Inflorescence is a project that collaborates across mediums to celebrate our local flower community here in Maine. Across the course of the 2020 growing season, each of these designers made an arrangement for me to reinterpret into paintings. My ideas refocused with each intricate arrangement, attempting to capture some of each designer’s unique style and the particular moment in the season when the flowers were cut — as well as something of the larger ideas flowers hold.
Carolyn Snell Designs June 2020
Watershed Floral July 2020
Plant Office Early August 2020
Runaway Bunny Mid-August 2020
Bad Rabbit Flowers Late August 2020
Broadturn Farm September 2020
More About the Project:
The word inflorescence refers to the pattern and process in which a flower takes shape. There is a growing movement in floral design away from rigidly imposed ideals, towards emphasizing nature’s role and the influence of seasonality, temporality, and imperfection. Similarly, we need to reassess the way we consume and value flowers — too often they’re relegated strictly to special occasions, but they can bring a bit of nature and temporary resilience to our daily lives. Flowers play vital ecological roles, and should be considered not extra, but essential.
The global floral market has a huge ecological footprint, with flowers sometimes boarding planes more than once before reaching consumers, compared to the beautifully sustainable option of locally grown. Local designers and growers move mountains for these stems, and yet the environmental impact is nothing so drastic — things return to the earth not far from where they began, with minimal chemicals, primarily irrigated by rainwater. My paintings, created in conversation with these floral designers, attempt to convey what makes locally grown flowers special.
When I began planning the project, I had no idea what a tough season 2020 would be for local farms — from the supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic to the severe drought conditions brought on by climate change. Nearly all weddings and events have been canceled, drastically impacting the market for flowers. At a time when we’re all reconsidering our priorities, the case for a closer look at flowers has grown heavy with our collective grief, charged with questions of access, and vital for the future of our planet.
We celebrate flowers as important symbolic markers of happy occasions like weddings, births, achievements, as well as to mark the anniversaries of such — they are equally powerful as offerings of sympathy during sickness, hardship, and loss. As commonplace and abstracted as these traditions have become, the direct link to flowers’ cyclical environmental roles and vibrant impermanence is often glossed over. This year, when so much has been lost, we can’t take anything for granted as we rethink and rebuild and renew.
With this body of work, I especially want to blur the lines between fine art, design, and the creative work that goes into farming. I hope to present an optimistic look at the future of making local, sustainable, and creative choices for our lives and our shifting relationship to the natural world.
These paintings grew out of site visits to some of the designers farms, my bouquet of the month subscription with Carolyn Snell, things picked up from the farmers’ market, as well as flowers grown in my own and friends’ gardens.
To purchase or with any questions and comments, please email me at [email protected]. All pieces are currently unframed. Prints of select pieces will be available soon in my Etsy shop.
This project is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.