In Joy or Sadness…

Programming

In joy or sadness flowers are our constant friends. We eat, drink, sing, dance, and flirt with them. We wed and christen with flowers. We dare not die without them. We have worshipped with the lily, we have meditated with the lotus, we have charged in battle array with the rose and the chrysanthemum. We have even attempted to speak in the language of flowers. How could we live without them?
― Kakuzo Okakura, The Book Of Tea

I’m pretty sure I once signed up for a WordPress reminder in an attempt to keep up with a self-imposed weekly blogging schedule, but it seems to have turned itself off – probably because I failed too many times to publish a new article on time. I have a few projects on the go right now that keep me busy enough, but as I still like to share what I’m doing (and find it really useful to dig deeper and structure my reflection) here’s a quick post based on research I’ve undertaken for an upcoming event.

(I’ve also just started using Tumblr for very quick posts as an experiment  – so far so fun).

 

The spirit of nature: Kathy Klein’s flower mandalas

freesia & euphorbia

Freesia & euphorbia

iris and mimosa at wild rose ranch

Iris and mimosa

protea, coastal geranium, chinese latern flower on chinese singing water bowl

Protea, coastal geranium, chinese latern flower on chinese singing water bowl

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Alstroemeria, hydrangea, gerbera, daisy

succulents from the cliffside, at 11th street beach during rain at low tide

Succulents from the cliffside, at 11th street beach during rain at low tide

A mandala is a spiritual symbol – usually a geometric pattern in the shape of a circle – that represent a microcosmos of the universe. For a more accurate definition, Wikipedia is probably a good start – and for a modern artistic interpretation, American artist Kathy Klein’s dānmālā practice is a great example.

The name dānmālā comes from the vedic sanskrit words dān: the giver and mālā: garland of flowers. Her website has a huge image gallery of pieces using flowers and other organic materials, but also mandalas created with stones, shells and sweets.

She’s also active on social media, with new designs posted regularly on her Facebook feed and – especially relevant to my purposes – an ever-growing album of in situ creations.

 

Painting with flowers: Red Hong Yi’s petal stories

rooster made from gerberas and leaves

Rooster made from gerberas and leaves

peacock made from butterfly pea flowers, bottlebrush leaves, coconut leaf sticks, alamandas : trumpet flowers

Peacock made from butterfly pea flowers, bottlebrush leaves, coconut leaf sticks, alamandas : trumpet flowers

dodo made from white, pink and orange chrysanthemum flowers

Dodo made from white, pink and orange chrysanthemum flowers

hornbill made of chrysanthemums, germeras and purple shamrocks

Hornbill made of chrysanthemums, germeras and purple shamrocks

northern cardinal made of red gerberas and deep purple chrysanthemums with dill

Northern cardinal made of red gerberas and deep purple chrysanthemums with dill

‘Red’ Hong Yi – the artist who ‘loves to paint, but not with a paintbrush’ – is a Malaysian artist-architect, who started working with everyday materials when she moved to Shanghai, a city her family had left in the early days of the Cultural Revolution.

For the purpose of my research, I’m especially interested in her series of birds made of flowers (above), using a wide palette of petals, leaves and branches. She also has an extensive portfolio of portraits made from mundane objects – chopsticks, melted candles, shuttlecocks, sunflower seeds… – and has created exquisite daily scenes on a white plate only using food ingredients for a 31-day creativity challenge. She’s very active on Instagram, where she publishes her experiments with new themes or materials.

 

Sensory overload: Rebecca Louise Law’s floating fields

‘The Flower Garden Display’d 2014′

‘The Flower Garden Display’d 2014′ – a floating meadow of 4,600 blooms – commissioned by London’s Garden Museum.

OdysseyMain_Crop_second stage

‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ – Second stage, Odyssey Exhibition curated by bo.lee Gallery. This installation was made using the dried flowers from the previous display entwined with 8800 meters of copper wire.

The Hated Flower, 2014 The Coningsby Gallery, London 5,000 Carnations and Chrysanthemums

The Hated Flower, 2014 The Coningsby Gallery, London (5,000 Carnations and Chrysanthemums)

Neither drawing from geometrical patterns nor from figurative representation, Rebecca Louise Law’s large-scale installations create immersive sensory experiences with hundreds of flowers – often upside-down, always strikingly delicate yet powerful.

 

 

Grow Your Own City

Programming

Gardening is my graffiti: I grow my art.

– Ron Finley

Ron Finley urban famer

Ron Finley, graffiti-gardener

Urban farming has its new hero: Ron Finley, artist-gardener, on a mission to make kale sexy in South Central Los Angeles, one of America’s food deserts. Since he planted a vegetable garden on a city-owned strip of land outside his house in 2010, then got fined for it and successfully led a campaign to make curbside gardening legal, he’s received a lot of media attention, including a TED Talk in 2013 (from which the quotes above and below are taken).

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”

“We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is — if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”

The video below, featuring Ron pre-TED fame, encapsulates the multiple benefits of urban gardening: healthy eating, communal activity, cultural heritage, sensory stimulation…

From producing fresh food in a brownfield and at the same time beautifying an area to providing a physical activity to local people while creating community links, urban farming is a multi-layered activity that keeps on giving. I’ve looked below at 3 other initiatives with deep roots – transforming a school’s rooftop, re-inventing the city as a public orchard and blowing the seeds of change from a West Yorkshire village to the rest of the world.

The Teachers: School Grown

If there is one constant with urban farming, it’s that it can happen anywhere and everywhere: on the side of the road in LA, 33 metres below the busy streets of Clapham, or at the back of a truck, anywhere. By comparison, a rooftop farm is perhaps quite banal, but the one transformed by Food Share in Toronto – that can be seen from scratch to end in the timelapse video above – is rather special, because it doubles up as a “food literacy education centre, large market garden and vibrant event space all wrapped into one”.

The 16,000 square foot rooftop currently includes over 450 garden planters, 100 shiitake mushroom logs, a dwarf fruiting orchard, seating for over 200 people, a covered area and an indoor classroom – and has plans to add a rooftop teaching kitchen, a small greenhouse, a composting area and an open air cafe.

Students sell their ‘school grown’ produce at three local farmers’ markets and also supply several Toronto restaurants.

foodshare.net/schoolgrown

@FoodShareTO

The Gleaners: Not Far From The Tree

Founder and director Laura Reinsborough got the idea for Not Far From The Tree when she was working as a Community Arts Facilitator for the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and was asked to pick apples from an urban orchard and put them to good use.

From this first experience was born Not Far From the Tree, an initiative that picks unwanted or surplus fruit from residential properties, sharing the harvest 3 ways: ⅓ to the fruit owner, ⅓ to the the volunteers and ⅓ to social agencies. In 2008, their first full season, 150 volunteers picked a total of 3,003 pounds of fruit, and the concept has now grown into a fully-fledged, city-wide, award-winning charitably constituted organisation with permanent staff.

In 5 years, they have:

  • harvested over 70,000 pounds of fruit;
  • donated more than 22,000 pounds to social service agencies;
  • registered over 1,500 trees to be picked in our operating area;
  • registered more than 1,600 volunteer pickers.

They have also produced a pretty 5-year annual report available to view online, listing these achievements and more, and also regularly commission artists – such as the one below – for their event and campaign visuals.

Apple-by-Zeesy-Powers-Oct-2012-e1393605838297

Apple by Zeesy Powers (2012)

notfarfromthetree.org

@NFFTT

The Planters: Incredible Edible

This is the extraordinary journey of a small market town in the North of England, now a hotspot of the local food revolution. With just a handful of people and seeds to start with, Todmorden has transformed itself into a place where fruit and vegetables are grown everywhere – outside the police station, in the cemetery, along the canal – and for everyone. Pam Warhurst, one of the instigators, calls it “propaganda gardening”: a way of ensuring resilience by creating deep links between community, learning and business. It’s even created a brand new genre of tourism, with “vegetable tourists” coming to the 15,000-strong town to visit the Incredible Edible Green Route.

The Todmorden experiment has inspired over 200 local groups in several countries that form the Incredible Edible Network and are typically involved in “setting up community growing plots, reaching out to schools and children, and backing local food suppliers”.

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Incredible Edibles, outside Todmorden Police Station

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Food to Share – Incredible Edibles Todmorden

incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk

incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk

@incredibledible