her “Casablanca Lilies” seems to reach out with its own particular animated gesture, and each is at a different stage in its development. The multicolored flowers in “Daffodils” appear to be engaged in a lively conversation, and every tiny, purplish floret in “Redbud” seems to be dancing with those around it.
Browning is a master at rendering exquisite shading and the subtleties of light and shadow with loose, deceptively casual brushstrokes. She deftly captures the intricacy and nuances of each five-petaled flower in the billowing branches of “Cherry Blossoms.” While the foreground blossoms catch the light on their delicate, pale pink petals, those behind fade back into the shadows, becoming more mysterious and impressionistic as they recede into the distance.
Browning said, “I am interested in the flowers as personalities — the elegance of a rose, the perkiness of a daffodil, the romance of a peony — and playing with how they ‘emerge’ in my field of vision, thus the ‘pulling in and out’ of details.”
There’s a glow to Browning’s flowers that makes them feel distinctly alive. Many are caught in the act of opening their petals, and the stems of those in full flower bend just a little, bringing to mind the phrase “heavy with blossom.”
“I paint the flowers from life,” Browning said. “It’s a challenge inside or outside. You must paint quickly! I rarely cut them unless there is an abundance of blossoms and/or a storm is coming. When I do cut them for a vase, it allows me to study them more closely, and my studio is filled with heavenly fragrance.”
Adding to a long list of honors, Browning recently won an award from the Oil Painters of America for her luminous painting “Hydrangeas,” which was included in its National Spring Online Exhibition, as well as in the Adkins show, and a People’s Choice Award from Chestertown RiverArts for her landscape “Chesapeake Environmental Center” in its Art of Stewardship Exhibit.
Despite her current focus on flowers, Browning continues to paint landscapes, finding particular inspiration in the Eastern Shore skies and water reflections and sometimes traveling to Cape Henlopen to paint the waves or even to Chestertown’s Downrigging festival to work on her series of paintings of the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel.
“The main thing is I like to change things up,” she said. “Tackle things I haven’t fully explored while still keeping my hand in those subjects that I’m more known for. I don’t like to repeat myself.”
This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through July 26 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center, 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410–634–2847, ext. 0, or info@adkins arboretum.org for gallery hours.