When Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work is a source of inspiration for floral design, you know you’re in for a treat. “Glass to Garden: Tiffany Inspired Floral Designs” is an unexpected exhibition that brings together historic Tiffany masterpieces (lamps, vases and other objects) from Richard H. Driehaus’ private collection with contemporary floral installations created by four local floral designers and thoughtfully curated by Elizabeth Cronin, founder and creative director of Asrai Garden.
Angelica Rivera Varela from Semillas Plant Studio, John Caleb Pendleton from Planks & Pistils, Taylor Amilas Bates from Dusk Lily Floral and Serena Madrigal from Espinas—a diverse group of emerging designers who looked into their own backgrounds for inspiration as well—have transformed the Nickerson Mansion, a restored Gilded Age home, into an enchanted forest. Room by room, the installations pitch the viewer into a rabbit hole of color and texture, preserved florals and weirdly amazing materials. “Nature was Tiffany’s muse,” says executive director Lisa M. Key. “And so we’re having a bit of fun with this idea in ‘Glass to Garden.’ Contemporary floral artists—who work directly with nature—are letting Tiffany be their muse,” she says, excited to reestablish the link between classic pieces and the natural elements that originally inspired them.
From a curator’s perspective, Cronin talks about florals as an art form, the importance of creating a dialogue between historical opulence and modern botanical artistry, and the impact of an exhibition set to redefine how we perceive and appreciate timeless works of all shapes and sizes.
The exhibition brings together historic Tiffany pieces with contemporary floral installations. Where do you see the synergy between the two? What challenges did you face in ensuring a harmonious blend?
I think the synergy came from the spectacular use of color Tiffany is known for—it’s an artist’s dream to have such incredible pieces as inspiration. The challenges for each came from striking the balance between inspiration and individuality. It’s all so subjective and as the first museum show on this scale for each of them, remembering to take their own style, this opportunity and the Tiffany pieces, was a challenge. Often, when you get your first larger installation you have been thinking and dreaming of that moment for so long that you have big ideas and to have parameters put on those can be hard.
Tell me about the process of choosing the four local floral designers for this exhibition and your collaboration with them. How did their unique backgrounds shape the final design outcomes?
These florists are in the early stages of their careers and businesses but have already made a big impact. I have been following their paths and watching with excitement and knew instantly who I wanted to work with. We had multiple ideation sessions, workshopped and problem-solved together along the way. They have done such a beautiful job of weaving their background, personal style, life and culture reflected throughout.
In what ways does the use of preserved floral and plant material in the installations contribute to the overall theme and experience of the exhibition?
I love to think of this as an introduction to a newer type of floral material for most folks, assuming many have not seen preserved florals before or have never seen them used in this way.
What impact do you hope this exhibition, merging modern floral designs with Tiffany’s historic pieces, will have on the viewers’ understanding and appreciation of both art forms?
The number-one thing I hope that people begin to think about when visiting this exhibition is that florals are an art form and florists are artists. Their work belongs in museums yet has often been treated as a craft or hobby by the public. It is time they are given the respect and admiration they deserve.
“Glass to Garden: Tiffany Inspired Floral Designs” is on view at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 40 East Erie, through January 7.
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