where have all the flowers gone?

Category : Art, Nature, Plants
Date : September 11, 2017

Incredible floral arrangements graced the Westbeth Art Gallery at the opening of Strange Flowers last Saturday night. Flowers and their strange beauty unite the artists assembled by the show’s organizer Elisabeth Condon, but their approaches vary widely. From backyard weeds and blooms gone awry; hyper-realized blossoms gleaned out of the corner of one’s eye; roses stained on ancient cloth literally marking the passing of a dear friend; perfectly rendered arrangements drawn in colored ink; ancient botanical images on wallpaper newly arranged to form an architectural temple pattern; plants gathered and dipped in wax laid against a perfect blue sky; larger than life-sized blooms and blossoms that one can escape into; butterflies and birds residing amongst leaves and streams of paint in an urban landscape; to a set of vintage wildflower identification cards placed on a shelf set against plant-dyed paper on the wall.

On the night of the opening, some visitors presumed that the wildflower cards were there for the taking. Was there a sign posted that said, “Please take a card, courtesy of the artist”? Absolutely not! Slowly the deck of 49 cards became 19. Unlike the stacks of candy found in the participatory work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, for example, these cards are irreplaceable parts of the artist’s work, not meant to be taken from the piece.

What led some viewers to literally pick these flowers without seeking permission? What did they think would happen when the 49 wildflower cards were gone? Did they think that they would just be replaced? Is this any different from one visiting a museum and simply taking a painting off the wall to put in one’s home?

If you take all the goldenrod from a particular spot, what will the foraging fall pollinators have to fuel them for the long cold winter?  If the forest is cleared to make way for a pipeline, where do all the insects, birds, and animals go when their habitat is removed?

Are art & nature for the taking?


Strange Flowers on view at  Westbeth Art Gallery until September 30, 2017.  Gallery open Wednesday to Sunday, 1-6pm. 55 Bethune Street, New York, NY

Comments (7)

Oh Brece. I am so sorry to hear that part of the exhibit walked away. Yesterday JNB and I stopped to watch a person mowing a huge field of goldenrod, just tucking it all in to the blade of a ride-on mower, the butterfly weed, the monarch chrysalis, the seeds about to take wing…I feel the loss. I hope that the takers will return the cards. xoS

7 years ago

    This afternoon, I watched the bees enjoying the pollen filled goldenrod and mint, and then read your comment about the mowing of the field. What will those bees eat now that their habitat is gone? How sad that nature can be mowed over with such ease. Thanks for your thoughtful remarks, Suzi.

    7 years ago
Peggy Honeycutt

I have chills on me right now as I read your article. I cannot imagine someone just TAKING the art and I hope they quietly return it unharmed.

7 years ago

I too am appalled, but unsurprised…it seems to me to be a reflection of the way society is going; the pervading air of entitlement, along with total unconcern for the consequences

7 years ago

How very sad! I agree with India- it tells us how much our society has changed with tragic consequences. I can appreciate the sense of loss to the artists.

7 years ago

I saw the exhibit. Lovely, deep work!

7 years ago

    Thanks for viewing the exhibition, Rebecca. Elisabeth Condon has organized an absolutely stunning exhibition. I do hope that many will get to see the exhibition. Gallery open Wednesday-Sunday from 1-6pm at 55 Bethune Street, NYC.

    7 years ago

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website by Roundhex. Adapted from Workality Plus by Northeme. Powered by WordPress