Botanical Installation & Photography for AOKI's Inaugural Fundraiser: SEEN / UNSEEN

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On September 30, 2018, Chicago’s non-profit arts organization AOKI hosted it’s inaugural fundraiser event SEEN / UNSEEN at The Frances Chicago.

AOKI’s Founder and Executive Director Aiyana Taylor invited me and my friend Alicia to be among the artists showcasing their work. There were painters, a textile artist, a ceramicist, a musician, a spoken word artist a chef, a baker, a dancer, and we were asked to create a “botanical installation.”

While praying about what we might do in the car on my way to meet Alicia to discuss our game plan, the style of “Ikebana” flower arranging came to me. I’ve admired the minimalist style from afar for a years, but I hadn’t dug into its meaning and theory.

As we talked about this idea, we both felt something light inside us. And as we did more research, we discovered it’s considered one of three Classical Japanese Arts of Refinement: 

"The Ikebana tradition dates back to the 7th century when floral offerings were made at altars. Later, they were placed in the tokonoma (alcove) of a home." (Wikipedia)

1) Ikebana - translated as "living flowers," also known as Kadō | flower arrangement: literally translates to "the way of flowers.”

We chose Anemones, Chocolate Cosmos, Anthurium, Yarrow, Palms, and a variegated plant – each stem varying in size, shape, color, and texture. Just as a painter uses a stroke, we painted with stems – intentionally.

The botanical installations were set up in AOKI’s “Tea Room” with three gold nesting tables beneath the hanging lights. The lights drew the eye down to the Ikebana arrangements, highlighting them as living sculptures.

2) Kōdō | incense ceremony: translates to "the way of fragrance.”

To implement this second Japanese Art of Refinement, a few sticks of incense were placed on the nesting tables. Their fragrance of rain acknowledges AOKI's nomenclature which derives from the Japanese phrase "the scent of rain." In addition, their black color also supporting AOKI's branding palette.

And lastly 3) Chadō | tea ceremony: translates to "the way of tea.” The AOKI team had already been planning to have a tea experience in this space, led by Eliana Blancas.

In addition to Eliana leading tea experiences, she also was the chef of the evening. Her food was astoundingly beautiful and as delicious as you think!

This collaboration coming together as it did – the act of it being simultaneously restful and life-giving, while the end result feeling true to our vision – was a real gift of tuning in. I won’t soon forget it.