By Lisa Yapp
An exhibit called Album of Flowers/Interesting Times melds journalism with flowers at the Lyman-Allyn Museum in Connecticut.
Often newspapers are thrown out – but here the moment in history is preserved using flora and creating art simultaneously.
The “interesting times” in the exhibit’s title references the New York Times – the backdrop for each work.
Catherine Christiano chose 2016 as the year to chronicle these mash-ups of breaking news and bursting buds. Twelve months. Twelve paintings. It makes more sense when you see it!
As a refresher, here are some of the big stories from 2016 – it may explain why Christiano chose that particular year to commemorate in paint. It was the year of the contentious U.S. Presidential Election (Clinton-Trump), Russian hacking, the Olympian Ryan Lochte who lied, and the musician, David Bowie, who died among so much more.
It is touching how the artist always includes an obituary in each month’s painting which could be implying we bloom and then fade like everything in nature or for that matter… like yesterday’s news. It is all a reminder of the transience of life – the never changing, ever-changing cycle.
Each month showcases a plant or flower that thrives in that month whether it be Witch Hazel in February or multi-colored Peonies in June. Look at these blooms as they appear painted in 3-D – jumping off the newsprint like a banner headline.
But, why did Christiano, who holds an MBA in finance and has worked in engineering choose the news (of all things) to pair with flowers? Most people would assume breaking news and flowers would never intersect but she explains the juncture this way, “The series represents my experience navigating between society and nature,” she says. “With the news now a constant flow, I’ll check media websites several times a day. While painting, I listen to podcasts and the news. With what I’ve heard or read still in my mind, I may switch realms and head outdoors to where my garden of flowers offers respite from chaos”.
I’d love to ask Christiano why she chose to put the Times banner on the left-hand side of each painting. Maybe it’s because she’s looking at the news in a fresh way and the placement needed to be seen from a different perspective.
Yet flowers never seem to be amiss even when scattered. It is refreshing to see nature unchanged and bursting forth in comparison to the news which sometimes leaves me cold… blowing in the wind… like a wilted flower.
Sometimes, when hearing upsetting news the old adage, “Remember to take the time to smell the flowers” comes to mind. Seeing Album of Flowers/Interesting Times, I think the artist would agree and is giving us that gift.
If you are heading up to Connecticut anytime from now through November 6th, you may want to make a pit stop in New London at the Lyman- Allyn Museum, a quiet rather patrician place with a lovely columned entry and some very cool art. The museum is best known for showcasing the works of Connecticut artisan, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who went on to open a little jewelry store on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
At first, it was the finery of Tiffany that lured us to the museum yet in the end, it was the provocative work of Catherine Christiano, that lingered and inspired.
Lisa Yapp is a former CNN business producer and scriptwriter.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum 625 Williams Street, New London, CT 06320,
Album of Flower/Interesting Times through November 6, 2022