January 24, 2018 – March 16, 2018
During the First World War, Canadian soldier George Stephen Cantlie picked flowers from the fields and gardens of war-torn Europe and sent them home to his baby daughter Celia in Montreal so she would remember him in the event he did not make it home from that terrible conflict. One hundred years later, his touching ritual has provided the inspiration for WAR Flowers – A Touring Art Exhibition.
WAR Flowers is an innovative multi-sensorial experience that examines human nature in the landscape of war through artistic representations, combining Cantlie’s actual letters and pressed flowers with original scents and crystal sculptures specifically created for this exhibition, along with portraits of ten Canadians involved in the First World War.
The exhibition — developed by filmmaker and curator Viveka Melki and presented by Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens (Alexander Reford, director) in Grand-Métis, Quebec — is built around Cantlie’s century-old preserved blooms. Melki has reinterpreted these through floriography, a Victorian method of communicating meaning and emotion through flowers.
WAR Flowers consists of ten stations, each showcasing a variety of flower picked by Cantlie. The stations represent individual attributes associated with the exhibition’s ten themes, and reflect Melki’s beliefs about war and human nature. Each station also highlights a Canadian (including John McCrae, Georges Vanier, Elsie Reford and A.Y. Jackson) who embodies these attributes, and features his or her personal experiences of the First World War. Creatively integrated into the exhibition are ten specially commissioned optical crystal sculptures by Toronto artist Mark Raynes Roberts and ten original scents developed by Magog, Quebec perfumer Alexandra Bachand.
WAR Flowers: A Touring Art Exhibition is produced by Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens and made possible with a grant from the Museums Assistance Program – Access to Heritage of Canadian Heritage, and private support from foundations and individual donors.