How’s your garden? Four artists say it with flower paintings

“They ask nothing of us except to admire them.”

This is one of the reasons why Donna Fratesi loves flowers.

Fratesi joins Sandra Manzi, Clarence Porter and Miriam Traher in ‘Bouquet’, a burgeoning exhibition at Earls Court Gallery. The four artists offer images of flowers and all love their subject. But each artist paints flowers for different reasons.

Fratesi painted “Date Night” as a tribute to loss and hope.

“It has been two long and sad years. Not only was there COVID, but I lost my husband last year,” she says. “Flowers are a harbinger of spring and better times to me. When I started painting, it took on a life of its own. I poured all my love and desire onto the canvas. It was a blessed release. He seemed to paint himself.

Fratesi works in a vaguely figurative style. Pink and white flowers dominate. They are arranged in a vase. But, the vase is merely suggested by the application of a few broad vertical brushstrokes that almost fade into the background.

Donna Fratesi, Date Night, acrylic on canvas, 36 inches by 36 inches, $1,900.Photo by Douglas Haggo

Fratesi is a passionate gardener.

“Every day I go out and watch to see what’s going on.”

Traher’s love for flowers blossomed into a series of paintings rich in color and shape. “Imagine Just for a Moment” features a profusion of circular floral shapes in a variety of hues and sizes, some with contrasting centers. These shapes are complemented by brush marks and occasional scribbles.

Traher says her flower paintings are about enjoying “just being in the moment. Flowers have been part of my life for as long as I can imagine. I was born to Dutch parents and flowers were part of their heritage. My mother was a florist and had a flower shop for many years.

Unsurprisingly, Traher enjoys gardening.

“I planted 500 spring bulbs in my raised beds this fall for the spring cut. A little extreme, I know, but wanted to see how it would work.

Miriam Traher, Imagine Just for a Moment, mixed media on wood, 24 by 24 inches, $750.
Miriam Traher, Imagine Just for a Moment, mixed media on wood, 24 by 24 inches, $750.Douglas Hago

Porter creates in a more realistic style, extending his admiration to the shadows of the flowers. The life of a flower is relatively short, but the shadows are even more fleeting.

Over the years he has explored the relationship between objects and the shadows they cast in different lighting and sites.

“My contention was that shadows can be as interesting and as beautiful as their hosts,” he says. “The ‘Flower and the Shadow’ series is a more microscopic view of shadow-object relationships, showing the delicate beauty of flowers and the equally delicate, lacy beauty of flower shadows.”

“The Flower and the Shadow #5” shows Porter trying to confine the sunflowers to the top of the composition and allowing their shadows on the white wall to take over the lower part. This well-lit space takes up two-thirds of the composition and creates a stark contrast to the heavier, darker clutter above.

Sandra Manzi, Persistence, oil on canvas, 24 by 18 inches, $875.
Sandra Manzi, Persistence, oil on canvas, 24 by 18 inches, $875.Douglas Hago

Manzi’s luminous paintings abound with flowers and leaves superimposed on human figures. In “Persistence”, a cascade of pale pink flowers falls exuberantly down the left side. Through the flowers and foliage, some of which are semi-transparent, a silhouette emerges.

“I have to admit I’m not a gardener,” Manzi says. “I have lived in a 590 square foot condo for 12 years. But I recently bought a house in Hamilton with my partner, so I’m looking forward to doing some of that.

“I will soon know if I have a green thumb or not. I hope I will because I can’t stop using flowers in my paintings so I will need a lot of reference material.”


Regina Haggo, art historian, lecturer, curator, YouTube videographer and former professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.


Earls Court Gallery, 215 Ottawa Street N.

Useful May 7

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Phone: 905-527-6685