For his second solo show, “All Apologies,” multimedia artist Othelo Gervacio was drawn to the complex nature of flowers. It’s not the first time flaura have cropped up in Gervacio’s detailed paintings and drawings, but this time around the artist decided to focus on the life cycles of flowers and their capacity to mirror the complex nature of human relationships. Inspired by Irving Penn’s flower portraits, Gervacio visited flower markets and studied his specimens closely to create the five paintings and four sculpture/collage pieces that make up the show. Read our conversation with Othelo below.

What’s the idea behind the show?

This will be my second solo to date. It opens on November 11th at Gogy Esparza’s space, MAGIC. The exhibition will focus and dissect both the visual and cultural nuances of flowers. The title of the show is “All Apologies.”

Why flowers?

I liked the idea of taking flowers as the subject matter and humanizing them; comparing them to human emotions simply by way they pose and fall. And beyond that, I was interested in the traditional gestures of giving and receiving flowers within cultures. Additionally, there is also another layer of what a type of flower represents as well. There were many places and meanings to explore, but at the end of the day, I’m just a very visual person and most of the flowers I chose to use were based on my immediate reaction and what I felt when I saw them. The show itself is a continuation of a series I painted previously for a group show. I was really intrigued with the different interpretations of what the flowers meant to people who had observed them. There were very polar reactions.

I did a little book research at first, just on the type of imagery I liked, or the way I liked flowers photographed. The reference I first started with was Irving Penn’s “Flowers.” I took that as my first driving force into what it would look like visually. Beyond that, I did a bit of general research into what particular flowers meant, etc. I then contacted a friend whose wife specialized in floral arrangements and set dressing with floral elements. She brought me down to the flower district on a Tuesday at 8:00 in the morning and we did a little tour. The Flower District is composed of small shops where everyone seemed to know each. Everyone says “hi” and calls each other by their first names—it’s really cool and endearing. One hour in the district and she educated me on a ton of different flowers, species and where they’re flown in from, it’s really amazing. I picked and bought a wide array of different flowers, brought them home and put them in water. For the duration of their life, I photographed them every day in different positions, and from that, I had a whole library to edit down and choose my favorite photo to paint from this huge casting of flowers.

“I wanted to explore the world of flowers and get to know what they mean.”

So you think there’s no objective meaning to each flower? Every flower can mean the total opposite of its other meanings?

I guess there’s the most common and traditional gesture of giving and receiving flowers. Flowers themselves, by appearance are poetry—they can help someone say sorry or rather help them say “I love you.”

What’s the first floral arrangement in the history of mankind?

The first? Maybe death ceremonies? Or used for gifting, as a sign of love or whatever. I don’t know. That’s a crazy question.

Photography: Nick Sethi, except MAGIC Installation shot (9th photo): Brent Kerr