Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spooky Blooms at the Milwaukee Art Museum

My Mom and I have the annual tradition of attending the Milwaukee Art Museum's Art in Bloom show. Each year, local floral designers and garden groups randomly pick a piece of art, and then design a floral representation of that piece. They might work with flowers that are the same color as a painting, or build plant life into a shape that is similar to a sculpture. Or they might put together something that has a personal meaning to them. I say this because I occasionally don't understand the connection between the flowers and the art. This year's designs were mostly straightforward, but there were artist statements to further explain what the designers had in mind.

There were so many orange roses this year! I've had orange roses on my brain ever since working on the centerpiece for our witch party years back. It's not easy to find orange roses for sale around Halloween time, but there was no shortage of them at this show. Maybe this is because orange is the hot color this year. According to Pantone, anyway. The orange roses above were part of my favorite display. The rose covered, circular design went with a 16th century Russian iconostasis. In the center was a flickering candle.

There were many lighthearted works of art and floral designs at the show, but I'm going to focus primarily on the spooky and weird ones. The design below was created to represent the painting of St. Francis in the background. I've always loved this painting, and I really liked the floral design that went with it last year. It was a lot more straightforward. I suppose the light circle of plants in the middle of this one symbolizes the skull. The statement read that the red plants represented the stigmata, but that has nothing to do with this painting. So a little floral design license was taken here.

Here's a closer look at St. Francis. I always felt really drawn to this painting as a kid, and somewhere is a childhood charcoal drawing I did of him.

The next display was in the center of the Haitian art section. You can see a few Haitian paintings in the background. Basically this is a ram's skull, that appeared to be made of paper mache and painted.  There are flowers emerging from the skull's eyes and mouth and draping down the side of the stand. Since this display included an animal skull and lots of color, it fit perfectly with the art surrounding it.

This is a view from above the skull. The next photo is only included because it reminded me of The Invisible Man. Depending on where you stood, it looked like the hat was kind of hovering. This display had nothing to do with The Invisible Man, though. It was based on a black and white photo of a gypsy family. Each white flower was in place of a family member's face in the photo.

Some of the flowers used in the show were ones we'd all be familiar with, like roses and carnations. Others were so exotic, you'd think they came from a different planet! Here are a few of the more mysterious plants we saw. I'm not sure what some of these are. If any of you are into plants and are familiar with these, please let me know what their names are!

Isn't this curling frond insane? The little ones look like they could crawl right out of the big one! On closer inspection of this photo, the plant looks kind of hairy too. I won't lie, I was slightly creeped out while getting close to this one.

There's so much movement here! I'd like to know how the chair was even attached to the stand. This display was based off of the German Expressionist painting behind it. You'll just have to take my word that the painting is of a man sitting in a chair. This next picture is of lotus pods, with a white and green tulip to the side. There were these little spiky looking things sticking out of the pods. I assume those are seeds.

This next one looked really soft and fuzzy to the touch. I think that comes through in the photo.

Studying all these arrangements inspired me, both in planting new flowers and arranging new plants.   Our witch party centerpiece could certainly benefit from whatever this is. My Mom called it the hairbrush plant, because it appeared to be covered in bristles.

I love these purple, curling fronds. I think they would make a nice compliment to a bouquet of roses.

How different are these? I think they're white asparagus, but they look like fingers to me. They could make a nice addition to a Halloween floral display or food platter. Or even to the dirt outside. They're just creepy and cool.

I liked the texture of whatever this spiky little flower is. Again, it looks like a neat one to stick into a bouquet here and there. The multicolored ranunculus in the center of these spiky things, is my favorite new flower from the show! 

I got a chance to photograph a few somewhat spooky pieces of art along with the flowers. This decorative, Classical tomb cover is so realistic. I hope you guys are enlarging these photos, because there are a lot of details. This marble sculpture is titled The Last of the Spartans and dates from 1892.

These little critters are just random and fun. They make up the little cabinets of curiosities next to the museum's antique furniture collection. The little lizards are jumping through hoops, over hurdles, and under limbo poles inside of a round mirror-walled container. I wish the container would spin as these little things performed their tasks in front of us. As it is, they're frozen in place. I like to imagine these little guys as performers in a miniature dinosaur circus.

This last one is just weird. If I had to guess, I'd say we're looking at the spray painted remains of a crow. It's definitely some kind of bird. The framed woman behind the bones was a happy accident. She really did have a head, but with the way the shadow hit, it looks like the bird skull is taking the place of it. If the bird would only move slightly to the right...

I hope you guys enjoyed this photo tour of the Art in Bloom show! Visiting the flowers is always a fun way to transition into spring. 


  1. Very cool collection at that museum! I love your photos - I did indeed enlarge the photos - excellent detail! I really like that purple curly thing with the dark pink flowers - cool!

  2. Lisa ~ Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed my photos. It really is worth it to enlarge these and get a closer look. I noticed details in these photos that I didn't even see at the show! I like the purple curly thing too, although I like pretty much any curly shaped thing in nature. :)

  3. What an awesome post!!! Looked like you had a lot of fun... I like doing arrangements... and these are really cool and mind blowing... makes me want to try and make my own. lol!

  4. Okay, got my coffee. ;)

    The St Francis painting is very cool! It's a great study of light and shade for art students too, I would have thought. I googled stigmata and discovered St Francis of Assisi was the first recorded "stigmatic", so I assume that's the connection with the red flowers. (I'm also assuming that the painting is of St Francis of Assisi, and not some other St Francis?)

    Yeah, that curling frond plant is kind of creepy! It looks a little like a bunch of mouths to me. Especially in the second photo. My favourite floral picture is of the purple curling fronds. It's quite Burtonesque! And I love the mini dinosaur circus! Adorable!

  5. Awesome displays and beautiful flowers. The skull display was interesting. I wouldn't mind having that one.

  6. Wow I love the piece with the chair!

  7. Annie ~ Thank you! :) Yeah, we had a great time looking around and discovering new flowers. Another fun part of visiting the show is that you get to place a vote for your four favorite floral arrangements. The results are out now, and the red chair design was one of the winners. I thought it deserved a ribbon! Yeah, I definitely felt inspired to arrange some flowers after going to the show. I might look for some of these new plants next time I make an arrangement!

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ Glad you were prepared. :) I like the whole tea/coffee ritual with blog reading too. I agree about the light and shadow in the St. Francis painting. The folds in his robe and the shadows on his hands are so well painted! It was cool to get the photos downloaded and close in on his face. I never really noticed much of his face before doing so. With the way the painting is lit in the museum, a dark cavern type space appears in place of his head. I never even noticed that he had a beard!

    Yes, this is St. Francis of Assisi. Thanks so much for doing that research! The floral designer must have done some similar research on St. Francis. It would have been nice if they had at least mentioned that information in the artist statement, since there's no evidence of stigmata in the painting itself. From what I've heard in the past, that painting is about the fragility of life.

    A bunch of mouths? Eww... I can see what you mean, especially with the bottom "mouth" in the frond. Yes, these are Burton like plants. If some of these curling frond displays had been made in black and white, they would have had a Beetlejuice look to them!

    There's something pretty adorable about the little leaping critters, even if they are skeletal. Skeletons can be cute sometimes. :)

    Adsila ~ I thought the skull display was gorgeous. I can't imagine how many roses were used on that one. They just kept going! There were probably enough for a bride and all of her bridesmaids to carry. Do you know where you'd display that arrangement if you had it? I imagine it would look cool along with a Southwestern decorating style.

    Alexandriaweb ~ Me too! There was so much movement in that arrangement. As I said to Annie above, the chair piece actually was voted into the top four flower arrangements by those of us who voted. It had my vote, along with three non-spooky arrangements that aren't in this post. For those who are interested, these were the winning arrangements:

    Art in Bloom Winners

  8. Yes, I had no idea that St Francis of Assisi was the first stigmatic, and the subject of that painting clearly isn't the stigmata. It definitely would have been helpful if they had included that information in their artist statement. I don't exactly have much of a religious education, so I asked Danny about it, as he went to catholic school, but he couldn't remember if he'd ever learnt that about St Francis. I always associate St Francis of Assisi with kindness to animals. Anyway, I'll probably never forget that he was a stigmatic now! Haha.

    I keep thinking that the purple frond arrangement would have looked at home in the 'Once Upon a Time' Wonderland too!

    I had a look at the winners. Did you pick any of the other 3?

  9. He was the first stigmatic? How interesting! I always associated him with animals too, but now I'll have some new trivia to tuck away. :)

    Quite a few of these arrangements would have been at home in Wonderland. I can picture a collection of tilted chairs with those creepy mouth fronds there too. Actually, the purple fronds were a part of the arrangement that won first place! You can see them if you look closely. All the arrangements that won were great, but I actually voted for different ones. Aside from the chair display. I'll send you a few extra pictures of the ones I liked. I was so tempted to share them on here, but they didn't exactly go with my spooky blog theme.

  10. Oh WOW! That looks like an amazing show. I think I'd try to go yearly too. :)

  11. Oh, yeah! I can see the purple fronds now! I hadn't even noticed that they were part of that entry. I actually think your close-up shot is far more interesting than seeing the arrangement as a whole. :)

  12. Lady Bethezda ~ Yeah, this show is something I look forward to each year. We've been going every year since it began in 2008. It's always interesting to see the different creations based on the same work of art over the years.

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ Thanks! I wish the photos on the museum's web site were closer looks. I really like to get up close and personal with whatever I'm photographing. I was actually kind of surprised at how lackluster their photos were. I mean, I have expectations for an art museum...

  13. You have an amazing art museum. I love the St. Francis. You also do a very good job at capturing the beauty of three dimensional art with photography! That is always a challenge for me.

  14. Jessica ~ Yeah! We really are lucky to have that museum in Milwaukee. It's probably our most memorable landmark, in part because it was designed by Calatrava. The building's design is like something between a ship with sails, and a bird with wings that open and close. If you google images of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you'll see lots of cool pictures of the building.

    Thanks for the compliment on my photos! :) Well, if it helps in any way, what works for me is getting close and tilting the camera upward.

  15. Simply breathtaking! Nothing beats the beauty and inspiration provided by the natural world, and the artists contributing to this display really went all out. Such great use of color and arrangement.

  16. That is so true. As artists we can find a lot of inspiration in the shapes and designs found in nature. I felt inspired just looking these photos over again! Yes, they really did go all out in finding unique new plants, and in designing these arrangements. Some of the designers put color together in a way I wouldn't have thought of. It's always fun to see what they come up with each year!

  17. How awesome & very inspiring! Some of it is beautiful and some of it is creepy...either way I love it! I'd love to go to something like that to see some peoples art!

  18. Yeah! I felt inspired while looking at these arrangements. Inspired to create new flower designs and now inspired to paint from some of these photos. Yeah, I think some plants fall under the heading of beautiful and creepy combined! I always like curving shapes in nature, and some of these look like they could slither away. Well, maybe something similar to "Art in Bloom" will happen at an art museum near you? I'm not sure if any other art museums around the country have floral design shows like this.

  19. What an amazing display. Thanks for sharing it with those of us that could not see it in person!!


  20. The Frog Queen ~ I'm glad you enjoyed this post! I'm happy to share my experiences with all of you in blogland, and I love seeing the places you guys go too. That's one of the fun parts about getting to know people from all over the world. I've read about some events in people's blogs that I'd never heard of before that point. Who knows, someone might be organizing a floral event in an art museum near you!

  21. These pictures are all eye candy!!

    Somehow you fell off my Blog list...ughhhh!! I just signed myself back up to follow you. Shew! I was missing all this good stuff!!


  22. LuLu ~ Thanks! :) I have no idea how I would have disappeared from your blog list. That's not good! I wonder when that happened. Hopefully you haven't missed too many of my posts. I'm glad you're back now anyway!

  23. Right, that's it. I need to own the little skeleton circus. That is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and I wish I could witness it in person. I'd love to be able to own them. I'm also making room in the back garden for the flowers with the chair in them. I love it.

    I don't think I've ever seen orange roses, but I would really like to see some. Years ago one of my best friends went out and brought all the girls in the group a coloured rose on valentines day and he chose blue for me and I've wanted a garden filled with them ever since, now I want orange and blue.

    Seems like a good trip =) Happy spring

  24. Cherry ~ Oh, I'd love to own a little skeleton circus too! You know what would be even cooler? If those little things were mechanical and jumped around in a circle. Sort of a living skeleton show. It's not scary if they're that tiny. :)

    I'm glad to share photos of my experiences with those who appreciate them so much! Hmm... this skeleton circus might not be so hard to reconstruct. If you could get your hands on some little lizard or rodent skeletons and spray paint them black. Not that I have any experience with arranging skeletons using tiny pins. It might be tedious.

    You haven't seen orange roses? They're gorgeous! I've been seeing more and more of them over the past few years. Maybe it's just because I'm looking for them. That was really sweet of your friend to buy all the girls a rose. Was your blue rose a pale blue? I don't know if I've ever seen a blue rose in person.

    Happy spring to you too! :)

  25. Of course it's not scary if they're that small and adorable. Although I might get odd looks picking up lizard skeletons. I suppose I'll just scare the children and tell them I'm a witch or something. That seems like a fun idea lol. Please keep posting your photo's I love them.

    Nope, no orange roses, but demands have been made to the boyfriend haha. It was more like a vibrant blue. It was really beautiful. I think it may have been dipped in dye or something, but I'm determined it was real. I'm crazy like that.

  26. Cherry ~ I'm not even sure where you could pick up a lizard skeleton! The desert? Oh, I'll definitely keep posting my photos because I love to share them!

    After reading your comment, I was curious if there were naturally occurring blue roses. From what I read, white roses are often dyed blue. However, researchers genetically modified roses to create blue ones in 2004! They named this new creation the Suntory rose. Google images of Suntory roses and you'll see lots of examples. Some look like a true blue but many look more violet to me. I saw a light violet rose in the Art in Bloom show, actually. I wonder if that was a Suntory?