Usually, when one says a work of art is “alive,” it’s a figure of speech — the expression typically acknowledges a natural connection between artist and observer. But next weekend, the Cincinnati Art Museum will be giving a new meaning to the phrase “living art.”
More than 60 florists will be contributing to Art In Bloom, a four-day biennial CAM event. They will be crafting floral arrangements that reflect and pay tribute to great works of art from the museum’s collection, displaying them as an accompaniment to the original pieces. The flowers will interpret the mood, color scheme or overall feeling of each painting. And three of the selected floral artists will be creating their interpretations in front of a live audience at the museum.
“It is a demonstration, essentially,” says Robin Wood of local Robin Wood Flowers, commenting on her upcoming participation in the “Garden Party” luncheon portion of Art In Bloom on Thursday. Wood will be creating an arrangement in the Fountain Room as she discusses her process with her observers. The dining event will give the gallery a live energy that is difficult to duplicate when the arrangements have already been established and set up for display. “We probably won’t know until we do it what it will look like,” Wood says, “(or) if it makes sense — whatever sense is, whether that be realistic or abstract.”
Wood has been involved with Art In Bloom for years and loves to watch her fellow florists at work. “Some interpret (the artworks) literally,” Wood says. “Some interpret them in a very abstract way. There is a freedom to that.”
Wood suggests that the unique floral recreations enter into a sort of mutual relationship with the work of art. “It brings it to life,” she says. “It brings the art off the wall.”
Another longtime participant of Art in Bloom is Brenda Baird. Baird instructs students in courses at the Moto Ikebana School in West Chester, where she specializes in the Japanese art of Ikebana, the practice of creating intentional geometric and disciplined floral arrangements using rules and principles revealed in nature. Baird comes to the event with more than just a study of Ikebana — she comes with a first-hand experience of Japanese culture, having spent seven years in Ashiya.
Her time in Japan profoundly impacts her work, which will be on display Saturday morning during the “Youkoso! Welcome!” event, where she will be creating and explaining a Japanese-inspired floral interpretation in front of a live audience, approaching the task with “a classical perspective of Japanese flower arrangement.” She is eager to impress for the museum’s eventual guests, but still believes in creating something personal. “You want to emulate excellence while you interpret excellence,” she says. “But you have your own personality.”
Another participating florist, Kristen Sekowski, has a background in art history. She will take time away from relocating her Yellow Canary business in Reading to helm the “Floral Interpretation in the Dutch Gallery” segment of Art In Bloom. Dutch and Flemish painters specialized in creating still lifes using elaborate displays of food, flowers and other items — instruments, animals, servingware — to reflect specific meanings.
“The Dutch paintings are so inspiring in the way the painters used floral aspects for symbolic reasons,” Sekowski says. “A painting’s inspired by something, but now we’re taking the painting and having it inspire something else.”
So even though the Dutch paintings will be the source of inspiration for Sekowski, her work will bring out aspects of the piece previously unrealized and unimagined.
“I think the flowers breathe a little life into the gallery,” she says. “There’s a freshness about it. It’s intriguing, and it brings a lot of people to the event.”
The Cincinnati Art Museum expects more than 10,000 patrons to make their way through Art In Bloom next weekend. Standard parking rates will apply, and certain special events such as the “Garden Party” and “Youkoso! Welcome!” require separate tickets. The next Art In Bloom won’t happen until 2017.
ART IN BLOOM runs Oct. 22-25 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. More info: cincinnatiartmuseum.org.