Article by Lucas Justinien Pérez
April 5, 2019
Trailblazing father of candid photojournalism, Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995) said he preferred carrying his small leica camera at stomach level as he snapped some of the most recognizable images of the 20th century–discretely. Working with almost no equipment, he sat stony face and unassuming as he captured moments like “V-J Day in Times Square” (Life, 1945); the famous photo of a jubilantly flirty sailor kissing a semi-compliant nurse.
A large collection of works by the prolific photographer is held at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) where an exhibition highlighting his long career at Life Magazine will be on display from April 12-July 14, 2019. Alfred Eisenstaedt: Life and Legacy opens concurrently with the museum’s blockbuster Art Alive 2019 event that attracts thousands of guests each year with innovative floral interpretations of important art from the museum’s permanent collections.
Associate Director of Special Events and Corporate Relations, Sarah Grossman notes Eisenstaedt’s work will serve as the “overarching theme” of this year’s event and a handful of floral designers will be using his photographs as inspiration for their creations. This year the famously monumental rotunda installation will be designed by Flower Art founder, Jennifer McGarigle, who says she is working from the idea of “flowers frozen in time, just as moments are captured in photographs.”
Legacy Floral Designer Nancy Hagen also chose to interpret an Eisenstaedt photo, and gravitated to an image of a Cartier jeweler crafting a sumptuous piece of jewelry at his cluttered bench. Hagen, who comes from a family of engineers, said she liked the photo initially because he “looked like an engineer.” During research, Hagen even discovered her mother had been surreptitiously photographed by Eisenstaedt for Life in the 1940’s.
When asked how Hagen would interpret a small 10”x10” black & white photograph in flowers—not an easy design problem– she opined “that size is my biggest challenge with this picture… when I do my [designs] I like to go big, and I’m having to scale it way, way back.” Hagen adds that she doesn’t want to be constrained by a black & white color palette and she will use flowers in rich jewel tones that suggest the preciousness of jewelry.
Hagen’s personal connection to the image she selected is just one example of why Eisenstaedt’s photographic style is so accessible and appealing to so many. Just like his images, flowers also evoke powerfully meaningful associations. People use the “language of flowers” to commemorate, celebrate, and honor the people, places and things that are most important to them. A quote from Eisenstaedt could just as easily be applied to the impermanence of a bloom, as it could to the instantaneous nature of a snapshot.
“The world we live in is a succession of fleeting moments, any one of which might say something significant.”
Art Alive 2019 will offer four days of events and activities for the entire family. This year the Premiere Dinner for museum donors will be held in the Eisenstaedt gallery on April 11th from 6:30 p.m. The exuberant Bloom Bash opening party will be expanding into the museum’s front plaza, and be activated with live music, food & drinks, and colorful contemporary art by San Diego-based artist Monty Montgomery. The party takes place on the 11th at 7:00 p.m. and tickets run from $200 for members to $250 for non-members.
The museum will be partnering with Native Poppy for the Flower Crown workshop on the 13th ($75 members/ $100 non-members); and there will also be a family friendly Garden of Activities with a “flower hunt” and art projects that is free with admission on the Saturday and Sunday of the event.