Les Jardins de Métis / Reford Gardens Presents an Innovative Exhibition that Illuminates Aspects of Human Nature in the Landscape of War
“WAR Flowers” Will Subsequently Travel to Ottawa, Toronto, Vimy and Montreal
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(Grand-Métis, Quebec, June 6, 2017) – Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens, Quebec, is pleased to present and premiere the new and boldly innovative show WAR Flowers: A Touring Art Exhibition.
Curated by Viveka Melki, “WAR Flowers” opened June 3 and will continue at Reford Gardens through September 30, 2017, then travel to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa (October-December 2017); Campbell House Museum in Toronto (January-March 2018); the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France (April-June 2018); and Château Ramezay – Historic Site and Museum in Montreal (September 2018-March 2019).
The “WAR Flowers” exhibition reflects curator Melki’s vision about the effects of war on all who experience it personally, providing visitors with a unique, immersive experience centred around Melki’s intense personal belief in the resilience of the human spirit. The exhibition examines human nature in wartime through a series of artistic representations, multi-sensorial experiences, and portraits of ten Canadians directly involved in the First World War.
“WAR Flowers” is inspired by the pressed flowers picked by soldier George Stephen Cantlie in the gardens, fields and hedges of war-torn Europe and sent home to Montreal to his baby daughter, « wee Celia », as he called her. Melki presents ten of these century-old flowers using floriography, a Victorian method of communicating meaning and emotion through flowers, to tell the story of human nature in the landscape of war. Each flower represents emotions associated with such attributes as “devotion”, “solitude”, “familial love”, “grace”, “innocence”, “memory” and others.
As conceived by Melki, the exhibition is comprised of ten stations, representing ten of the curator’s core beliefs about the nature of war. Each station showcases a different flower picked by Cantlie and draws on his wartime letters, exhibited here for the first time.
The ten stations are centred on a Canadian of the Great War era who exemplified these characteristics through their personal story: John McCrae, Georges Vanier, Elsie Reford, Jean Brillant, Talbot Papineau, A.Y. Jackson, Percival Molson, Julia Drummond, Edward Savage and George Stephen Cantlie. The links to these individuals provide diverse perspectives on the Canadian contribution to the war effort.
For each station, optical crystal sculptures created by award-winning Toronto-based artist Mark Raynes Roberts portray scenes that illustrate different aspects of human nature, while scents at each station developed by Magog, Quebec, olfactory specialist and perfumer Alexandra Bachand evoke memory.
The “WAR Flowers” creative team assembled by Melki also includes Céline Arseneault who, with over three decades of experience as the librarian of the Montréal Botanical Garden, has overseen the conservation of the fragile 100 year-old flowers, and Normand Dumont, the exhibition’s designer, who has transformed the creative vision of the curator into a unique sensory experience for visitors to each of the venues exhibiting the show.
Complementing the exhibition is the dedicated website www.warflowers.ca, featuring profiles of the artists who created the elements of the show and offering behind-the-scenes access to the design process.
Alexander Reford, director of Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens, said, “WAR Flowers” is a unique exhibition, bold in its creativity and presenting new and unique ways to tell our history. The gardens are honoured to commemorate the centenary of the war, a war that did so much to shape Canada and Canadians.”
“WAR Flowers” curator Viveka Melki designed the exhibition not only from her previous work with history in film, but from her ability to recognize the human characteristics that attach us to a story. Her work shows an intimate understanding of human nature. “The focus of the exhibition is to leave an indelible memory for those who pass through its narrative,” she said.
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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 the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the Drummond Foundation, the Hay Foundation, the Jackman Foundation, the Montreal Council of Women, the Molson Foundation, the St. Andrew’s Society of Montreal, the WCPD Foundation, the Zeller Family Foundation and many individual donors.
About Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens
A National Historic Site and Québec heritage site, the Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens is an obligatory stop for all those visiting eastern Québec. Cultural attraction and tourist destination for 55 years, the Reford Gardens is one of the most popular attractions in the Gaspésie region, providing visitors with experiences for every sense. Located on the banks of the St. Lawrence and Mitis rivers, it is considered one of the great gardens of North America, created between 1926 and 1958 by avid gardener and plant collector, Elsie Reford. Hydro-Québec has been the lead sponsor of the Reford Gardens since 1999. The Reford Gardens is open every day from Saturday, June 3 to Sunday, October 8, 2017. Children 13 and under are admitted free of charge. Consult www.refordgardens.com for more information.