Traces of Late Summer:
A Conversation Between a Turnip and a Sunchoke

We didn’t realize a turnip and a sunchoke could have a conversation until Bella Meyer proposed to animate them with a puppet performance using Special Special’s latest edition of Tubers felt planters, produced in collaboration with Benjamin Langford. The performance coincided with Langford’s solo exhibition Late Summer at Special Special, an installation of enlarged sculptural photographs of plants and flowers, which were photographed from around his home and neighborhood during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

With Bella, Ben, and new and old friends gathered festively together, we also celebrated Special Special’s 4th anniversary, as the audience watched Bella’s performance unfold behind our storefront window from the sidewalk. A wholesome delight celebrating four years of creative collaborations at Special Special, this little video reveals a small fraction of the magic of that day. 


(Above) Bella Meyer, founder of and florist at FleursBella, stages a performance in Special Special’s storefront

Tim Simonds first introduced Bella to me as his mother during his solo exhibition, Talks To Me, at our space in 2019. At that time, she was a supportive collector who brought many friends to see her son’s show, and we developed a close friendship. Every time she visited, she carried an exuberant and earthy energy which made sense given her career as a florist and founder of an artistic flower shop near Union Square called FleursBella. This charming oasis in Manhattan is known for its floral installations for art institutions, glamorous events, and restaurants around town. 

Tim Simonds, left, with his mother Bella Meyer.

Bella is not only one of our favorite local florists but also a collector of the Hibiscus Hawaiian shirt, a previous edition collaboration with Benjamin Langford. She happened to be back in town from quarantining upstate for the opening of Ben’s show and showed up wearing her Hibiscus Hawaiian shirt. From outside our space looking into the new exhibition, daring to slip our masks down for a quick sip of prosecco, I asked if she would be interested in demonstrating how to use our latest Tubers planter edition. 

“How about a puppet performance?” she asked. She looked at our storefront window and started envisioning stems of fresh and dried flowers slowly accumulating in Ben’s Turnip and Sunchoke planters; branches building one after another, growing taller and leaning further into each other.

Tim, who was standing nearby, interjected, “Oh, you will love her puppet performances. She used to do them all the time.” Convinced by their creative energy, I believed it was a better vision than my initial proposal to ask her to do a workshop.  

Bella Meyer, right, with her assistant Leanna.

An assortment of loose stems and branches prepare for their appearance on stage.

On the day of the performance, Bella showed up with her two teammates, Leanna and George, buckets of flowers, and a shelf to organize them for the performance. Around the start time at three o’clock, friends of Bella and Special Special began to gather, reunited in masks standing outside our space in anticipation for the performance. One of her assistants hit “play” to start a soundtrack of nature sounds, and Bella appeared wearing all black behind the glass, covering her face with a black cloth as well to divert attention from herself as the puppeteer. She began filling the planters with long flower stems. Vibrant flowers in fuschia, mustard, and emerald animated the window of Special Special. 

Pedestrians and passing cars stopped to peer in, as the bouquets grew taller and taller over the course of the forty minute performance. There were some moments when Bella teased her audience by stepping out from behind the window frame. As the audience started clapping, thinking it signaled the end of the performance, Bella would flick fresh flower petals at us before stepping back into the window frame to continue her arrangements. Everyone was captivated and mesmerized by the luscious assemblage of yarrow, celosia, and bramble.

Crowds gather to watch Bella Meyer’s flower puppet performance at the Special Special storefront.

Finally, she came out again to throw more flowers—this time loose orchid buds—and gave a final bow. Then, people stepped inside to see the juxtaposition of the floral arrangements and Ben’s installation inside our space. The finished display also evoked a sensorium of smells, emitting a fragrance akin to dried tea leaves and a forest floor. 

 Bella throws petals into the crowd.

The interior of Special Special is transformed into a surreal gardenscape with Benjamin Langford’s sculptures and bouquets by Fleursbella.

Bella continued to treat each flower tenderly even after the performance was complete. She sprayed hairspray onto dry flowers to keep them perky. Two weeks later when she came to take down the display, she apologized to each stem as she arranged for them to be discarded or recycled for other ornamental displays. 

Benjamin Langford’s Tubers in varying sizes are available for your own planting and puppeteering needs. Langford’s exhibition Late Summer is on view through December 24, 2020.

Wen-You Cai
Founder / Director of Special Special