Personal expressions bloom at the Agnes

Local artists interpret gallery pieces with personal flower arrangements  

Supplied by Janis Grant

Spring took over at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre with a special exhibit entitled Art In Bloom of floral arrangements interpreting pieces in the gallery’s collection.

From May 13 to 15, 16 artists were chosen as “interpreters” and tasked to create a response to a piece of artwork, using flowers as a medium.  

Preceding the public exhibition, the interpreters created their pieces on site at the Agnes. The opening gala event allowed the interpreters to engage attendees with their floral arrangements and the stories behind them.  

The intent of the project was for the artists to make a personal connection to the gallery works, Katie Allen, organizer of the Agnes In Bloom Committee, said. The exhibit was not merely an exercise in substantive analysis of the original artwork, but rather an opportunity for each interpreter to draw upon their lived experiences and generate a response that was entirely their own.  

One such interpretation by Janus Belanger of Jacob van Oost the Elder’s painting of his son — Portrait of Jacob van Oost the Younger in a Gorget and a Fur Hat (1655) — drew on Belanger’s own experience of having a nephew recovering from an accident.

Belanger’s arrangement combined elements of vivid greenery with muted tones to illustrate the darkness and light felt during a process of recovery. Another interpreter, Wendy Cain, used a simple arrangement of thin black branches and yellow roses, mirroring the colours in the original work, to represent Mary Rawlyk’s triptych of prints, entitled Sewing (1975).  

“Making something pared down and simple is often more difficult than creating something elaborate,” Cain said, speaking of the balance artists try to strike in their work. 

Cain’s minimalist response to the prints effectively echoed the delicate detailing and negative space that made the original work so significant. 

Her interpretation went on to win the Art in Bloom People’s Choice award, chosen from ballots cast by exhibit visitors. 

Wendy Cain’s floral interpretation of Mary Rawlyk’s triptych of prints, entitled Sewing. Supplied by Janis Grant. 

The other interpreted works were, selected from a variety of styles and genres, including two other Mary Rawlyk works, Wringing Shirt (1974) and Brushing Hair (1978), among others from varying years.

The fundraising gala to mark the opening of Art in Bloom supported ArtZone and Agnes Connects, two of the Agnes’ community involvement programs. 

ArtZone is a youth outreach program venture that supplies a space for teens ages 14-18 to pursue creative work, while Agnes Connects is an initiative to engage new members of the Kingston community with the gallery.  

Allen Grant, the Agnes’ community liaison facilitator, spoke to what the Art In Bloom exhibit meant for the expansion of the gallery’s commitment to the public. 

“Community engagement was half of Agnes’ vision when it came to her collection and her house,” Grant said. “This is the kind of thing that the Agnes should be doing more of and will be doing more of.”  

The Art In Bloom exhibit serves as an effective catalyst for these goals to come to fruition. Not only did it directly draw upon community members to be official interpreters, but it encouraged viewers to be unofficial interpreters of both layers of work — the original masterpiece and the floral arrangement.  

Art In Bloom’s creative combination of original work, personal stories and community outreach offered an enthusiastic opportunity to engage with the arts. 

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