Avant Garden: This Weekend, See Stunning Floral Designs Inspired by Art (Plus, a Feature Film!)

Photo by Ryan Benoit

“I love moss. I love birch. My origins are Russian, so it just makes me happy, makes me feel like I’m back in my childhood, playing in the forest,” says NYC-based floral designer Bella Meyer, who is in California this week to create a show-stopping botanical display inside the rotunda of the San Diego Museum of Art.

The plant-centric occasion? Art Alive 2013, the exhibition that pairs 103 floral designs with famous works of art. It’s open to the public from this Friday, April 26 through Sunday, April 28. (That’s right, even the event itself is as ephemeral as a cherry blossom!) If last year’s footage — in which aeonium mingled with Van Dyck and protea echoed a Zulu headrest — is any indication, this is going to be a blossom bonanza.

Yesterday we caught up with Meyer for a sneak peak at her rotunda design in progress. We arrived just in time to watch her place a sprig of white baby’s breath into the hand of an angel made of moss while standing atop a scissor lift 15 feet in the air.

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Floral designer Bella Meyer (right) received her PhD in Medieval Art History from the Sorbonne.

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Meyer gives her moss angel a snowy bouquet of gypsophila.

“I wanted to celebrate and create a meeting between the Northeast of America and the Southwest flora from here,” says Meyer, who was born in Paris and raised in Switzerland. The granddaughter of landmark Russian artist Marc Chagall, Bella is also the founder of Greenwich Village-based Fleurs Bella. “I also decided to make it more mysterious — that’s why an angel is flying down from the height of the rotunda and blessing everything. The angel is made of moss, something very particular to the north.”

When the rotunda is complete, you’ll find an abundance of Southern California vegetation represented in the dramatic heaven-and-earth colors: from the blues of delphinium to the greens of palms, eucalyptus and succulents to the whites of jasmine and Carlsbad ranunculus. (Also expect to encounter some Nordic birch.)

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The plants to be installed in the rotunda will include palms, eucalyptus, jasmine, succulents, wisteria, hydrangea, orange trees and white roses.

“The fact that people get to discover art through this event is amazing,” Meyer says. “Bringing art together with expressing [oneself] through flowers is a beautiful, beautiful idea.”

“I hope everyone who comes in, whether they’re young or old, will have a moment of joy and a moment of wonderment,” Meyer says. “Flowers represent a kind of mysterious spirituality in nature. Not that they’re trying to — flowers are what they are. But art is what comes closest to the mystery and beauty of flowers.”

Art Alive, which is in its 32nd year, kicks off this Thursday with a VIP dinner. On Friday, the show opens to the public during the day; afterward, there’s an opening celebration followed by the tantalizingly-named afterparty Flowers After Hours. (Tix are still available!) Extended public hours on Saturday and Sunday will be augmented with DIY activities, a floral class, jewelry trunk shows and a screening of one of the most famous plant-themed films ever.Not in the area? Not to worry. On Friday we’ll be rockin’ till the wee hours with the ranunculus, so stay tuned for our recap early next week!


Art Alive
 at the San Diego Museum of Art; open to the public Friday, April 26 through Sunday, April 28.