Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Laura Pollán’s Gladiolas of Freedom

The leader of Cuba’s Damas de Blanco has died after winning the freedom of their family members. But the cause goes on, fortified by her defiant flower.


Laura Pollán Toledo marches in Havana in a demonstration for political freedom by the Ladies in White.

Photo: Javier Galeano, for AP

Why symbolism? And, at the root, why flower symbolism?

The direct floral action of Laura Pollán Toledo can answer. Pollan, a former schoolteacher, died October 14 in a Havana hospital. For eight years, holding a pink gladiolus high, she led Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White), a brave and influential freedom movement in her native Cuba.

Pollán’s husband was among 75 journalists and other pro-democracy activists who were rounded up in March 2003, swiftly tried, and jailed for speaking out against Castro’s regime. Some, like Pollán’s husband, Héctor Maseda, were sentenced to more than 20 years for allegedly undermining “the territorial integrity of the state” (which means challenging the status quo, not pressing for annexation to Haiti.)

Working to free her husband, Pollán came to meet—then to organize—the families of others who had been imprisoned during the infamous Primavera Negra (Black Spring). They began a weekly protest vigil through Havana. Dressed in white, the prisoners’ family members would attend Mass together at the Santa Rita church and then march ten blocks to a nearby park, carrying pink gladioli overhead.


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Posted by Julie on 10/29 at 02:05 PM
Culture & SocietyPoliticsPermalink

Friday, October 21, 2011

To Live and Die in Honolulu

How would you like to be remembered? Honolulans have their floral photos and “arrangements” ready.

imageAlbert B. Fernandes, Jr.

With Halloween approaching, memory grows heavy as a gourd and thoughts bend toward the great (or is it small?) beyond. Before breaking out in chrysanthemum rash, we’ll look to Hawaii.

There, just on the face of things, the funereal is floral. We’re not delving into abstruse customs (drive a stake through the heart of that inner anthropologist!)—only reading the obituary pages of the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

imageMartin Luke and Kunyio Anderson

A joy to behold, about half the final portraits of Honolulans include flowers. Sometimes just the tip of a plant peeks from the bottom of the photo. Much more often the departed are shown wearing crowns or leis. Albert B. Fernandes, Jr. appears to be wearing at least four lei over a flowered shirt. Martin Luke smiles inside a strand of orchids. Kunyio Anderson wears a paper lei (neon-green) over a glorious necklace of what appear to be beads or shells and feathers.


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Posted by Julie on 10/21 at 11:50 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Memory Fails Me Not

John Levett, venturing after poet Philip Larkin, recreates his own past —true to the present.

imageAt Hull University

Essay and photos by John Levett

About a week ago I delivered a presentation entitled ‘Refractory memory.’ Some of the definitions of ‘refractory’ include obstinate, stubborn, mulish, pigheaded, obdurate, headstrong, self-willed, wayward, wilful, perverse, contrary, recalcitrant, obstreperous, disobedient, difficult. For this the research group, I was presenting work derived from a four day stay in the city of Hull on the Humber estuary; in the context of my own photographic practice, I was reflecting upon the persistence of pronounced subjects in the images that I capture. I was also asking why I keep returning to Hull. Screen dissolve.

In the first week of October 1964 I travelled up to Hull to the university. I stayed for three days. It was the first of five universities that I went to in the ‘60s. I could never settle to the life. It has only been of late that I have recognised the processes by which I learn and none of the places I went to in that decade let me get on with my own curriculum. With Hull, however, I never gave it a chance.

I went up on the Monday in a friend’s car and we arrived long after nightfall. I woke up in the morning in the hall of residence I’d been assigned, took a look around the barracks, found out it was miles from the campus and started making my exit plans. Day two included a talk by the librarian on what to expect. He stood above us (on a stage? on a podium? just tall?) and said: “I feel like Hitler or John Lennon.” It was at this point that I missed a trick. Anyone who comes out with a first line like that in the retentive context of the provincial university of that time is no bore. If he’d then read ‘This Be The Verse’ then I’d have taken notice, bought the book and hung around. He didn’t as he hadn’t written it yet, and he’d have found self-promotion vulgar anyway.

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Posted by Julie on 10/12 at 11:30 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeTravelPermalink

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Spectacular Live Oak Wedding

Spiders, gold dust, slave labor and Deep Southern grandiosity made for a legendary double-wedding in St. Martinville, with three miles of live oaks and pines as attendants.


The oak and pine allee at Durand’s plantation

St. Martinville, Louisiana

Photo: Musings of an Artist’s Wife

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

We live in a time of lavish and much discussed weddings—featuring royals, celebrities, and politicians. Recall such one-name sensations as Will and Kate, Kim and Kris, Chelsea and Marc. But we plant aficionados, following up various historical accounts, have been traveling over the past seven years to the site of a famous double wedding in which the trees out-glittered even the brides. In fact, nearly 150 years later, in south Louisiana at least, people still talk about those trees and go to visit them, even though the brides are now all but forgotten.

imageSt. Martinville, Louisiana

Map: Discover Our Town

Near the small Cajun and Creole town of St. Martinville, Louisiana, there lived a wealthy and sophisticated French sugarcane planter named Gerome Charles Durand. In the days of grand plantation homes, it was common to see a long, straight, allee or alley—a double-row, tree-canopied avenue—leading up to the front door. To make a grandiose visual impression, Mr. Durand planted a nearly infinite- looking, 3-mile-long, alley of Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) and Coast Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) leading up to his plantation home. One mile of that tree-lined avenue remains to this very day.

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Posted by Julie on 10/05 at 12:01 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSecular CustomsPermalink