Arsenal Gallery’s 41st Annual Wreath Show

By Keishly Rosario

The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park on Fifth Avenue has an annual wreath interpretation exhibit on its third floor. This exhibit features multiple unique constructions of the classic holiday wreath which have been handcrafted by artists, designers, and even the gallery’s employees. There were more than 30 interpretations created with greenery, yarn, fabric, plastic, different types of cards, and many other wacky materials.

When entering the gallery, you must walk through a side door and sign your name, the time, the date, and the reason for your visit before being guided to the elevator to the third floor. After getting off the elevator, all the wreaths are visible at once. Whimsical wreaths made of MetroCards, green fabric, yarn, and more to represent a unique aspect of life in New York City, all suspended on the wall by invisible string.

Leenda Bonilla created this wreath interpretation titled Caldero Kintsugi (Kintsugi Cauldron). It was designed to represent Caribbean traditions, how food can overwhelm your senses and be a source of solidarity and love between family and friends. Bonilla used gold leaves, latex spray, rice and red beans. “Inspired by the art of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold – this golden caldero is the object to reflect on the art of healing. Kintsugi reveals how to heal and shows you that are better with your golden cracks,” says Bonilla.

This wreath interpretation is A Glimpse into Paradise and was made by Natalja Osadcija in collaboration with Varvara Osadcija and Deniss Osadcija. It was inspired by an attraction at the Botanical Garden that has the same name and by the wars currently being waged in different parts of the world. When looking inside the wreath, a mirror is visible in which the person looking inside can see themselves as a part of a small little world hidden within a wasp nest. The artists used wire, fabric, epoxy, resin, paper, and mirror. “Our world is beautiful and colorful, but recently it has reminded me of a dangerous wasp nest, increasingly challenging to find pieces of paradise within,” said the trio.

Artist Naomi Lawrence created this work Corpse Flower. According to Lawrence, this wreath represents the infamous rare corpse flower showcased in the New York Botanical Garden that bloomed in April 2023 for the first time in four years. The artist used acrylic yarn to create this piece and said, “In cultivation, it is expected to grow to six to eight feet, but in its natural habitat can grow up to a staggering 12 feet! Its foul fragrance smells like rotting flesh hence its name.”

Leonora Retsas created Dealer’s Choice entirely from playing cards. It represents a fun activity someone could do at social gatherings or even alone. The playing cards used were the artists’ late father’s that they found in a shoe box when cleaning out his things. “Playing cards for my father was his way of bonding with his friends and probably gloat when he won,” said Retsas. “This wreath is dedicated to him.”

In her wreath, All is Calm, All is Bright (Home for the Holidays), Suzie Sims-Fletcher used cleaning puffs, scouring pads, foam, plastic mesh, and rubber gloves. It represents the task of tidying up whenever guests come over for the holidays. “Who hasn’t made a mad dash to clean, polish, wipe, wash, scrub, dust, brush straighten, tidy, and trim in order to get ready for holiday family, friends, and various visitors,” said Sims-Fletcher. “We certainly don’t want them to see how we really live.”

There were other wreaths made from blown-up tires, metal, recycled items as well as some that were painted using nail polish. A security guard at the gallery said that while there were fewer works than expected this year there were some “really unique and creative wreaths that show the essence of the city life.”

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