Art in Bloom

Mum detail
Quite Spherical in Parts

Spring happens in a day, just one day, in Minnesota. You wake up one morning, and over the course of the next eight hours the sun shines, something green or red emerges the ground or out of a tree branch, a girl in a flowered sundress rides a bike past you and BAM! Winter’s gone for a few months.

Ganesh statue with flower arrangement
Ganesha, with arrangement by Amanda Birnstengel

Or so I believed, after my first springtime here. Things don’t always align that well, meteorologically. Sometimes even if they do, you’re too busy with a life complexity to notice or appreciate it.

I’ve learned to roll with it. Perhaps I  finally learned that it’s pointless to get frustrated by winter in Minnesota. Hosta leaves getting strafed by hail, sleeveless March weddings and a November trip to Mexico are great teachers. Let the flowers, exposed skin and gin & tonics return … as they do. Faith in the seasonal cycle to turn over will be rewarded.

This year seems to be one of those Bam! years – and for me it  got an overnight jump-start by the Art in Bloom show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which I attended three evenings ago. I went in expecting to see flowers and have a good time with my friend Julie and her aunt. I returned home a few hours later feeling intoxicated, and not by the small glass of wine I enjoyed while there.

Here’s what I enjoyed about the show. I’m a convert and intend to go again next year.

Ooh, I get it!

At first I struggled to see the inspiration in some of the art/floral pairings. I arrived with an assumption that this was some sort of competition among professional floral designers. My mind was a little closed, at that point- I felt a little ignorant or blind to whatever higher level on which the relationship between the plants and the art existed.

About four displays into the evening, I encountered the creator of an arrangement, who explained her background, the approach she took to the work, and some of the materials used. Suddenly the options opened up for me: it both normalized and broadened the way I looked at each display. Perhaps it just reminded me use a few more of analytical skills I learned in school – but on the other hand, letting go of more of them, for some pieces, helped me relate better to the view taken by the designer. It was an evening of mind exercises, and of letting go.

Here’s what it’s about: Art in Bloom is a fund raising event for the Friends of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which supports the museum and community in a variety of ways. Local flower arrangers, both professional and hobbyist, choose a work of art, and then create a floral arrangement that is inspired by it. The arrangements are placed next to the works of art for a week in April. Some of the rooms had one arrangement, a few had none, several more had two or more arrangements.

Treasures everywhere

MIchel Garnier painting
Garnier’s “The Poorly Defended Rose”

This museum has always seemed a little like the Tardis – somewhat medium-sized on the outside, but enormous on the inside, once you start walking through legions of galleries and suddenly have no idea where you are on the map. And by “map” I mean any map: the path back to the front lobby can be confounding, and the collection is very expansive in era, genre, and cultures. I figured that between living in the Twin Cities for over twenty years and being an art student for a few of them, I’d seen every room and a fair amount of the collection.

It wasn’t true! This event brought me into rooms and in front of pieces that I had never seen. There’s also the chance that I simply hadn’t seen a few pieces since I started teaching yoga, nor since I gained new respect for painterly skill and certain types of whimsy. This Michel Garnier piece –painted during the French Revolution!– was a delight, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have caught my eye at age 25.

A few random, excellent things

Learning about a floral designer’s personal collection of very old “monkey vine.” Walking through an art gallery and virtual flower garden with an aunt. Making short video clips with the Vine  app in packed art museum. Not minding how packed the museum it was. Realizing that the sublime scent in the event gift shop was coming from a yellow calla… or maybe not. Realizing that calla lilies can be very, very small. Encountering a trail running friend, then an art school instructor, there. Seeing a piece that reminded me of the great Edo show there. Discussing the Terracotta Army show with fellow member Joyce. Checking out a dress full of orchids. Discovering a Ganesh statue I’d not seen before. Hanging with Julie. Thinking about maybe signing up to participate next year.. maybe I could pair some flowers with the Garnier piece?

More of my photos can be viewed here.

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