GLEN RIDGE, NJ — For the recent 10th annual Montclair Art Museum exhibit, “Art in Bloom,” selected local artists used flower arrangements to capture the essence of an artwork held by the museum. Glen Ridge floral designer Tova Garrett was asked to work from a sculpture by Cyrus Edwin Dallin named, “Appeal to the Great Spirit.”
This is a small bronze of a Native American on horseback with his head and eyes uplifted and his arms outstretched.
During the five day exhibit, the floral displays were placed near the works that inspired them. Unique among the arrangements, Narrett’s work did not use any flowers. She spoke recently about this decision saying she wanted to work with materials that Native Americans used for food or medicine.
“I went to the flower district in Manhattan,” she said in a telephone interview. “Everything looked so pretty. I wanted to use stems and branches.”
How Dallin rendered the figure’s body impressed her. “I was struck by the musculature, the strong limbs,” she said, “That is what I thought it was about.”
She intended to have twigs and branches express the strength of the figure. Her material was storm debris.
“I liked upstreaming it from all the storms,” she said. “There were mountains of it in the streets. So using what was around me was like the Native Americans being connected with life.”
The use of vines, she said, was meant to suggest the Native American arts of basketry and pottery and to evoke braided hair and feathers.
“A lot of the vines are twisted around and there’s this feeling of cascading,” she said. “Also, the branches are uplifted like the figure’s hands.”
For the information card near her display, Garrett wrote that she was struck by the luminous, earthy glow of the bronze. To capture this effect, she applied tiny brush strokes of paint to create a subtle patina.
But most significant to this reviewer was the use of material that would not wither or pale, but remain stout. With this, Garrett imbued her work with the timeless and monumental quality captured by Dallin’s “Appeal to the Great Spirit.”