Human Flower Project

Flowers Walking at Denver Botanic

Human Flower Project teamed up with floral artist Arthur Williams last week, part of the Bonfils Stanton Series at Denver Botanic Garden.


Jerrica Park (right) and Alicia Cardenas, two of Arthur Williams’s models, mingled with the audience after a gorgeous human-flower demonstration at Denver Botanic Gardens, September 15, a co-show with HFP.

Photo: Human Flower Project

“No one can possess this,” said Arthur Williams. He stood beside a beautiful young woman calmly batting blue eyelashes. She was crowned with anthuriums and orchids, green catkins dangling to her shoulders, and standing tall in combat boots.

After our presentation “White Roses for the Bride, Red Begonias for the Dictator” delivered September 15 at Denver Botanic Gardens, Williams released the fireworks: five models, each a distinct character, conceived in his deep and fluid understanding of the human-floral bond.

We had the honor of speaking at the renowned DBG about how flower customs across the world establish our individual, social, and regional identities. To an audience of about 125, we showed images of floral carpets in Poland and chrysanthemum dolls in Japan; we looked at train excursions into the Rockies during the 1890s, travelers picking native wildflowers by the bushel-basketful, and today’s efforts to protect some of those same flowers—and deploy them in the fight against oil and gas drilling.


Denver Botanic invited guests to photograph Williams’s glorious models. Alicia Cardenas posed before one of HFP’s slides; a spontaneous floral demonstration in the center of Oslo, Norway, after the shootings in July.

Photo: Human Flower Project

But Arthur and his talented team breathed life into socio-botany. Whereas we tend to hover over tradition and lament the bleeding away of distinct regional and ethnic customs, Williams, like most artists, borrows freely and blends with abandon.

Alicia Cardenas, his Mayan Princess, is also a “full time piercer, scarification and tattoo artist.” Dressed in a beautiful huipile, coral necklace, and multiple silver facial adornments, she would, in the name of authenticity, have been embellished with corn. Instead, Arthur Williams looped a dense and pungent red carnation necklace around her, and laid a crescent of bright yellow orchids through her hair.

imageCarly Mckenna walked on stage September 15, 2011, part of the DBG’s Bonfils-Stanton series.

Photo: Human Flower Project

As the walking flowers emerged, Sarah Olson, Denver Botanic’s adult education director, introduced each of them, the audience applauding with amazement, until all five stood on stage at the center of the room, staring out into the open eyes and mouths of the crowd.

Williams himself is the portrait of wild mildness. He spoke briefly about his selection of certain flowers for their sturdiness and longevity. He also emphasized the pleasure he takes in collaborating with others, routinely, as part of his business Babylon Floral Design.

Cherrie Silverman, friend and owner of Cherry Blossoms florist in the Denver suburb of Westminster, helped put on this amazing production. Her own beautiful prom flowers were part of our presentation. Sarah Heid worked as stage manager, coordinating the models and timeline.

Tina Mckeever of Vain Salon makes the strong hair-sculptures where Williams’s floral designs float. Pointing at Jerrica Park, dressed as an elegant and fragile geisha in an enormous black wig festooned with flowers, Williams said, “She could run across the room in that. It’s indestructible.” 


Arthur Williams, owner of Babylon Floral, discussed his work, embodied in model Carly Mckenna, a Gothic sprite.

Photo: Human Flower Project

Sally Walker, make up artist of Alchemy Mineral Blends, had worked masterfully into Williams’s vision of each persona. Blushing green and gold, Carly McKenna was a species of gothic fairy. Walker had touched her chin and temples with flashes of magenta and run thin vines of black out from the corner of her eye. Freckled orchids and gloriosa lilies hung in her hair like giant spiders.


Panayoti Kelaidas, senior curator at Denver Botanic Garden, discussed plant lore at the DBG Conservatory.

Photo: Human Flower Project

And we can only hope to see more photos by Beth Sanders, who clearly is on Arthur’s wavelength. She was shooting pictures of all the models in the Denver Botanic’s Conservatory, surrounded by tropical plants (We had the privilege of touring – too briefly—with Denver Botanic’s curator and guiding spirit Panayoti Kelaidis, a fount of international human-flower experience. We hope DBG will open up a collaboration between Panayoti and Williams – the possibilities are sublime).


Human-flower Jasmin Salisbury greets a human-human friend after Thursday’s presentation at Denver Botanic Gardens.

Photo: Human Flower Project

One favorite part of the evening for us was the after-gathering. Sarah Olson had wisely set aside time for people to enjoy and photograph the models close up as well as talk with Arthur directly. To see people in their street clothes conversing with Ryan Vishnu Kramer, a smile breaking over his striped-purple face, or watch Jasmin Salisbury, she of the green-moth polka dots, whispering to a companion was most exciting. Jerrica Park, the geisha, was especially light hearted Thursday night; as she laughed the huge white orchids in her wig would gently bobble.

Arthur’s right. No one can possess that, and pictures can’t capture it either. The night reminded us that the greatest human-flower projects are contingent upon presence. Those laughing orchids, and spicy carnations held up to your face in arms covered with Mayan tattoos. Arthur’s gentleness, nervous but entirely confident. Panayoti brushing his hand along an ancient cycad. You didn’t “have to have been there” but if you were, thanks, and congratulations. You’ve been human-flower enhanced.

(Note: Many thanks to Sarah Olson, Matthew Cole, and Panayoti Kelaidis of Denver Botanic Gardens for all their kindness, work and expertise, also to Celia Adamec and the Bonfils-Stanton series for this opportunity. If your garden, botanical study center, or club would be interested in a presentation from Human Flower Project, please contact us. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/18 at 01:33 PM


this is so wonderful
what a great meeting of all involved
so glad for you

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/19 at 08:00 PM


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/21 at 09:05 AM

A stunning tribute to the Human Flower Project! You deserve nothing less!

Although I confess, I am green, not with mineral body paint, but rather ENVY, at such a fabulous opportunity.

Denver Botanical Gardens deserves a round of applause for having such verve and vision. And they have recognized the importance of the Human Flower Project as well as the talent of their local floral designers. Brilliant!


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/25 at 03:13 PM

Julie, you met Panayoti Kelaidas?  The botany dude that Allen has written about?  Wow!
Awesome photos, by the way.

Posted by Georgia on 09/26 at 02:40 PM

Thank you, wonderful pals, for your kindness and support of hfp all along. This really was an amazing opportunity, as well as great fun. And yes, Georgia, it was THE Panayoti. I could kick myself for not having the tape recorder running the whole time he spoke. There is nothing like the presence of people and flowers together; life online is so anemic in comparison. Except that I MET Tessa and Georgia online.

Tessa’s been here for a visit. Georgia, when are you coming??

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/26 at 09:57 PM
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