Suspended above Palmer Alley in Washington, “Coneflower Canopy” is a new installation that pays homage to a colorful summer flower whose ecology originated in the DMV – echinacea.
Speaking about inspiration and the creative process behind “Coneflower Canopy”, District Fray sat down to chat with Phaan Howngthe Baltimore-based multidisciplinary artist and creator of the whimsical installation.
Working between paintings, sculptures and large-scale installations, Howng’s work explores ecological awareness and deconstructs the relationship between man and the environment.
Howng has been featured at the Baltimore Museum of Art in “The Succession of Nature” and at the Smithsonian Arts and Industry Museum in “The Long Conversation.” Notably, his involvement in public art space and experiential art creation in Redwood City, CA and Montaluk, NY resulted in the creation “Coneflower Canopy” for CityCenterDC’s Palmer Alley.
“It’s that iconic flower. Everyone, since you are a child, learns to draw the little circle surrounded by petals, and it is equivalent to flowers,” says Howng. “For me, [the coneflower] represents resilience, first of all, because it comes back every year. It is drought tolerant and it always looks fabulous.
“Coneflower Canopy” is made up of 230 hand-painted neon coneflowers that are inspired by the purple coneflower, a flower often at risk of habitat loss as a result of agricultural expansion.
Howng sees the installation as a subversive way to champion environmental justice and inspire locals to make a difference on a larger scale. Beyond aesthetics, Howng says echinacea is the embodiment of a symbiotic relationship between humans, the environment, and local ecology.
“I always like to focus on indigenous ecology, because I want [public art installations] are situations where it becomes the most impactful time to learn about eco-consciousness, especially for a certain audience,” Howng says. “Coneflower Canopy” will also have a QR activation that invites viewers walking down the aisle to explore Howng’s climate-conscious ethic behind the installation.
CityCenterDC Director Timothy Lowery expressed support for public art that engages residents to think critically about their community. In this case, “Coneflower Canopy” leads a conversation about climate intervention for visitors to Palmer Alley to consider, he says.
“We’re trying to do something to bring people downtown to experience public art,” he says. “This beautiful installation that Phaan created for us is an example of how we can use [Palmer Alley] to amplify a message.