All art is a collaboration between nature, which provides the raw materials, and the creative mind and clever hands of the artist who transforms them. At the Walters Art Gallery, a visitor can see at close range how all imaginable sorts of media -- from stone to ivory, cobweb-thin silk to toughest steel -- become, through the efforts of masters, objects of beauty.
For two days this week we can add another artistic medium to the list: flowers.
Gardeners, horticulturists and designers join forces to celebrate both nature and art during the second annual "Art Blooms at the Walters," Tuesday and Wednesday at the museum. The centerpiece of the event, sponsored by the Women's Committee of the Walters Art Gallery, will be the fresh floral arrangements created by representatives of 29 local garden clubs representing Federated Garden Clubs and Garden Clubs of America.
While the arrangements are based on works of art from the Walters collection, they are neither literal renditions of paintings executed in flower petals (a la Tournament of Roses floats), nor are they re-creations of famous floral still-lifes. Instead, they are loose artistic interpretations of artworks ranging from reliquaries and Turkish carpets to El Greco oils. Last year's offerings ranged from small jewel-like floral creations to sculptural works almost 10 feet tall.
"Each person looks at how the art works, gets an overall feeling from it, and carries it through," says participant Suzanne Rafferty, a professional floral designer and member of the St. Georges Garden Club. "Some people pick out colors that impressed them as dominant in the painting, others try to match the scale. The basic thing is that there are no rules, other than not touching the painting! You are not judged by strict flower-arranging rules, as you are when you arrange for 1Ncompetition, so you can do what you want."
In 1990's "Art Blooms," Mrs. Rafferty was assigned to interpret a painting of a voluptuous Venus.
"I wanted to show the line of her body with sensuous flowers, then pick up all the other colors in the background flowers," she explains. "It was sort of like two arrangements in one."
The nude's flesh tones and ample curves inspired a central S-shaped drape of lilies and blushed white bridal roses, set off by the more vivid hues of the surrounding blooms.
Mrs. Rafferty is especially interested in the design two of her St. ,, Georges Garden Club colleagues are working on this year; their assigned work is a triptych, "Three Scenes from the Life of St. Catherine."
"They are trying to build the feeling of a triptych by using calla lilies as St. Catherine, and working the arrangement around that," she says. "It should be interesting. They're having a lot of fun doing the research, finding out more about the painting, and looking for an appropriate container -- they'd like to find a container shaped like the baptismal font in the center of the picture."
Both days' activities follow the same schedule. Each morning's activities will begin with a slide talk by Rita St. Clair from 9:45 to 10:30. Ms. St. Clair, a Baltimore-based interior designer and syndicated design columnist, will discuss "Floral Images in the Interior." From 10:45 to 11:30 a.m., David Scheid, director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, will give a slide lecture titled "In Search of Adam's Bliss: Man's Quest to Create a Garden -- Eden."
Following the presentations, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., museum docents will be available to take participants on tours of the selected works of art and the floral art they have inspired.
A luncheon catered by the Brass Elephant will be held each day from 11:45 to 12:45 in the Renaissance Sculpture Court, during which spring fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue will be modeled.
The afternoon's events will include a lecture-demonstration by floral designer Donald Vanderbrook at 2. In addition, there will be a 50-50 raffle drawing at 3:45 Wednesday.
As parking around the Walters is limited, a shuttle bus will run between the museum and the Meyerhoff concert hall parking garage.
Admission to the full day's program is $45, but tickets for individual lectures or the luncheon can be purchased for $15 each. Tickets will be available at the door, but advance reservations are recommended for lunch. Proceeds benefit educational programs.
The success of "Art Blooms" can be measured, according to publicity chairperson Marge Cheek, by the reaction of a few friends who, although they were not particular fans of either museums or horticulture, accompanied her to last year's event.
"They're not only making a return visit, but they are excited about it, and telling other friends about it," she says.
"We all like beauty. As simple as that phrase is, it encapsulates this event."
For more information about the programs, call 547-9000, Ext. 305.