Human Flower Project
Friday, February 27, 2009
Great Night of Shiva
Though the great Lord Shiva asked only for fasting and a simple bael leaf offering, today’s pilgrims come with milk, herb, and thousands of flowers.
A vendor handles a garland of calotropis pods and offers pots of flowers to pilgrims for Monday’s holy rites to Lord Shiva in Tarakeshwar
Photo: Sandy Ao
“I am still dazed!” wrote Sandy Ao. And who wouldn’t be?—before countless bouquets like these, alongside pots of milk with cannabis sprinkled on top.
Last Sunday, Sandy visited the Indian town of Tarakeshwar. Its temple, dedicated to the great Hindu deity Shiva, is one of the holiest shrines in the Bengal state. With her husband and three friends, she made the 35-mile trip west from Kolkata in advance of Monday’s holiday Shivarati—“Great Night of Shiva.” Vendors were already offering these herbal milks plus bunches of dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, and Shiva’s favorite Calotropis, for sale to pilgrims.
“Tarakeshwar is one and a half hour journey by local train from Howrah station,” Sandy writes. “It’s a very peaceful and quiet place. Throughout the year there’ll be devotees coming from far and near to worship Lord Shiva and have a dip in the clear water in the pond. Mondays,” being Shiva’s sacred day, “will have more devotees than other days.”
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Nixon’s Strangler Fig
Hilo, Hawaii, has used invitation-only plantings of banyan trees to draw visitors to its black beaches.
In 1952 a young California Senator, Richard Nixon, planted a banyan tree along Hilo, Hawaii’s “Hall of Fame.”
Photo: Jim Branscome
What will the Chamber of Commerce think of next?
To be precise, it was the park commissioners of Hilo, Hawaii, who in 1933 came up with a botanical gimmick to draw more tourists to this side of the Big Island: “The Hilo Hall of Fame.”
With movie director Cecil B. DeMille in Hilo filming “Four Frightened People” (terrific title!), local officials struck on the idea of having celebrities plant banyan trees along the Waiakea Peninsula. Heck with handprints in the sidewalk. The Hilo fathers could promise a living tribute, something with scale and height.
Gardening & Landscape • Politics • Secular Customs • Travel • Permalink
Sunday, February 22, 2009
To Paint Two Roses
An artist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sets out on a new subject. With Manet to help him over triviality-block, Nick Read finds flowers “obstinate” and glorious.
Self-portrait, by Nicholas Read
By Nicholas Read
When a friend asked me recently to describe what it was like to paint flowers, I had no ready response. I am a painter, but the subjects I choose do not include flora. Nothing against it, but the question caused me to wonder whether flower painting Is different from painting, say, the Maine shoreline, a pretty young woman, a dog, a horse, a ship, or any of thousands of possible subjects?
This is what I found out.
A trip to Google brought me immediately to “Painting Flowers.” The BBC teamed up with the National Gallery and public galleries across the UK to create this unique online art exhibition of flower paintings. They were joined by the Royal Horticultural Society—“ to explore the vivid theme of flower painting in art.”
The site includes interesting information. For example, flower painting is over 3500 years old: paintings of lilies dating from 1580 BCE were found in a villa in Crete. The figure of Flora in Botticelli’s famous painting in the Uffizi, Primavera, strews identifiable flowers over the garden on which she walks (as discussed, for example, in Levi d’Ancona, Botticelli’s “Primavera”: A Botanical Interpretation, Olschki, 1983).
The intensity of van Gogh’s sunflowers reflects innovation in the fabrication of artists’ pigments, notably the introduction of chrome yellow. (By the late 19th century, the vibrant yellow was one of a series of new and exceptionally vivid colors. Chrome yellow is actually a lead salt, lead chromate (PbCrO4). The pigment is still used today but it has been replaced in many cases by similarly colored, less toxic organic pigments. Unfortunately chrome yellow degrades over time; van Gogh’s once brilliantly glowing sunflowers, for example, now appear to be dry, drab ocher shadows.)
Friday, February 20, 2009
HFQ #5: Eucalyptus cousin?
From India Flint in Mount Pleasant, South Australia:
“I wonder if you’d be so kind as to publish the attached image in the hope that someone might recognise the plant….”
Mystery leaf, from South Australia: Who knows it?
Photo: India Flint
“The leaves have the texture and scent of eucalyptus but differ in that the margins are undulating. Also when the leaf was torn, the ‘wound’ self-sealed quite firmly so that the heated leaf blew up like a little bubble. Most intriguing.”
India, you may remember, is a fiber artist, who works with indigenous plants of Australia. She has a number of textile workshops on the offing, and seems to be teaching year round, as well a experimenting with plant dyes, and making ballet costumes.
Photo: India Flint
“A student brought the leaf to a class recently here in South Australia,” she writes, “and later sent me the photo of the whole plant (now part of the attached collage). The rules are usually ‘If you can’t identify it, don’t pick it,’ but in this case, breaking the rules has introduced me to a new plant!”
“The ecoprint from the leaf was a lovely gold with tiny purple and brown dots.”
If anyone can help identify this plant, please leave a comment here. Or you may prefer to write India directly.