Jessie Partridge owns Maidenhair Floral and Event Design. Photography by Ashley Upchurch.
By Julian Rankin
Jessie Partridge, owner of Maidenhair Floral and Event Design in Ocean Springs, has a job to do: engineer a floral plan that would wow the likes of Walter Anderson. She’ll be doing it for the Walter Anderson Museum of Art’s May 4 benefit, “ART SEEN: Flights of Fantasy,” presented by Hancock Whitney.
The event, dubbed “the party your imagination would throw,” will bring the natural world inside the galleries — reflecting the artist’s genius through fantastical décor, fashion and experiences. Which begs the question: How will Partridge conceive of a floral plan without competing with the looming presence of Anderson, whose flora renderings are iconic?
For starters, Partridge shares Anderson’s love for the everyday and finds a wealth of wonder in the southern landscape.
“He’s painting these everyday plants and animals that we’re used to seeing, but he’s giving us a new way to see it,” she says. “I always want to make sure there is something that ties the design back to things that are native, that are growing in this area.”
Her earliest memories of finding beauty in flowers were shared with her grandmother, whose laundry room window was full of African violets. Partridge is a mother of three, and Maidenhair is intertwined with family. It gives her flexibility to be present for her own growing children and provides a counterpoint to raising kids (which, as any parent will attest, yields no definitive finished product).
“I get to work really hard on a particular project and then it comes to fruition. And I get to stand back and see what we accomplished ….,” she says. “That’s been a really satisfying part of the work that I do.”
For ART SEEN, Partridge will have a wellspring of inspiration. Anderson’s favorite flower was the zinnia. He painted pitcher plants, palmettos, goldenrod, iris and pine lily. His home was shaded by bigleaf magnolia, and his Horn Island campground was surrounded by wild flora.
Partridge envisions installations of flowers, enhanced by graphic elements like painted leaves and palms, and experiences that visitors walk through or stand beside – invitations for them to interact with the arrangements.
It helps, too, that Partridge’s husband is an artist. Jerrod Partridge, a well-known painter and teaching artist, paints her designs in an ongoing series. These artworks complete the circle, in a fitting tribute to nature’s perpetual rebirth. As Partridge pulls ideas from the museum’s collection to create her floral plan, her husband will be inspired by the forms, turning them back into museum-quality artworks forever in bloom.
Flights of Fantasy will be held at 6 p.m. on May 4 at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, 510 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs. Tickets are limited. Learn more at artseenparty.com or www.walterandersonmuseum.org.