This year’s exhibit is themed “Surreal Beauty” and features the largest collection of orchids yet.
“There are a dozen major varieties of orchids. Within that, there are different hybrids and species,” said Becky Brinkman, the garden’s Fuqua Orchid Center manager. “This may be the first exhibit that was purely abstract in origin, to use surrealism. We borrow iconic surrealist visual images which allow us to show off our orchids really well.”
Surrealist artists of influence include Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Jean Arp and Girgio de Chirico. “There are different inspirations from artists with all this weird and wacky stuff, like juxtaposing fancy flowers with high-heeled shoes,” said Danny Flanders, the garden’s public relations and marketing manager.
The conservatory lobby of the garden’s orchid center is filled with bright-colored orchids displayed amongst funhouse mirrors, which achieve almost the same effect as Dali’s artwork, Brinkman said. “One of the things we wanted to build on here is some of the iconic images from the surrealist movement, the post-World War I era,” she said. “If you look at some of Dali’s work, very prominent are liquid looking, melted images. We were wondering how we could do that with orchids.”
She said surrealists used distorted images simply to shock people.“The idea is, you see not just the orchid; you see yourself,” Brinkman said. “In the post-World War I era, surrealists wanted people to not just look passively at art. They wanted people to think about it.”
Throughout the exhibit, doors are covered in iconic surrealist paintings and artists’ quotes are written up above. A famous Dali quote is written on one of the mirrors in the lobby. It reads: “Surrealism is destructive but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.”
In another section of Orchid Daze, there are bowler hats, umbrellas and upside down orchids hanging from the ceiling, which Brinkman said reflects the surrealistic idea of dislocation and “unexpected things in unexpected places.”
“To my knowledge, this is the first time anyone’s every displayed orchids upside down. … We’ll actually have rainfall in here,” she said. “We want it to be deliberately weird and surprising. … We wanted to kind of freak people out in some ways.”
Another part of the exhibit displays orchids planted in 49 colorful high-heeled platform shoes, hanging on lace-covered tree limbs.
“We planted slipper orchids inside shoes, wrapped in moss, tucked them in,” she said, “and we have a few unusual varieties in here that are new that people haven’t seen before.”
Additionally, Flanders said the garden combines Valentine’s Day with Orchid Daze every year from 7 to 11 p.m.
“It’s a chance to see the exhibits at night,” he said. “We have DJs, dancing, desserts and cash bars. They are theming Valentine’s night around surrealism, too.”
Plus, there will be orchid care clinics March 9 and April 13 from 10 a.m. to noon.
“Becky and her staff can tell you what’s wrong with it, what to do with it, [and] they’ll repot it for you for a small fee,” he said.
There will also be guided Orchid Daze tours every Saturday at 1 p.m., and Orchid Market Weekends March 9 and 10 and April 13 and 14, when guests can purchase orchids. Vanilla Sunday will be this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., which is all about vanilla orchids, Flanders said, with educational activities and refreshments.
“A lot of people don’t know the flavor vanilla comes from an orchid,” he said.
And Brinkman said most people also do not know there are 35,000 different species of orchids.
“One thing we want to accomplish with the orchid center in general is expand people’s ideas of what an orchid is and what it looks like,” she said. “There is such diversity. It is the biggest family of flowering plants. You can come here every day and see something new and crazy.”
If you go:
o What: Orchid Daze exhibit “Surreal Beauty”
o Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave., Midtown
o When: now through April 14o Tickets: $12.95 for children ages 3 to 12, $18.95 for adults, free for kids under 3 and garden members
o Information: www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org.