Picture two silverback gorillas engaged in a tense face-off, a sweet goldfinch flitting along a branch covered with apple blossoms, a polar bear plunging into the icy blue sea, a barn owl winging into silent flight. Now picture them accompanied by a floral arrangement interpreting the action.
That's the point at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky's 13th annual Art in Bloom exhibition and events this weekend.
About 50 bright, fresh flower arrangements are each partnered with paintings and sculpture from the museum's permanent collection and the Art and the Animal traveling exhibit from the Society of Animal Artists.
A cadre of volunteer floral designers, some well-seasoned professionals and others new to the experience, share their imagination and vision for each work of art, allowing visitors to experience the creative process through a new pair of eyes and to share a few different perspectives.
Event chair and longtime arts advocate Ellen Karpf says she chose Lexington as a place to live in part because of the lively performing and visual art scene.
"I love museums and music," she says, "but we can find art everywhere, from plantings in a garden to colorful labels on grocery store shelves. It permeates our lives, enhances our children's education and our community values. It even makes a difference in how Lexington appeals to individuals and businesses thinking of locating here."
Art in Bloom, which has grown each year, helps us to envision the art all around us. Karpf notes, however, that "now is a difficult time for the arts, with cuts in grants and funding, so it's important for the public to support these endeavors."
Not only are there opportunities to stroll through the exhibits, but there is a black-tie gala Friday and a cocktail reception with a silent auction Saturday.
At least half of the floral designers have chosen to work with pieces from the Art and the Animal exhibit.
Phillip Ritz, a professional designer for Kreations by Karen, chose a piece titled Silent Lift Off by Tom Altenburg. It portrays a barn owl, wide-winged at the moment of lift-off. Ritz plans to expand the scene with a barn wood setting and perhaps a nest.
Debra Booker of Lexington has enjoyed participating in Art in Bloom for a few years because it's personally rewarding, she says. This year, she has made an arrangement based on Cynthie Fisher's Polar Plunge, an oil painting of a massive polar bear diving into deep blue water. For her floral arrangement, she plans a vase packed with ice-cube shapes, a grouping of white lilies, and perhaps some bear grass.
Many of the floral designers are local, including John Michler and his daughter, Jessamine, of Michler's Florist, Greenhouses and Landscape Design. John Michler plans to consult with his mother, Jean Michler, who created fantastic cascading bridal bouquets and arrangements for weddings for more than 30 years. "She's my secret weapon," he says.
Participants from other counties were encouraged to join the process by floral design coordinator Bonnie Tanner; her plan resulted in 12 members from the Garden Club of Kentucky signing up.
Katherine Arnold from the Garden Club of Danville is preparing an arrangement to accompany Francis Edward Sweet's portrait of gorillas in The Confrontation. Her club not only had its own local Art in Bloom program this month, but its participation has influenced a middle school class from Burgin Independent Schools to visit the museum's exhibit, integrating the experience into their curriculum.
This year's signature artist is Lexington painter Ann Rutherford Pass, who created a still life titled Hydrangeas With Musk Melon just for Art in Bloom. The rich colors of the impressionistic palette caught the eye of experienced floral designer Ann Roughton, who re-created the painting as a floral arrangement.
Roughton's accompanying artist statement is a great summary for the pleasure to be found at Art in Bloom. She says, "It's just simply a feast for the eyes."
IF YOU GO
Art in Bloom
When: Feb. 22-24
Where: The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, inside Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.
Learn more: (859) 257-5716, Uky.edu/artmuseum
Floral designs on view. Noon-5 p.m. Feb. 22-24. $5; free for students and UK faculty, staff and alumni.
An Evening of Elegance black-tie gala. 7 p.m. Feb. 22. Cocktails, sponsors' dinner and live auction. Black-tie attire. Sponsorship packages $500-$10,000.
A Night on the Town cocktail reception. 7:30-10:30 p.m. Feb. 23. Cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and silent auction. Cocktail attire. $100, $75 for "under 40 crowd."
Artists demonstrations. 2-4 p.m. Feb. 24. With Mary Neely, Cate Wagoner, Kelly Brewer and Ann Rutherford Pass. Included with exhibit admission.
Susan Smith-Durisek is a writer from Lexington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: Gardening.bloginky.com.