Some people say that the longest war we’ve ever been in has been a war with nature. Tree cutting, pruning, pest control, nutrias, and do we even need to mention the unholy leaf blowers? Yet, Shakespeare had it right when he wrote, “My only love sprung from my only hate.” Sure, he was talking about two lustful teenagers, but the idea of humans being a constant paradox was spot on.
Although we fight it every day, we love nature and Longue Vue House and Garden is taking this love of nature to the next level with their “Carnival Conservatory: A Mixed-Media Indoor Garden.”
It’s an indoor garden that doesn’t include a greenhouse and gives visual homage to the days of Carnival.
The exhibit, which opened on June 7 and will run until June 30, showcases large-scale flowers and winged creatures that take their inspiration from the eye-catching accoutrements we see rolling down the streets of New Orleans during Carnival.
Bright blues, purples, pinks, and various constructions and formations of bloomed flowers don the walls of the small house that provides entry into Longue Vue’s expansive outdoor gardens. The flowers and creatures hanging from the corners of the room give you a sense of wonderment. It is as if you walked through the looking glass and on the other side were hyper-real flowers ready to fill your eyes with hues you had only imagined.
It’s not just any kind of flower, though. These are flowers that are emblematic of Carnival. As artist Dana Beuhler says, “We hope this exhibit will not only create a delightful experience, but inspire people to recognize the art of the talented artists who have worked within the Mardi Gras dens of New Orleans.”
The Carnival Collective partnered with Longue Vue House and Garden for this project. The Collective consists of artists who work for independent float building companies for Mardi Gras. The Collective started in late 2015, and they have been working to show that the artistry and craftsmanship that makes Mardi Gras so magical doesn’t have to be limited to only Carnival time. The Collective’s founding artists — Thomas Randolph Morrison, Dana Beuhler, Brian Bush and Caroline Thomas — are working toward enhancing the “handmade” feel of Mardi Gras.
Together they have built an indoor garden that brought crowds of people to the opening reception on June 7. And these people are not only unique (not that any New Orleanians isn’t), but they are also open about the “off-the-wall” items in their own houses.
“I have a Ming Dynasty horse,” one woman said. “That’s pretty unusual,” she says before explaining that, “he looks exactly like what you’d imagine a Ming Dynasty horse looks like.”
Her friend then unveiled that she also has a carousal horse in her house as well (from a carousel in Eerie, Pennsylvania).
You would think there wouldn’t be anything to top that, but a young woman with a big smile tells us, “I have a lot of strange pieces in my house. My most recent purchase is an Ermine. He’s on my mantel. Although, my favorite taxidermy piece is a parrot I got from Kenner. His name is Tommy.”
Later she explained that Tommy came from a bowling alley in Kenner, and she had to reassure the woman parting with Tommy that he would not be used as movie prop and that she would love him forever.” And just how many taxidermy animals did she have in her house? “I think I have around sixteen, but there might be more.”
Taxidermic animals, paintings of the seaside, tree branches running through the middle of a foyer. A theme started to emerge. Even when indoors, people want nature — even the most unattainable forms of nature — within their grasp.
“Seeing this [indoor garden] makes me want to cover my entire house in flowers,” a fellow patron said.
Lucky for us humans, we don’t have to go to the extremes or work of covering our house in giant flowers. Longue Vue House and Gardens has done that for us.
The “Carnival Conservatory: A Mixed-Media Indoor Garden” exhibition will be open daily during Longue Vue’s hours Monday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 P.M.