A palette made of flowers
A Connecticut artist creates floral collages, he calls 'fleurage,' that change with the season.
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It sits on the edge of wetlands, ringed with stone walls and walkways and terraces that burst with thousands of flowers, an almost madcap explosion of colors and shapes.
This is the home of Harry White, an exuberant artist who explains, "I've grown my own palette."
White uses real flowers in his art, an intricate form of collage he calls "fleurage." It's a far cry from dainty pressed flowers. His collages swirl with energetic colors and forceful imagery, such as the spectacular piece above his piano titled, "Full Moon: The Emperor's Robe."
What makes Mr. White's artwork so intriguing is that it isn't static. Like the sculptures of British artist Andy Goldsworthy, White's collages change over time.
"I'm going to shock you," he says, showing a photograph of "Full Moon" when he first completed it.
The colors have changed dramatically. A brilliant fiesta red has mellowed into a tawny beige.
"It's not that the original color is better," says White. "It's different. It's evolved. We're in a culture that simply can't handle that we age. I'm telling them: Age well."
White says he knows which colors will hold their own over time – such as the blues of his beloved delphiniums, the very permanent orange of a clementine peel and the "best" white, which is the skin around a bulb of garlic – and which colors are likely to fade. Sometimes he intentionally chooses petals because they will fade.
"After 35 years, I know what's going to happen," he says.
White, who grew up in Niantic and majored in interior design, specializing in fabric design, works as a personal florist and garden consultant. He also worked for a while creating window displays for a Boston jewelry store. That's evident in the design of the shelves in the kitchen of his cottage, which he has lighted and backed in fabric.
"The first thing you decorate with in a house is the light. Then the rugs. Then whatever you can fish out of the trash," he says.
White isn't kidding. A workbench that he found rotting in a field is now a handsome buffet in his dining room.
White's sense of humor also comes through in his collages. The background in one of his pieces is spinach: "Isn't that a riot?"
Another series of works is based on manhole covers he saw in a sidewalk. In another, he artfully weaves in an elastic remnant of an underwear waistband. And in an early piece, he used the tobacco from a cigarette butt he found in the gutter, a detail that he says entranced Eleanor Saidenberg, an early US. collector of Picasso's work, who encouraged him.