Krannert features floral art collection

By Erica Yuenger

When Judi Borah was asked to create a floral arrangement inspired by John McCracken’s “Mandula,” a screen print of colorful concentric circles, she wondered what she had gotten herself into.

“I always get pictures with trees or real-life scenes,” Borah said. “I said, ‘This time I don’t want a little old lady picture,’ so they gave me this one and I thought, ‘Holy smokes!'”

Borah’s interpretation of the artwork resulted in a display of vibrant orange, green, pink, blue and yellow flowers arranged in concentric circles layered with sheets of glass and transparent orange vases.

Borah, of Shelbyville, Ill., was one of 21 floral designers participating in this year’s 16th annual “Petals and Paintings” benefit at the Krannert Art Museum.

The benefit featured floral designers from throughout the state, as well as two from Michigan and two from Missouri.

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Rick Orr, owner of Rick Orr Florist in downtown Champaign for 24 years, was guest curator for the event.

He chose the floral designers who would participate as well as the works of art they would use as inspiration for their arrangements.

Orr said many floral designers he chose are members of the American Institute of Floral Designers, something he called a high honor.

Hundreds of locals and museum members turned out for the event to bid on local artists’ works and mingle over hors d’oeuvres and wine to the soft, upbeat music of local pianist Bill French. But mostly, they were there to enjoy the colorful, pungent petals inspired by the wide variety of artwork that makes up the permanent collection of the Krannert Art Museum.

“I think they are just outstanding – the best yet,” said Fran Welch of Champaign. “So colorful and so fragrant.”

Welch was taking notes on the works of art and their accompanying floral arrangements so she would be prepared to give tours on Saturday, when the exhibit was open to the public.

Nancy Morse of Urbana, another tour guide for the exhibit, said the museum started doing tours of the Petals and Paintings exhibit about ten years ago when they realized that the event often coincided with Mom’s Weekend.

Carly Cusack, freshman in LAS, brought her mom, Anne Cusack, to the Petals and Paintings exhibit on Saturday after reading about it on the Parents Association Web site.

“It is kind of quirky,” Anne Cusack said.

“It is not what we expected, but it is neat,” Carly Cusack said. “We would definitely come again next year.”

A favorite among the mothers was an arrangement by Robert Friese of Fruitport, Mich. Friese’s design was inspired by Paul Sierra’s “Day’s End,” a painting of a tropical landscape. Friese used elements with vibrant, tropical hues to recreate a floral jungle with plants and flowers on the museum floor and a tall palm tree with a trunk made of intertwined floral elements and decorative ribbon.

The floral arrangements added a new dimension to the artwork, fragrance.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Trees Gallery, where three floral designs emitted such pungent aromas that almost everyone in the gallery took a deep breath upon entering.

One of these arrangements was done by Christa Carroll, a student at Parkland College. Carroll had to interpret a painting by French impressionist Camille Pissarro. Her display included an arrangement of three ornate stone flower pots filled with peach and blue flowers, tones she said she picked up from the painting.

“It was a little bit hard because the painting is titled ‘A Winter Morning,'” Carroll said. “There are no flowers in the winter but I just went with it.”

Gail Gregor of Downers Grove, Ill., said she had a hard time interpreting her work of art as well. She said it was difficult to recreate an image that she had only seen on the Internet.

Her arrangement, based on Robert Rauschenberg’s “Sky Garden,” was a vertical display hanging from the ceiling of the museum.

She used bright reds, blues and purples mounted on the backs of spray-painted garage drain tiles, and used blinking lights in the flowers to recreate the effect of a rocket blasting off in the artwork.

Orr said the works of art the participants represented were chosen to provide them with a challenge.

“Florists have to be flexible every day with every order,” Orr said. “So they accepted the challenge.”