Each Spring, for 31 years, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) has partnered with local florists to bring flowers and art together to give us a glimpse of summer with Art in Bloom. No matter what’s really happening outside – it’s nice to know we’re guaranteed flowers inside. This year we really need that glimpse!
The premise is simple, each florist creates a bouquet to be paired with a work of art from the collection. Sometimes the flowers match, sometimes they mimic, sometimes they enhance by contrasting. It’s a fun way to get a new look at the collection. This year they worked with 150 florists. Thursday night several of the artists were on hand to talk about their work; many will be in and out all weekend.
I visited the event Thursday night with my favorite nine year old. First, it’s a great night or day out. The MIA is hopping. The flowers are gorgeous. The art is always compelling. There are lots of extracurricular, interactive events happening in the gallery. We toured the place, took loads of picture and talked about each masterpiece leisurely over dinner at Scusi. Perfect night! Here’s a rundown of the floral mashups that caught our attention:
Portrait of Sarah Allen, née Sargent by John Singleton Copley. Flowers by C.J. Rennner
We spoke with C.J., the floral artist. Talking to the artist almost always makes the art better. C.J. told us that he chose this artwork because as a kid it seemed so funny to him. As we entered the room, Aine had the same impression, she said it was so strange to see such a masculine face in a dress. We learned from C.J. that what looked like 5:00 shadow on the woman in the picture was actually the sign of age in the painting; the paint was wearing thin and therefore showing the green undercoat of paint. We love what he did with the flowers. As the program points out, he chose what the women in the painting might choose herself. It was a beautiful, slightly aged pink rose standing up against a frame of bamboo. Such a stark juxtaposition of masculine and feminine, just like the painting. The colors in the flower so feminine as opposed to the dark and royal blues of the painting. Again, talking to the artist makes everything better, but we would have gotten the main tenets with or without his help – the creativity and execution were so strong.
Amitabha (Unknown). Flowers by Therese M. Blaine.
We also spoke with the artist of Amitabha; she replicated the artwork in flowers. It is intricate and creative and so well done. The work took about 40 hours, most of that in the last few days. I can only imagine the pressure of getting everything done in time with a project so delicate and ethereal. She rolled leafs, die cut small designs, arranged the roses, bent the wood of the structure. It was fascinating. Aine noted that she preferred the flowered structure to the original – high praise!
Your Dog by Yoshitomo Nara. Flowers by Wendy Lutter and Stephanie Ross.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from Amitabha is Your Dog, an iconic work for the MIA. The flower arrangement was wonderfully simple and striking – just like the original work. The colors are matched exactly. The floral artists have chosen to represent a small part of the original in an imaginative and appealing way. Aine liked the addition of grass; she felt it made the work more spring-like.
The Intrigue by James Ensor. Flowers by Catherine DeVet.
Aine thought that the family in the original picture looked like they could be boarding the Titanic. They had a timeless quality to them but something about their bright colors and slightly askew facial features makes them seem foreign. I don’t know how much the trunk used by the floral artist influenced Aine’s imagery; it’s interesting to consider the impact that the flowers will have on how both of us (indeed many of us) view the original works moving forward. It’s that undercurrent of a fresh look at original art that I think makes the exhibit so strong.
Red Landscape by William Baziotes. Flowers by Thea Adams.
The floral artist seems to set out to reproduce images from and remind us of the composition of the original. Both the original and flowers are more abstract but the colors are in the same palette and the major objects in the painting captured. We were struck by the cloud-like qualities of the calla lilies and the detail in the vase that imitated the artwork – in sentiment more than exact lines.
Those were some of our favorite works. We also loved Dale Chiuhly’s Sunburst, recreated in a ball of yellow flowers by Lily Janousek. We liked how the floral arrangement by Valerie Flood of the Bonsai Society became part of the scenery of Ni-o. It added color and dimension to the sculpture. I liked the solemn bouquet from Michelle Lee, Gary Lee and Jo Ann Jacobs that accompanies Some/One by Do Ho Suh, an art work that celebrates warriors by using army dog tags to create a majestic robe. Aine wasn’t as struck as I was. Both of us have always been moved by that piece and she wasn’t ready to give into someone else’s interpretation. Aine was more open to seeing flowers from Jean Kochevar and Kay Woessner fill the colorful beaded shoes in Jamie Okuma’s Adaption II. I think all I’d like to see in there is my own two feet!
The event continues through the weekend. I know it’s a busy weekend but it’s worth the trip. A great conversation starter for a family or a date or anyone.