Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, June 30, 2008

HFQ #2: A Canoe of Sympathy

Has anyone seen or heard of this funeral ritual from the Great Lakes region?


Sue writes from Grandville, Michigan:

When my great-grandma passed, the Indians in Northern Michigan filled a canoe with flowers and placed it on her porch. What does that mean?  Was she a Native American?

Sue says that her “gramma,” Viola Wolfod AuFrance, “looked very Indian, but she was born in Jackson, Ohio.” She and Sue’s great-grandfather, Harvey AuFrance, lived in the vicinity of Burt Lake, Michigan, near Indian River.  “They were very poor but Grampa was a legend on Burt Lake as a cottage caretaker and fishing guide.” Sue thinks one or both of her great-grandparents may have been Chippewa Indians.


Wooden diorama (detail) from Maine, c. 1920

Photo: Rustic Furniture

“I had a picture of the canoe and cannot find it,” Sue writes depairingly, “but it was hand built filled with wildflowers and was very beautiful. I talked to a very old Native American Indian and he told me it was a very-good-friend ritual, and it gives the body everything to travel to the new world.” After searching locally and cyberspatially, Sue’s turned up no more information. She hopes to understand this beautiful funeral custom, and perhaps learn more about her ancestor, too.

Is anyone familiar with this tradition? Please .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Posted by Julie on 06/30 at 10:31 AM
Culture & SocietyReligious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, June 27, 2008

Flowers That Go Boom

Dig out the picnic basket (the earplugs, too). And settle in for some summer fireworks, flowers of the sky.



Photo: Ali Jafari

During the summer months more than half of North Carolina heads for the coast (joined by surf-pilgrims from landlocked states nearby, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio). Wilmington is making ready for the throngs and has planned its usual blow-out for Independence Day, next Friday. It’s not too early to set the mood – so the Wrightsville Beach paper today published an enticing article about fireworks. And guess what?

“Fireworks are made to emulate and re-create flowers in the sky,” Lansden Hill Jr., president of Pyro Shows Inc., told the paper. Pyro is in charge of Wilmington’s 4th of July display. ”In Japanese, in fact, the word for firework is hanabi. The translation is ‘fire flower.’”

Jessica Haywood’s article includes thumbnail photos of the main fire-flower forms (two are actually trees): peony, chrysanthemum, dahlia, palm, and weeping willow.

The article definitely lit our rocket! We launched out looking for other fireflowers to show you. Readers who know more about botany may find more exact comparisons – if you do, please let us know. Above, a dandelion puff sizzles in the night sky.


Pampas Grass/Fireworks

Photos: Wiki & Phil Holden

Here’s a fine stand of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), waving in the wind about Seattle’s space needle. And in England, of all places, we found a fiery banana tree.



Photo: Jon Sienkiewicz

This looks like love-in-a mist (Nigella damascena) to us, with an overhanging tree obscuring the top half of the “flower.” (Too bad it doesn’t leave one of those spiny seedpods behind in the sky—a prickly spaceship.)


Fireworks/Pincushion Hakea

Photo: Tammy Fischer

This looks like the fire-spittin’ image of Hakea laurina, a peculiar species that Daniel Mosquin of the UBC Botanical Garden had to help us identify a number of years ago.


Fireworks/Cactus Dahlia

Photo: Craig Saltiel

A splendid Cactus Dahlia


Fireworks/Spider lily

Photo: Errant Pixels

And here’s a Texas favorite, come late summer—the red spider lily (Lycoris radiata). 



Photo: John Carlin

Cooling on a summer night, how about this dreamy white chrysanthemum?

For more floral fireworks, here’s a whole garden of them.


Papaver as Fireworks

Photo: Harold Davis

Working the other way ‘round, Harold Davis took a fading poppy flower and photoshopped it into pyrotechnical brilliance. He explains how you can turn your own flower into a July 4th spectacle here.

If you’d like to try taking some fireworks photographs next weekend, this site includes loads of links with suggestions about shutter speeds, tripods, and the like.

If only fireworks were as quiet as flowers.

Posted by Julie on 06/27 at 06:26 PM
Art & MediaSecular CustomsPermalink

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cortes’ ‘Flower Market’: $40,600 of Goodwill

A painting of one of Paris’ flower markets gets dropped off at the thrift shop, then routed to Sotheby’s.


“Marche aux Fleurs” by Edouard Leon Cortes

Photo: Associated Press

We hope Edouard Leon Cortes had a sense of whimsy. One of his paintings, Marche aux fleurs (Flower Market), wound up on the pile of donations at Easton, Maryland’s Goodwill store.  The staff ordinarily would have priced a genre scene like this for around $100 and hung it up for sale, but somebody noted the old frame, the brass nameplate, and figured they’d do some checking. Eventually, experts at Sotheby’s auction house were called in and confirmed this was an original work by the 20th Century impressionist.

At auction several weeks ago, the piece brought $40,600, selling to an anonymous buyer who outbid Howard Rehs, a dealer who specializes in Cortes paintings.

Edouard Cortes (1882-1969) worked throughout Paris in its heyday (when Sartre and Hemingway were hanging out at Les Deux Magots). And his works have a definite souvenir-shop quality. There are glances of the city’s monuments with faceless bustle in the foreground. Cafes are lit up as night falls. A late-pointillist style is partly what gives his work a generic quality. Also, he tends to recycle compositional devices (in keeping with our Goodwill theme). One of his favorite tricks was to juxtapose the city’s grey skies with a little splash of color, both literal and figurative: he often spots a flower seller’s cart on a street corner.


“Concorde and Rue Royale, 1900”

by Edouard Leon Cortes (c. 1957)

Photo: Rehs Galleries

This piece is a bit livelier, in that the flower cart appears to be racing a horse-drawn carriage and barrelling right toward the viewer down Rue Royale.

We suppose one reason the Cortes painting was dismissed is its featuring of the flower market. The subject has become a commonplace—innocuous, some would say, and too “pretty” to be taken for serious art. Without taking that straw man on, let’s just say that $40,600 is serious money! 
Congratulations to the Easton Goodwill for this human flower windfall. Terri Tonelli, store manager, told the Baltimore Sun, “We just lucked upon an opportunity to increase our ability to give back.”

Posted by Julie on 06/26 at 10:37 AM
Art & MediaPermalink

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

HFQ #1: Your Valerian Could Be a Star


Today we’re trying a new feature on HFP:  HFQ, as in Human Flower Query. When we receive questions we can’t answer (which is usually) we’ll post them here in hopes our readers can help one another. Please note:  We don’t know anything about these folks and are not vouching for them by passing their inquiry along. Have fun, learn, make friends—and reply at your own risk. Without further ado…

Who has 10,000 or so Valerian flowers (or look-alikes) that want to break into advertising?

From Anastasija Matrosova

Production Assistant with Baltic Pine Films

Hello dear Friends!

I would like to find out if it’s possible to order 10,000 - 20,000 flowers (Centranthus ruber) that can be grown in Latvia till the 16th of July. Would be perfect if you could tell us the price for each and send the photos of the flowers.

If you don’t have the Centranthus ruber maybe you can offer us some other flowers that look similar. I know it sounds a bit weird, but we need it for a commercial.


Valerian (Centranthus ruber)

Photo: P. Schonfelder

Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

+371 26761425

Posted by Julie on 06/25 at 02:42 PM
Art & MediaCut-Flower TradePermalink
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