Friday, July 01, 2011

Measured in Roses


(Skins of atlantic surf clams
Heide Hatry; Spisulae solidissimae tonsae rubrae
(Skins of Atlantic surf clams)
Mimosa, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea. The language of love. The language of sex. Of unfolding petals, of pistons and stamens and pollination. The language of life. Of beauty and art, of birth and death. Plant 12 inches apart. At least six hours of direct sun. Water regularly. Good drainage. Life can be measured in flowers. First marriage, Freesia. I once lived with a woman who was like one of those rare species that produces a single bloom in a year. Felt like an eternity! I learned that I like a woman who shows up everyday, like a pot of Geraniums! And I married her!

Shaker Heights. I was three and looking from the window of my baby blue bedroom. Steven our handyman’s bloodied body lay in the Hydrangea bushes down below as figures cut towards him across the lawn. A ruby red flashed and whirled in the failing light. At seven I was walking barefoot down a stoney road on the cliff of a Greek island with an Easter Lily in my hand and three small and ancient women in black crossed themselves as we passed. My mother explained that it was the flower of death. Waxy and almost fake in its perfection, I never thought of it as a flower again. More a trumpet of doom. At ten I sat with the Azaleas on the Spanish Steps while my mother cashed an alimony check at the American Express. We lived nearby on Via Margutta. The Oleander’s had flowers like little helicopters and my sister and I would launch them from our terrace.

Cut flowers. Roses. Cut the stems at an angle under water. Immerse them in cold water over night and they will last forever. Some people put them in their refrigerator when they go to bed. Same thing. They look good at every phase. From small and closed to past their glory and dried up. We had apricot colored ones above our bed when Stacey’s water broke at three in the morning. She did not scream “911!” but called the midwife and got out a shower curtain and placed it on our bed. I washed my hands about five times. The midwife never showed. Little Ecco was born quietly while her three brothers slept in their rooms. I always have plenty of cut flowers. My one vice. I’ve tried growing roses for cutting but can’t take them from the bush.

When I was a young painter in New York I would regularly buy a half dozen or so roses from the buckets of street vendors and deliver them individually to my favorite people and girlfriends. It is an amazing thing to see someone’s face light up on the other end of a rose. I let them think they were the only ones. A harmless lie I thought at the time but my conscience told me otherwise. The language of deception. Title of first solo show in New York: Flowerheads.

Outside my living room window a Witch Hazel bush lives a mostly uneventful year. Then, as early as February, when color is all but forgotten and I have lost every hope that winter won’t last forever, it performs its brave magic: an amazing feat of delicate yellow blossoms that announce that commencement is at hand. Then Pansies and Primrose show up at nurseries and impatiently start the spring; they stand up to the snow and cold when the change of season is stubborn. Then the wait for Crocuses, Daffodils and Tulips begins. Forsythia! I’m pretty sure I could live inside the blossom of a Silver Magnolia. Lilacs make me savor their moment every year. Dogwoods are synonymous with deer and bring me peace.

Impatiens work their butts off in the shade all summer and build a dome of blossoms well into the fall. Petunias cascade their velvet trumpets. Begonias are as varied as cuttlefish. Geraniums can stand the heat and go for a long time without water. Electric against the green. Cut them down and take them inside for the winter. There are no pedestrian flowers. Every flower is special, every flower awaits us. Weeds flower beautifully. Wild flowers are free. Even the dreaded Garlic Mustard looks quite charming.

When I don’t feel well I see my garden inside myself and let the sun shine on it. I breathe it all in. The bees and the rabbits and the birds and butterflies join the Day Lilies and Delphinium and other flowers, and I feel better. Works every time. Flowers are the language of color. Having a flower garden is a vital luxury that strikes many people as a waste of space and water. Why not vegetables instead? With my gardens I can make paintings with living plants. Blues, yellows, oranges, reds, and violets; infinite color abounds. The energy of each feeds whatever that is inside me, be it soul and/or spirit. After my mother died, Stacey and I spread some of her ashes at the base of a Bougainvillea high up overlooking a bay on the island of St. Lucia. Her kind of flower, her kind of place.

Daisies and Black-eyed Susans bring me down to earth; they are so conversant in the language of sunshine. Morning Glories are just that. But go indoors and Japanese Peace Lilies are as advertised. Christmas Cactus gift us winter cheer. Paper Whites do the same and bring a thick perfume. They all sing to us. Sun Flowers, Orchids, Violets, Iris, Bleeding Hearts, Peonies! I love Peonies! So many kinds of flowers, all over the world, every day of the year!

I don’t do community work anymore.  What I do instead is plant flowers by the road for people who walk or bike or drive by. It is what I give. The cause-minded friends I have laugh. They say Addison thinks flowers make a difference. 


Addison Parks
Spring Hill 2011


Measured In Roses was written in 2011 for Heide Hatry's book, Not A Rose, published by Charta in 2012, and launched at MoMA PS1 in 2013. 

Posing as a coffee-table book of flowers, Heide Hatry's Not a Rose turns the genre inside out with her realistic "flowers" created from the offal, genitalia and other parts of animals. Text contributions by 101 prominent intellectuals, writers and artists examine "the question of the flower" from a multiplicity of perspectives. Contributors include Giovanni Aloi, Jonathan Ames, Stephen T. Asma, John Baxter, Claudia Benthien, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lou Boxer, Rudolph Borchardt, Virginia Braun, Kiene Brillenburg, Bazon Brook, Mary Caponegro, Mary Cappello, Dennis Choi, Steve Connor, Paul Craddock, Brenda Coultas, Karen Duve, Joanna Ebenstein, Ron Flemming, Jonathan Safran Foer, Peter Frank, Martin Gessmann, Bennett Gilbert, Thyrza Goodeve, Jonas Gretlein, Anthony Haden-Guest, Jessica Hagedorn, Donna Haraway, Glenn Harper, Laura Hatry, George Holton, Siri Hustvedt, Christine Isherwood, Meredith Jones, Paul Manfred Kaestner, Gavin Keeney, Robert Kelly, Richard Kostelanetz, Paula Lee, Lucy Lippard, Fiona Maazel, Alex Mackintosh, Richard Macksey, Charlotte Mandell, Wythe Marschall, JW McCormack, Askold Melnyczuk, Selena Millares, William Ian Miller, Lydia Millet, Kate Millett, Richard Milner, Svetlana Mintcheva, Hannah Monyer, Rick Moody, Glenn Most, Alexander Nagel, Addison Parks, Jennifer Peters, Donald Pfister, Steven Pinker, Liedeke Plate, George Quasha, Christopher Reiger, Avital Ronell, Stanley Rosen, Selah Saterstrom, Volker Schill, Thomas Schnalke, Jennifer Seaman Cook, Philip Selenko, Robert Shuster, Joel Simpson, Peter Singer, Justin E.H. Smith, Iris Smyles, Jennifer Steil, Lisa Paul Streitfeld, Joe Summer, Lisa Summer, Klaus Theweleit, Luisa Valenzuela, Dan Wechsler, Jim Woodburn, John Wronoski and Franz Wright.

RECENT PRESS for Not a Rose:


- ARTEALLIMITE
- MoMA PS1

EXHIBITIONS:
HEIDE HATRY, NOT A ROSE: at  STUX Gallery (530 W 25th St. New York) May 23 - June 22, 2013.
SKIN TRADE curated by Martha Wilson and Larry List at  P.P.O.W. Gallery (535 W 22th St. New York).  June 27 - JULY 27, 2013.
MYKONOS BIENNALE: Mykonos (Greece)  June 21 - June 24, 2013.






2 comments:

Anonymous said...

National Book Award winner Julia Glass wrote "your piece about flowers in the Heide Hatry book is gorgeous in every way--so evocative, so moving, so TRUE...it is an amazing book for sure and you shine."

Anonymous said...

I thought your piece was epic in the way you poured your whole life into it, and you used your relationship to flowers to define it. It is bigger and more meaningful since it is about a life lived with lovers and family and the simple pleasures and patience one has to have with flowers and people and how flowers are for sharing. I am happy you just let flowers be and did not distort them. Your life has shown respect and appreciation for the simple and deep pleasures of being a son, lover, husband , dad. I like that about you.

Martin Mugar