They say that art imitates life. But, quite literally, life imitated art at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year. This year’s theme “Explore America” highlighted the National Parks, and recreated geysers, woodlands, houses, cottages, and famous scenes from National parks in America. The live flowers were arranged, sculpted, draped and displayed in such unique and amazing ways, so as you could not help but marvel and be uplifted by the panoramas. I would know, because I just spent 11 days there, at least 10 hours a day, as an exhibitor.
I had mixed feelings about being an exhibitor, at first. As a fine-art artist, it was an unusual choice of venue for me to display my work. The usual route is galleries, contests and the like. However, I wanted to have the experience of showing my work to a very large quantity of people–and to interact with them, as well. I felt that the flower show would be an interesting venue for my work because much of my painting focuses on bucolic, too-perfect scenery and profusions of greenery and flowers. It was a great experience, meeting people who appreciate plants, beauty and the handmade work of an artist or artisan. Of the 35,000 people who came through the show each day, I must have only met a fraction, but it felt like a lot. The reaction to my work was not uniform. Different people were drawn to different pieces, although overall some pieces received more of a reaction than others. It was a privilege to meet people from all over the country who had come for the show. Many were inspiring and unique individuals–I think of the interior designer who showed me his perfectly recreated turn of the century home, the father who bought two pieces for each of his young children, and the woman who had just learned to paint but bought a piece because it spoke to her and made her want to create again. It was a humbling experience and made me so grateful.
Personally inspiring for me were the other exhibitors. I did not expect to be so excited by the work of other artists and artisans whose work may be completely different than my own, but quality and unique nonetheless. These were people who dedicated their lives to their craft, to make it the best that it could be. It made me want to be better. But more than that, it spurred me on to keep creating in unique and specific ways.
The butterfly farm that harvested the butterfly wings of the insect once it died naturally, and mounted them beautifully behind glass–perfectly preserved forever. The fine natural glitter and iridescence of the wings captured made me want to create paintings of the same glow, symmetry and intricate detailing. The iron smith who created functional wall hangings and creative sculptures as doorstops made me want to take pride in the quality of my workmanship. The bookmaker who used paper he made out of linen, wrapped in untanned leather that smelled in the best way of another time, made me want to create paintings and art that will last for generations, transcending the boundaries of centuries.
My point is, there is no limit to inspiration. Artists need not only find their inspiration from painters. Sometimes it is good to cross pollinate our inspiration, as art imitates life, but life is more than just art. As Lera Aurbach writes in her book Excess of Being, “The difference between art and life: art–magnifies, life–diminishes.”
Life is all around us. It is our job as creators to make it into art.
Me and my friend Emily at the flower show