When Arranging Flowers, Think About Ice. Seriously.

RECENTLY, I TOURED Magazzino Italian Art, a new exhibition space in Cold Spring, N.Y., where a permanent show honors Italy’s Arte Povera movement. The practitioners of “Poor Art,” which peaked circa 1970, rejected the commercialization of art and used unconventional, banal materials. Copper, lead, ice and a refrigerator motor, for example, play into 1989’s ”Senza titolo (Omaggio a Fontana),” the work that inspired this month’s flower arrangement. Created by Pier Paolo Calzolari (b. 1943 in Bologna), the pointedly ephemeral piece is largely about ice melting and water dripping into a shallow basin on the floor.

Back in my studio, with the photographer patiently waiting for me to produce something, I found that few of my selections from the flower market worked. As I anxiously looked out my window, I realized that most of what I needed grew in my own garden. Eucalyptus had the icy blue dotted look of the frozen vertical piece. Fading hydrangea paniculata, with its whites and pinks, mimicked the subtle glowing tones in the center of Mr. Calzolari’s piece. White scabiosa, a flower I did purchase, added another texture, and finally a few sharp blades of little bluestem ‘The Blues,’ an ornamental grass, reflected the chilly, hard materials and essence of the work. A favorite vessel by ceramist Christine Roland grounded everything and nodded to Arte Povera’s use of simple materials. With little thought, I arranged my ingredients into an upright, intentionally stiff bouquet. As always, I cut the stems to various lengths to give the shape movement, echoing the ever-changing nature of Mr. Calzolari’s work.

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