A Fine Arrangement
Ikebana master Paula Tam reveals her role in the artist Camille Henrot’s New Museum show.
Every Tuesday morning, Paula Tam checks into the New Museum with a fresh flower delivery. As a master of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, Tam’s regular visits are vital to the maintenance of the work of another artist, Camille Henrot—whose first comprehensive U.S. exhibition, “The Restless Earth” is on view until June 29th. Taking over the museum’s entire second floor, the show encompasses all aspects of the artist’s anthropologically driven work from her delicate figure drawings to her fragile floral sculptures—the latter of which Henrot created with Tam’s guidance earlier this spring. “Camille has a very high sensitivity to materials, that is why her work is very expressive,” Tam, who studies at Ikenobo, Japan’s oldest Ikebana school located in Kyoto, says of their similar work methods. “I just use a different medium.”
Despite the strict forms allowed in traditional Ikebana, Henrot found in Tam an openness to explore contemporary interpretations. “I think my masters would be surprised that I can work with someone who knows none of the rules and say that she does Ikebana, which is all about rules and fixed forms,” admits Tam. “When I told one of my friends about the project, she said ‘You must have a very open mind.’ And I had to say, ‘Yes I do.’”