When Morgan Howell Moylan was first assigned the sculpture “Daphne” as her inspiration for Art in Bloom, she was stumped.
The annual event challenges florists to craft massive arrangements based on pieces at the N.C. Museum of Art, and “Daphne” is, on the surface, a seemingly plain marble bust of a nymph found in Greek mythology.
“It’s all white, it’s marble, and you want to do something fun and interesting,” Moylan said.
But she learned more about the inspiration behind the sculpture, made by artist Harriet Hosmer in the mid-1800s, and where she could add her own color and flourishes.
“I learned the story of Daphne, who is shunning Apollo’s advances, and she has difficulty doing it, and she has to give up her beauty to become a laurel tree,” said Moylan, who owns West Queen Studio in Hillsborough. “So I’m giving a nod to the story and a nod to the artist.”
Her piece is one of 30 on view at the N.C. Museum of Art over the next two weekends — June 3-6 and June 10-13.
The event, which usually takes place during a weekend in March, was canceled in 2020, and was postponed from its initial 2021 date in April until June.
The ticketed event, which will require visitors to be masked and socially distanced, will include live music, food and shopping opportunities. There will also be virtual and in-person events for visitors to attend, ranging from virtual screenings of documentaries, as well as lunchtime floral demonstrations.
Range of art styles
Participating florists are randomly assigned works of art displayed in the museum’s East Wing via a lottery system and are given the chance to trade afterwards. The artwork ranges from Italian art of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance, to more modern and Impressionist styles.
“It’s one of the few events where you get to design for you,” Moylan said. “You get to decide how you want to interpret the art.”
Moylan chose to envision Daphne’s transformation into a laurel tree, and her work features a similar sculpture filled with vibrantly green flowers.
At a preview of the event Wednesday, she attached bleached fern to a green wire bust, which mimics the shape of “Daphne” behind her. Underneath the tiny white ferns, Green Trick Dianthus spilled across the pedestal, vibrantly representing the movement from art into nature.
Florists who would have participated in the 2020 event were invited to return this year and finally bring their work to life.
Margaret Knox, who is from Cary, was assigned “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Jacob Jordaens, which was painted in 1557. When she was first assigned the work in 2020 she immediately fell in love with the work.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to create that?’” Knox said.
“The Adoration of the Shepherds” places the viewer in Bethlehem on Christmas night, featuring the Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus as well as an angel bearing a scroll celebrating the Savior’s birth. Knox chose and arranged flowers to represent different elements of the painting.
“Some of them were Baroque style, and then certain flowers have a movement and a flow that depicts what I’m trying to depict with the painting,” Knox said.
Knox, who is a first-time participant at Art in Bloom, was forced to be flexible in her design after the 2020 Art in Bloom was canceled.
“It’s pretty much the same design, only the flowers are different,” she said.
Moylan, who generally gets her flowers shipped from Holland, was particularly challenged by the economic changes to the shipping industry in recent months.
“So, another part of Art in Bloom this year is learning to be flexible,” Moyland said. “We tell (organizers) two months ahead of time what will be on our pedestal, but this year we really couldn’t commit to that.”
Bringing art to life
Amateur florist Erica Winston also struggled with obtaining flowers, but she was able to produce a duo-designed work featuring two bouquets arranged back-to-back. Her work is inspired by the painting “Saint Jerome in His Study,” which is a Flemish work of the Antwerp School.
“I went to high school in Belgium, which is where this painter’s from, so I felt like an immediate connection,” said Winston, who now lives in Cary.
The painting is a depiction of Saint Jerome, posed in ecstasy in his study. It is particularly striking due to the three-dimensional nature of the background. The saint seems to have been an afterthought to the room, Winston said.
“He put more energy into painting that room,” Winston said. “If you look at that saint, you see how awkward his torso is. It’s my belief that he didn’t quite fit.”
Art in Bloom is primarily a fundraiser for the museum, and has been sponsored since 2014 by PNC Bank.
“This is a really fun event,” Moyland. “It raises a lot of money for the museum, and, for me, the exciting part about this event is that it appeals to gardeners, to people who love flowers, to kids.”
What: Art in Bloom
When: June 3-6, and June 10-13.
Where: North Carolina Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh.
Tickets: Single visit tickets – $18 for members, $20 for nonmembers. Free for children 6 and under. Two- week ticket bundles: $27 for members, and $30 for nonmembers.
Info: ncartmuseum.org/bloom or 919-715-5923