Ikebana, otherwise known as “making flowers alive”, is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Originally serving as a floral offerings at altars, harvests, and traditional ceremonies, these intricate sculptures were meant to summon divine spirits. Ritualistic in nature and well-established in Buddhist culture, Ikebana remains an art marked by its dedication to tranquility and form itself.
The evolution of Ikebana asks the artist and viewer alike to reconsider the fundamentals of nature, shape, form, and texture. Only then are we able to reconstruct these elements in a modern environment. Practice Space’s exhibit New Ikebana portrays Helen Singh-Miller’s MassArt students’ interpretations of the ancient art form reimagined.
To begin the process, students were asked to collect pieces of nature taken from their surroundings. They were also asked to photograph their piece and its packaging. Our EIC, Sophie Lou Yarin, interviewed a few of the student artists on their processes:
Boston Hassle: Tell me about your process. How many iterations did you have before your piece achieved final form? Did you know what you wanted to convey before you started out or did inspiration come to you as you were working?
Emily Atanasoff: I began gathering nature consisting of unique textures, shapes and colors around the city of Providence, RI…. I came up with my Ikebana as I went along manipulating my gatherings and connecting them all to a clay base. However, I did keep my research on Ikebana close by, learning that Ikebana is more than color rather it focuses on shape, line and form. I would bend, cut, connect, and disarrange the natural state of nature and finally connect all the pieces together creating my final Ikebana piece.
BH: How did photography play a role in this project? When you took photos of your pieces, what were you intending to capture?
Samuel Sturznickel: I think the photography aspect of this assignment was just as important as the actual construction of the Ikebana. The documentation plays a huge role in how the viewers will perceive your piece. For my individual piece I was trying to capture the fragility and movement and how those two live together in my arrangement.
Terri Davis: I knew that with lighting and a controlled setting I could really push that dreamy look. During editing I brightened the highlights and heightened the haze. The final outcome of the photos is truly how I’d like the Ikebana to be shown.
BH: By your own discovery, how does Ikebana seek to communicate? What can a provocative piece tell the viewer, and by what means?
TD: The placement of plants, large to small, helps emphasize the importance of the taller pieces. The tall skinny branch serves as a high arch, a ruler among the others… There are endless stories to be told through the arrangement.
BH: What’s the most evocative experience you’ve had in nature? How did you bring your experience with the natural world into your piece?
TD: Growing up in the deep south of the United States, I was constantly surrounded by nature. All nature is beautiful in my eyes. For some unexplainable reason I was always drawn to mid-morning, with the sun just barely peaking through the trees teasing to rise above the tops. I think that’s why Morning Glow came to me so naturally. The feelings portrayed in this piece reflects how I feel about mid-morning time.
EA: I always remember looking at all the different flowers in the springtime, colorful leaves in the fall, and the organic shapes of the branches in the winter. My past experience of walking through nature taught me to look closely because you will start to notice beautiful textures of weeds and shapes of buds on trees.
As we continue to appreciate art nested in tradition and old-world poise, the New Ikebana exhibit pushes us to think beyond historical fantasies and into the present. Each of these pieces challenges our attention to detail; our ability to unveil consciousness from what’s directly in-front of us.
These wondrous and ethereal sculptures are part of MassArt’s Studio Foundation Visual Language course. Images of each student’s work and their credits lay below.
Student artists represented in the gallery:
Nature in Constraints
My Fifth Element
The Calm Before The Storm
Beauty of Death
Ana Flavia Rodrigues
Melvin Rosario Fernandez
Autumn in Varying Heights
THIS IS ALL THAT’S LEFT
Growing One Step At A Time
(Feature photo: “Beautiful Death” by Melvin Rosario)