Suspended above Washington’s Palmer Alley, “Coneflower Canopy” is a new installation that pays tribute to a colorful summer flower whose ecology is native to the DMV — the echinacea.
Talking inspiration and the creative process behind “Coneflower Canopy,” District Fray sat down to chat with Phaan Howng, the 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 humans and the environment.
Howng has been featured at the Baltimore Museum of Art in “The Succession of Nature” and the Smithsonian Arts and Industry Museum in “The Long Conversation.” Notably, her involvement in the public art space and the creation of experiential art in Redwood City, CA and Montaluk, NY has culminated to the creation “Coneflower Canopy” for CityCenterDC’s Palmer Alley.
“It’s this iconic flower. Everyone, since you’re a kid, learns how to draw the little circle with petals around it, and that equals flowers,” Howng says. “For me, [the coneflower] represents resilience, first of all, because it comes back every year. It’s drought tolerant and it always looks fabulous.”
“Coneflower Canopy” is composed of 230 hand-painted neon coneflowers that take inspiration from the purple echinacea, a flower that’s often at risk for habitat loss as a result of agricultural expansion.
Howng views the installation as a subversive way to advocate for environmental justice, and inspire locals to make a difference on a larger scale. Beyond aesthetics, Howng says the coneflower is the epitome of a symbiotic relationship between humans, environment and local ecology.
“I always like to focus on the native ecology, because I feel like [public art installations] are situations where it becomes the most impactful time to learn about ecological awareness, especially to a certain audience,” Howng says. “Coneflower Canopy” will also have a QR activation that invites viewers walking through the alley to explore Howng’s climate-conscious ethos behind the installation.
CityCenterDC Director Timothy Lowery expressed his support for public art that engages locals to think critically about their community. In this case, “Coneflower Canopy” carries forth a conversation around climate intervention for visitors of Palmer Alley to consider, he says.
“We’re trying to do something to bring people down to downtown to experience public art,” he says. “This beautiful installation Phaan has created for us is an example of how we can use [Palmer Alley] to amplify a message.”