Vexilla Florum

Flowers are like stars to artist Karen Hochman Brown in her lush and literally blossoming installation Vexilla FlorumFirst shown at LAAA’s Gallery 825 in the early fall of 2019, Hochman Brown’s exhibition here delves deeper into her signature kaleidoscopic floral mandala work in a dazzling tour de force of eye-popping images.

It is an immersive and deeply meditative experience that pulls the eye into the universe within a flower. Indeed, one of the great skills in Hochman Brown’s work is that she introduces the viewer to the concept of the eternal and infinite contained in small but potent package. If the cosmos can exist within a flower, is anything impossible to believe and achieve?

The images begin with a photograph of a single-subject flower, chosen from one of many around the world. Distorted and reimaged in a kind of new realism, each piece becomes a precious jewel of nature. She uses specialized software to create her works, augmenting the images with animations. In so doing, she is creating work that reaches the viewer in a number of different ways, illuminating the floral elements and bringing them into sweeping and yet succinct motion.

She designed intricate and involved laser-cut headpieces… that top each of her six suspended-works in the installation. Banners are hand-sewn and assembled, in a fascinating mix of traditional textile techniques and the hyper-modern computer software-based world. Mounted on slanted poles, each floral banner appears suspended in space. A shadow image spills behind each piece. The elaborate and graceful laser-cut “crown” from which the banner is hung features perfect leaves spreading out from and surrounding a central laser-cut version of the floral image centered on the banner itself.

DATURA (Jimson weed), SHAGA (Japanese lily), PIERIS (bell flower), ROSA (rose), IRIS (bearded iris), SAKURA (cherry blossom)

The complex interwoven patterns of each banner’s background reflect the central image itself, as well. These patterns appear almost cellular, as if they represented the intertwined floral DNA of a flower. Each background pattern is unique to and representative of the central image, and the color behind this pattern reflects that of the main floral element imprinted upon it. Displayed centered in the lower third of each mounted banner, the primary image is a full, mesmerizingly bisected kaleidoscopic flower. It is a star, a snowflake, and an extraordinary blossom, or all three. Each petal point is entirely special.

It is an immersive and deeply meditative experience that pulls the eye into the universe within a flower. Indeed, one of the great skills in Hochman Brown’s work is that she introduces the viewer to the concept of the eternal and infinite contained in small but potent package. If the cosmos can exist within a flower, is anything impossible to believe and achieve?

At LAAA, Hochman Brown’s six banners, with backgrounds ranging from pink to brown to green to purple, were mounted in threes on either side of the galley, as if hung in a royal hall leading up to the ultimate throne. Here, that throne is a video installation in which realistic, intensely close images of actual flowers pop up, recede, and form a stunning, lush visual bouquet before dancing off again. These photographic images in turn evolve into stylized, star and snow flake-like digital blooms that spin and dance in a hypnotic and wonderful motion.


The exhibition’s title refers to a vexillum, or a flag. Such flags, which can be seen from a great distance, were once were used as an early form of communication, according to the artist, providing a way in which to direct troops or identify a faction. In fact, she posits that flags are relics of war. 

But the battle depicted in this exhibition is far different. Hochman Brown creates vexilla standards using floral motifs as a tribute to powerful but peaceful acts of 60s-era flower children. They have a bold, triumphant, and yet elegiac aspect to them; and they serve to both exalt and simply remember women who often created flags of war while still shaping and maintaining peace at home.

The artist employs flowers as symbols of great beauty, of blossoming growth and strength. Her images are born of a kind of altered reality, one that borders on the surreal and psychedelic. The magnetic quality of the colors, patterns, and motion in her images – both in still images and the animated work in the installation at LAAA – is profoundly affecting for the viewer.

It is an immersive and deeply meditative experience that pulls the eye into the universe within a flower. Indeed, one of the great skills in Hochman Brown’s work is that she introduces the viewer to the concept of the eternal and infinite contained in small but potent package. If the cosmos can exist within a flower, is anything impossible to believe and achieve?

Vexilla Florum: Kaleidoscopic Flowers in Bloom, excerpt
By Genie Davis