Foregoing flowers

Stanlee Gatti and the Conservatory of Flowers go together like long-stem roses and Valentine’s Day, or birthday cake and ice cream.

So why hadn’t anyone thought of it before? To bring together these two San Francisco institutions — its most loved and most fabulous party planner and its most historical greenhouse — should be a slam-dunk.

Well, at least that is the hope, but Gatti isn’t making any promises.

Tonight, the designer florist unveils his first public venture with San Francisco with the debut of “One: An Earth Installation.”

“I mean, everyone expects flowers, especially from me. I don’t ever really want to be pegged into a corner,” Gatti said, explaining his decision to create a ground-up installation that surprisingly foregoes flowers in favor man-made materials. The only living material used, in fact, is horsetail, one of the world’s first-known plants.

“I felt it should be a little bit more thought-provoking that lasts more than three hours in the evening,” Gatti said.

So Gatti dug deep, way deep, into history, into the cycle of life, plunging through to the primordial to create a textured canvas inspired by the Native American medicine wheel, a physical manifestation of spiritual energy, that depending on preference, can be divided into four, six or eight wedges.

Gatti divided his wheel, the centerpiece of his exhibit, into four, representing the four directions on a compass, which in turn represent particular components of the human experience. North represents the physical body, south is the soul, east is the spirit, and west is the mind.

The materials he has chosen to create this wheel also represent various surfaces of Earth, falling into an almost seasonal color palette. The northern wedge will comprise blues and creams, the eastern portion will emanate spring, south moves into summery water colors, and west, to represent fire, is a saturation of reds and oranges.

In the middle of the wheel stands the Tree of Life, which reaches 14 feet in the air and is constructed of thousands of individual pieces of glass, ceramic, metal and concrete, and is meant to evoke the universe’s earliest forms, those single-celled organisms borne of water that eventually climbed onto dry land.

Surrounding the main exhibit are a series of cone-shaped sculptures made from smooth black stones, which symbolize those elements that have struck Earth during its existence: asteroids, meteorites, etc.

Expect a bit of Matthew Barney and perhaps a dash of Mark Rothko.

“This is not necessarily educational,” Gatti said. “This is much more.”

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