Human Flower Project
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Flowers Raise the Bar for Art
To mark the end of summer (please!) an Austin gallery goes lushly avant-garde.
Mario Gaitan’s arrangement of carnations, coxcomb, yarrow and ducks makes a quizzical counterpoint to
Tony Saladino’s abstract painting.
Photo: Human Flower Project
“Today’s the last day!” we chirped.
“…the last hour of the last day,” Judy Taylor replied. Taylor’s Gallery Shoal Creek capped off an excruciating Austin summer with a four-day show of floral installations. While the city has been withering in record heat and drought, Taylor mounted “In Bloom” in defiance.
Many fine art museums – including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts – have arranged these jutxaposition/exhibitions for years. Other art galleries have likely tried it too, but this August—as even the lantana shrivels – seeing a fence of long-stemmed calla lilies and a diorama with golden yarrow trees and hillocks of red coxcomb has a greater power to shock than Chris Bearden or Andres Serrano. In a drought like ours, flowers are avant-garde. (See a slideshow of the whole installation here.”)
Friday, August 28, 2009
In the last years of his life, the great novelist began his final work inspired by an intractable thistle and an 18th C. Muslim chieftan, just as tough.
Leo Tolstoy with hyacinths and one of his grandchildren
Photo: via Lance Mannion
The conflict between Russia and Chechnya goes back at least two centuries. A young Leo Tolstoy, in his years as a soldier, served in the Caucuses and learned first hand of the Muslim tribes’ resistance to Russian rule.
Many decades later, he wrote, “I remembered a Caucasian episode of years ago which I had partly seen myself, partly heard from eyewitnesses, and in part imagined.” From 1896-1904, Tolstoy wrote his fictionalized account of Hadji Murad, a tribal chieftan and warrior whose life was wrenched apart by the strife between his homeland and the great power to the East. This story was the author’s final work. Tolstoy said that catching sight of a wild thistle, he remembered the great Muslim, his resistance, endurance and tragic end.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Rat Traps of Mount Victoria
This carnivorous plant from the Philippines tugs the old chain of being in a surprising direction.
A rat lured into the “slipper like mouth” of a pitcher plant
Photo: Stewart McPherson
Nepenthes attenboroughii, a pitcher plant of Palawan Island in the Philippines, has the scale and gastric juices to digest rats. After hearing of such large carnivorous plants from “Christian missionaries,” a team of botanists began the search. They came upon this mouse-trap, with pitchers big enough to hold 1.5 litres, in the region of Mount Victoria two years ago and recently published their findings in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
After decades of imprisonment and violent repression, Kim Dae-jung returned to his native South Korea to lead it, under the sign of an enduring flower.
A mourner in the memorial room of Severance Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, pays respects to the former president Kim Dae-jung (known as “honeysuckle”) who died August 18, 2009.
Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, 85, died on Tuesday. Jailed by his countrymen, exiled, sentenced to death, and targeted for assassination, Kim then triumphed. He won 1997’s presidential elections and earned the Nobel Peace Prize three years later after arranging the first international summit of the two Koreas, meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il face to face in Pyongyang.
Some called Kim Dae-jung “The Nelson Mandela of Korea.” But he was better known as “honeysuckle” - the nickname he preferred. The paper Chosun Ibo said Tueday, “It is difficult to find a better way to sum up Kim’s life than the flower.” Jīn yín huā, the Korean word for this common plant, means “overcoming hardship.”
In the U.S. honeysuckle, with a cloying fragrance, shaggy form and little white and yellow flowers, is considered old-timey, even weedy. But Koreans admire how Lonicera japonica rambles on with “unyielding determination.” The weather in Korea runs to extremes, yet honeysuckle survives its harshest winters and reblooms each summer.