Manu Torres (Florescent)
What does he make? Floral arrangements that look grown on another world.
To call Manu Torres simply a florist would be an egregious understatement.
Some regard him as more of a "floral sculptor," but even that doesn't quite do his otherworldly creations justice. His arrangements—under the name Florescent—are made up of an expansive range of flora, fans and feathers, with custom spray-paint accents ranging from fuchsia fringe to saturated metallic monsteras, and they look unlike any other bouquet you've ever seen, at least on this planet.
While he spent his childhood around the fruit trees and bougainvillea of his grandmother's garden, for a long time, flowers were merely details of Torres' memories of growing up in Central Mexico.
"Although the materials I use seem exotic, I grew up with a lot of these plants just growing naturally around me," says Torres. "I would walk next to my house to pick mango or palm leaves. They are familiar to me. It made sense to me to use them in my pieces."
Torres moved to Oregon when he turned 21, eventually landing a hospitality gig at Portland art center Yale Union. There, he began playing around with flowers from neighbors' yards to make cheap floral arrangements as part of the décor during opening-night galas, drawing on conversations with the artists to craft displays that would complement their work in some way. After a while, he realized he wanted to make arrangements of his own.
"When I started Florescent, I knew I wanted to express that I was different," says Torres. "I picked flowers that were not as common, as well as tropical flora, such as palms and birds of paradise. I really like the Dutch still-life paintings—it's what inspired me to start to incorporate fruits, feathers and eventually paint, fabrics and paper."
One piece, made of Barbie-pink roses and anthurium painted to match, comes together like a tropical altar for an alien wedding. Another arrangement, comprising blue and marigold ostrich feathers, a single strand of tie-dye-colored grasses and a crown of wavy ferns coated in metallic silver, looks like a Japanese ikebana by way of a Brazilian circus troupe. His work is now regularly featured at the Nike campus and stores like Muji, and he's taught exclusive arranging classes in New York.
Despite the clash of materials in Torres' work, nothing ever feels scattered or random. In fact, the connecting theme across his oeuvre is a grounded sense of individuality. His bouquets don't yell. Instead, they seem to calmly say, "This is me, and I'm not going to hide."
"When I started, I wasn't great. But it was just a hobby for me, so I wasn't too worried if I was doing it right," Torres says. "It let me get comfort-able thinking outside of the box so I could bring my wild ideas to life."
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