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Icy blooms: In the depths of winter, gallery pairs original art with floral arrangements



Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2015
Ugh, January.

It’s a month that’s hard to like, try as one may. It’s cold. The holidays are over. And that snow is not going to shovel itself. But just around the corner, it’s spring. And not just in the figurative sense.

Just around the corner, spring is in full swing at McGowen Fine Art this weekend, with its annual Art in Bloom exhibit, pairing an eclectic mix of regional artwork with the floral stylings of professional and amateur floral designers.

“Nothing is going on in January,” said Sarah Chaffee, co-owner and director of McGowan Fine Art Gallery. “It’s so gray and everyone’s in the doldrums of winter. Who doesn’t want to see flowers in January?”

The event sprang from that very idea 12 years ago when the Concord Garden Club first approached Chaffee about hosting an exhibit. The idea was since January is kind of a lull for everyone, including local florists who supply the flowers and plants, what a great time to connect the two art forms and give the people something gorgeous to look at. It’s been a local staple ever since.

Chaffee said one of the highlights for her is to see what the designers come up with when it comes to interpreting the art she chooses. Unlike other exhibits, Chaffee doesn’t use the work of just one artist or one style for this show. Instead, she said, she tries to pick as wide a variety as possible to allow the designers’ imaginations to run wild.

“I tried to pick a broad array of pieces for them to interpret and inspire,” Chaffee said. “I chose everything from abstract to representational and landscape to bold colors to muted colors to zero colors. It’s a mixed show.”

One of the more innovative pieces this year is based on a work by Concord artist Kristin Selesnick. To create her piece, entitled “Into the Night Series,” Selesnick attached a video camera to her car dashboard and filmed herself driving into Boston. From the film she chose 15 frames to re-create in a small painting. Those paintings were then hung together. The trick for Gail Barbara, the floral designer who chose this piece, was not only to encapsulate the feel of all 15 paintings, but to navigate a dodgy space.

“It’s hung over a tiny landing and a railing going down stairs,” Chaffee said. “She ended up with a really fun, inventive interpretation.”

Barbara ended up wrapping the railing in a mix of holly and branches that she decorated with toy cars to create the look and feel of a highway. At the top of the railing, she placed a potted white orchid plant, which Chaffee said perfectly resembles the orbs of headlights Selesnick painted in her street scenes.

“It’s just beautiful,” said Judy Matthews, co-chairwoman of Art in Bloom for the Concord Garden Club. “It’s just mind-boggling to me what people are going to do (with these arrangements).”

Taking a different tack, Lori Owen and Louise Spence designed a floral piece that offered a cozy habitat for the black-and-white pen drawing, “American Bittern” by Adelaide Murphy Tyrol.

Chaffee said the ladies attempted to reflect not only the swamp where the bittern lives by using wreaths and rushes, but the stark aesthetic of the piece itself with clear vases and white pedestals.

Matthews and Chaffee both said this event is the garden club and McGowan’s way of giving back to the community.

“I’m not making any money on it; it’s free and open to the public,” Chaffee said. “It’s just a really fun event that people look forward to, and I’m really glad we can do it for them.”

The show opens tonight and closes Saturday at 2 p.m. There will be an opening reception tonight from 5:30 to 7:30. McGowan Fine Art is located at 10 Hills Ave.

For information, contact Marissa Rattee at 225-2515, email gallery@mcgowan
fineart.com, or visit the website at mcgowanfineart.com. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment.