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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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For Mother’s Day, two artists honor the ‘magical puzzle’ of Mother Nature with floral sculpture in River Park Square

UPDATED: Sat., May 8, 2021

Ava Barany, on ladder, talks over artwork with Sarah Edwards while assembling an elaborate floral sculpture in the lobby of River Park Square mall on Thursday. The two form the partnership Botanical Alchemists. They and a few other helpers put up their latest creation, which Barany called “an homage to mom for Mother’s Day.” The mall contracts with the duo to put up several original floral displays a year in the mall’s atrium.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Ava Barany, on ladder, talks over artwork with Sarah Edwards while assembling an elaborate floral sculpture in the lobby of River Park Square mall on Thursday. The two form the partnership Botanical Alchemists. They and a few other helpers put up their latest creation, which Barany called “an homage to mom for Mother’s Day.” The mall contracts with the duo to put up several original floral displays a year in the mall’s atrium. (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Sarah Edwards teared up Saturday when she considered what the Mother’s Day flower sculpture in River Park Square mall represents to her.

Edwards and Ava Barany, The Botanical Alchemists, spent the past week putting the sculpture together and Edwards said she hasn’t had much time to take it in. It’s Mother Nature – a woman with a skirt of silken flowers and a torso of intertwining branches, reaching for the heavens.

“She’s the culmination of Ava and my partnership,” Edwards said. “There’s so much beautiful energy in it that all came together. Earth provides all these magical puzzle pieces, a puzzle with no for sure ending that we could keep fiddling with forever.”

The sculpture’s roughly 2,000 flowers alone cost around $1,500.

Fittingly for a Mother’s Day sculpture, Edwards said it would likely have not been possible without her mother, Tina Edwards, who helped put the sculpture together and also provided the wasp’s nest that makes Mother Nature’s hair after she found it on a hike.

Barany, a horticulturalist at nurseries for many years, and Edwards, an artist with a fine arts bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University, met serendipitously at a party in 2019 and clicked immediately. At the time, Edwards had just arranged to make use of the buckets of past-their-prime flowers Rose and Blossom florists in Spokane couldn’t use, and the two started sculpting with them.

Outside of the mall, their pieces have been all organic, and Barany loves the decomposition process, too.

“We celebrate the cycles of life, and there’s a lot of ugly stuff in those cycles, too,” Barany said. “Our pieces that decompose hold space for the true human condition.”

Their first piece in the mall was also made of real flowers – a huge Valentine’s Day heart – but the upkeep proved infeasible. Barany finds the long-lasting sculptures have a different meaning, and she can see them staying in the mall for years.

For the nine sculptures River Park Square has commissioned this year, the Botanical Alchemists are using synthetic flowers paired with nonperishable natural elements. Those natural elements come from friends, including Kelly Chadwick at Spirit Pruners, who provided branches from several species of trees.

River Park Square is owned by Centennial Properties, an affiliate of the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

“We just want to celebrate life and help other people celebrate life,” Barany said. “I hope our pieces instill in people their own connection with Mother Earth. Our deep and intrinsic love of nature, I hope, comes through.”

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