Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Other Peoples' Gardens: 2012 Philadelphia Flower Show

In base terms, saturation refers to "a state of maximum impregnation." 

Whenever I hear the term "saturation," I think of Marge Simpson's housewife crush on Chad Sexington, model for Burly Paper Towels. Marge writes to the Burly paper towel company to praise Chad and his ability to soak up the most extensive of messes--and then some. She is really quite smitten with this guy, so much so that Homer discovers his wife's crush and then pulls a nasty prank on her: he calls, pretending to be Chad Sexington, and arranged a dinner at the Simpson household.

Marge pulls out of all the stops (as the saying goes), even going so far as to rolling out a roll of Burly paper towels as if it were a red carpet. The doorbell rings, and she opens it to discover Barney, dressed as Chad Sexington.

Homer, though, must pay, and so takes his family out to dinner. Naturally, the show's focus veers back to Homer's blunders (indeed, that particular episode is called "The Blunder Years"). Homer is hypnotized by a magician, but the exercise quickly devolves as Homer is suddenly overpowered by a painful memory of a corpse he discovers as a 12 year old at the Old Quarry swimming hole.

The family goes back to the swimming hole to find the body, and when Chief Wiggum demonstrates his incompetence yet again (surprise), Marge has the idea of throwing in her mass stock of Burly paper towels into the swimming hole. Chad Sexington to the rescue; the towels soak up every drop of water!

Maximum impregnation indeed!

In color theory, saturation refers to maximum impregnation of another sort: the intensity of a color relative to itself (as opposed to intensity of a color relative to other colors, which is called chroma). This year's Philadelphia Flower Show, Hawai'i: Islands of Aloha, plays with saturation to evoke, like Todd Haynes' throwback to 1950s' technicolor film, Far From Heaven, certain moods.

Deep ocean blues
are juxtaposed to fiery lava reds and oranges

with luscious greens providing a backdrop


for vivacious tropical flowers.

The show is an exercise in saturation: maximum impregnation in so many ways.

None of that appealed to me. Indeed, I thought that some exhibits were banal (such that I didn't waste digital space on my camera, hence my use of an AP photo below).

And the entrance "orchid" wave was rather... well, let's just keep that razor sharp tongue safely ensconced.

Lest my reader think I am...ahem, rhymes with witch, I do wish to issue a few positive words.

What was more spectacular than all of the technicolor drama and cliche were the displays derivative from a conception of nothingness.

That tropical paradise so evident in the visions of the exhibit designers, we must recall, emerged from the unforgiving, destructive force of lava and the barren nothingness of post-apocalyptic cooling.

And so the displays that most arrested me were those born out of an alternative reality that the hordes certainly did not wish to see: the lava flows and the life that slowly springs from nothingness. The rest could be dismantled tomorrow and I wouldn't care, for it was too busy, too overdone, too much a montage of cliche: indeed, a barrenness that even color saturation could not fill.

Only in those spaces of nothingness, of spartan foliage and flora, could one appreciate a sense of place and commune with the theme.

The rest of the show needed a Chad Sexington and a few rolls of Burly paper towels to absorb the excess.

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