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[whitespace] Floral Art

By Sarah Phelan

REMEMBER Anthony Ward, the outrageously talented floral sculptor with the traffic-stopping creations? Last November he moved to the Big Apple from Santa Cruz and is already wowing New Yorkers with his floral art. The trendsetting In Style magazine featured his work this past February, and his client list reads like a global who's who: He's done flowers for Madonna, Maya Angelou, the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke's wedding, Bette Midler's Halloween party ... need I go on?

"At first the Divine Miss M. was worrying about my centerpieces for her Halloween party. 'Honeybuns,' she began, but I stopped her right there. 'My name is Anthony,' I said, 'and this is my job, so if you want to worry, think about something else.'" She did--and the party was a huge success.

This March, Ward was back in the Bay Area to participate--for the third year running--in Bouquets for Art at San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor. Two of his 30-foot floral sculptures made the perfect frame for Rodin's exquisite Three Shades in the Spreckles Gallery.

One of Ward's biggest joys in New York has been getting a call from Maya Angelou's housekeeper to say that Maya's coming to town:

"Maya has so much to do with who I am," he says. "When I was a teenager in North Carolina, struggling with being gay and my parents not understanding, I read her classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. And I thought, If she can overcome all that, then so can I. So it's a great joy for me to put flowers by her bed, in her bathroom living room and on the dining room table--all those intimate places she's going to enjoy."

People ask him how he arrived where he is. Ward, who meditates a lot, says it's because he's open to it. "Before you can learn to tie your shoes, you have to be open to it. Remaining open is also the key. What I center on in my meditations is the openness to remember to do art for the love of it, and not for anything else."

These days the sky's the limit for Ward. He has a sitcom titled My Son the Florist in the works. Stay tuned.

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From the April 21-28, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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