New art installation at Norwest Gallery of Art uses floral design and nature as pathways to healing

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Healing doesn’t come with a how-to manual. It is a process without a time limit and as life goes on its axis, adaptation becomes our navigation system and we get by day in and day out. Historically, giving and receiving flowers has been a gesture of care and comfort for happy and sad occasions.

The vibratory energy and comfort that flowers provide in times of great loss are at the origin of a new artistic installation presented at the Norwest Gallery of Art in the Grandmont-Rosedale district. After fighting COVID-19 herself, after losing her mother to coronavirus and six months before losing her father, Asia Hamilton, owner and chief curator of the Norwest Gallery of Art, has turned to nature as a refuge.

Just as I felt so much grief in such a short time with two of the most important people in my life, I needed a place to heal. I couldn’t really be around people and I turned to nature and spent time with God to really uplift myself and give me the hope and peace I needed during this time. The flowers were my therapy, ”she says. “I went to a garden in Traverse City and they had rows and rows of lavender and fresh flowers. It was such a euphoric experience. All of my mood and energy changed and I wanted to do something like this in the gallery. I wanted people to experience it right here in Detroit.

Co-organized by Hamilton and Simone Bryant, FLOWER THERAPY is a limited exhibition that features immersive flower art installations designed by Jessica DeMuro; Joy Simon from Joy x Design; Joy Bradley of Blum Floral; Nadine Ahmed and Caroline Eells from PassiFlora Studio.

Liminal Healing, 2021 by Jessica DeMuro Liminal Healing, 2021 / Courtesy of the Norwest Gallery of Art

Liminal Healing, 2021 / Courtesy of Norwest Gallery of Art

Liminal Healing, 2021 by Jessica DeMuro

But, the art exhibition is only the beginning. Work alongside Kayana Sessoms, a community engagement specialist who also suffered the loss of her father from COVID-19, FLOWER THERAPY serves as a fundraising channel for the Gardening Through Grief project, founded by Hamilton. The proceeds of the exhibition will benefit the securing of the space and the movement of the project from its early stages to its full realization. The floral art installation and mourning project were also part of Sessoms’ healing process.

I too experienced the loss of my father – my best friend, my superhero, actually on Earth Day. It’s something that now represents a planting of trees in his honor every year that will continue as I pursue this mission of being able to integrate into green spaces and create healing environments for people ”, shares- she does. “I lost my aunt because of COVID-19 years old and I also got pregnant with my first child last year, and ended up losing her before the end of the year. Her name is Zara, which means blooming flower. And so these significant losses that were so close and dear to my heart really made me turn inward and look at how I heal and what it means to me. And what that also means for the environment around me.

The Gardening Through Grief project aims to provide a community space that supports the healing process and extends the feeling to the concept that although bodies pass from their carnal existence, their presence endures in the mind.

This too should pass, an installation created by Caroline Eells of PassiFlora Design Studio, refers to a Persian proverb that speaks of the ephemeral of the human condition.

There’s this cloud of baby breaths – all in different colors, and IIt reminds me of what a storm would look like, the different colors of the sky and the way those clouds pass; there’s always sunlight at the end, ”Hamilton describes. “In this, it looks like a monument rising into the sky and people can share their life lessons on the monument. These giant baby breath clouds are absolutely adorable and it gives hope.

Sessoms adds:I don’t see how you can leave that space without feeling transformed or changed in one way or another. My hope is that people come out with a sense of healing and be able to see the floral elements as a healing tool, and that they can bring them into their home and personal space to shift energies for themselves and their families.

Courtesy of Norwest Art Gallery

Flower Projections ”designed by Denyse Couture

FLOWER THERAPY is on view at the Norwest Gallery of Art through August 1 and presents an artists-in-space conference at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 24. Visit norwestgallery.com for details.

For more stories about coping with grief and coping, check out WDET x Science of Grief podcast from the Science Gallery Detroit.


Listen: Asia Hamilton and Kayana Sessoms discuss the genesis and future of art installation.


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