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For museum show, designers use plants to reinterpret art

Can't wait for spring to arrive? You can experience a sneak preview of the splash of colors, earthy comforts and even the fresh scent of greenery and flowers at the ninth annual Art in Bloom showcase at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky.

"Interpreting painting through flowers is such a rewarding and creative process that participation just keeps growing," says Versailles artist Judy Wells, honorary chair of this year's event.

Fifty-five designers, professional and amateur, will create arrangements that reflect elements in artwork from the museum's permanent collection and the exhibition Jasper Johns and Robert Motherwell: Poetic Works as Metaphor.

Art in Bloom offers a way to envision art and design from various perspectives: your own, the floral designer's and the artist's, and to discover the ways the features are carried through to unify the interpretations.

Participants were invited to tour the museum and submit a prioritized list of art works they'd like to use. Then they were assigned pieces to interpret, many of which came from the exhibit of abstract expressionist works by Johns and Motherwell.

This is Laurie Fields' first year at Art in Bloom. When veteran designer Gregory Hofelich mentioned the event to her at the opening of the Johns and Motherwell exhibit, she was immediately interested. Fields, in her third year as part of the UK landscape architecture faculty, instructs her students in recognizing how design elements work together.

"It is what I do with my students," she says. "Lots of observing and interpreting of new designs."

The piece she is interpreting is one of Johns' Casts, in which outlines of various segmented body parts, such as a foot and a torso, are combined with long, skewerlike lines. "The dynamic lines create an illusion of depth, and it's the armature and rhythm of overlapping lines that attracts the eye," Fields says. She has been building 3-D models at home, using long, slender sticks set at various angles in vases to erect fragile frameworks held together without glue. The final, airy structure will hold some sort of flowers or leaves to reflect the body-part casts.

Debra Booker, who has seven years of experience at Art in Bloom, chose a piece from the 1980s by Johns called Usuyuki, which employs a series of hatch marks over newsprint strips to portray a ground seen through the delicate curtain of a light snowfall.

"I do a lot of collage and journaling, so Usuyuki spoke to me because it's something that I would do," she said.

Booker, using an opportunity to create a mock-up for the show, was at the museum assembling pieces she had gathered: clear vases and river rock, pale blue and white flowers to mimic the creamy tones in the painting, pussy willow sticks to bring in the linear element of the cross- hatching, and strips and small bits of newsprint for the base to give the effect of fallen snow.

"It's nice to visit with people you know each year and interesting to see what they pick each time," says Booker, whose background includes decorative painting, teaching collage and founding the Lexington Healing Arts Academy on Southland Drive.

Each designer provides a written statement about his or her piece, which helps visitors understand the process.

This year's event also recognizes Anna Laura Codell as honorary artist for her support of the arts, especially in her native Winchester. Her still-life painting of a Chinese horse ornament and a vase of white calla lilies against a gold background graces this year's Art in Bloom poster. Now in her 80s, Codell has a degree in art education from Eastern Kentucky University and has been active in art all her life.

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