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Monet in front of his house at Giverny, 1921 (photo: Patrice Scmidt, all images courtesy New York Botanical Garden unless otherwise noted)

The recently deceased Thomas Kinkade may have had barely any effect on the contemporary art world (beyond a thoughtful essay or two), but the influence of the artist I’d call the original painter of light, Claude Monet, has waned little over the past century. And currently two Monet-inspired exhibitions are taking up the same subject of artist’s passion: his gardens at Giverny.

E.V. Day and Kembra Pfahler’s installation at The Hole (photo by Ben Valentine for Hyperallergic (click to enlarge)

Last month, The Hole gallery opened E.V. Day and Kembra Pfahler‘s installation Giverny, for which they transformed the gallery into a replica of Monet’s garden, with a twist — photos of the neon-painted, naked and afro-wearing Pfahler posing in the actual French garden dot the artificial New York landscape. The installation comes from Day’s experience of winning the Munn Artists Residency to live on Monet’s estate in Giverny, France.

The beautiful and tranquil gardens, immortalized by Monet’s famous paintings of water lilies, bridges and flowers, were supposed to provide Day with inspiration and relaxation to make new works. Deciding that the gardens were a little too prim and proper for her taste, Day called on her friend Kembra Pfahler, a cofounder of death rock band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, to help liven up the place. Pfahler’s weirdly riveting getup (or lack thereof), in particular her brightly painted body, actually infuses the gardens with a healthy dose of vitality, and the experience of seeing photos of the real Giverny while standing inside a patently false Giverny is pleasingly meta.

Claude Monet’s “Irises” will be shown for the first time in the U.S. at the Botanical Garden (click to enlarge)

Tomorrow is your last chance to see The Hole show, but if you can’t make it, don’t worry, you’ll soon have another chance at a surrogate Giverny!

On May 19, the New York Botanical Garden opens Monet’s Garden, a blockbuster exhibition in botanical-garden terms. The show has many components, not least among them the re-creation of the Enid A. Haupt Conversatory as “a seasonally changing floral masterpiece of diverse plants, bold colors, and dramatic design,” according to the sweeping press release. The conservatory will also feature a facade of Monet’s house, a Japanese footbridge, and a whole lot of water lilies.

But maybe even more exciting is that the exhibition will include, on view in a nearby gallery, two Monet flower paintings, one from the Yale University Art Gallery and the other from a private collection in Switzerland, here for its first public viewing in the U.S. The garden has also scored one of the artist’s original palettes and archival photographs of him at Giverny, plus planned an Impressionist Poetry Tour and an iPhone app created in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum! Claude Monet World, anyone?

Elizabeth Murray, “Autumn beside Monet’s bridge” from “Seasons of Giverny”

Finally, the Botanical Garden show will feature a collection of photographs of Giverny in different seasons by Elizabeth Murray. Unfortunately these pictures, beautiful though they are, don’t feature a naked, neon rocker chick. The Hole’s gain is the Garden’s loss.

Tomorrow is the last day to see Giverny at the Hole (312 Bowery, Soho, Manhattan). Monet’s Garden runs at the New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx) from May 19 through October 21.

With additional reporting by Ben Valentine

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