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Last night at the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, Brooklyn-based landscape artist Lily Kwong unveiled her Tree of Life installation, and a white neon house on the beachfront—the newest Maison St-Germain. In the hotel’s iconic backyard, the tall tree installation is seen sweeping up the side of the building, and as guests make their way toward the ocean, and through the annual art dome, a gleaming house is seen with air plants dangling from its structure.
Kwong’s passion for plants continues to shine in these symbolic creations, with the tree’s installation exemplifying regeneration for the greenery that was affected by the recent hurricane season. In celebration of this occasion, a signature “Windfall” cocktail, presented by St-Germain, was served. In celebration, Faena Theater’s SENSATIA Cabaret dancers moved through the space, and a drum circle beckoned lively interactions under the moon.
We spoke to Kwong about the recent installations, and what the Tree of Life symbolization means to varying cultures.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your ongoing partnership with St-Germain, and this creation.
LILY KWONG: I partnered with St-Germain French elderflower liqueur to revitalize The Faena Hotel’s iconic Clusia rosea tree, which suffered damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation. The liqueur is made from thousands of elderflower blossoms and I wanted to capture that spirit of abundance. My piece features sculptural masses of exotic orchids and epiphytes indigenous to South America, East Asia, Africa and beyond. We’ve also reprised our “Maison” installation built from beams of light on the oceanfront beach, dressed with prisms and hundreds of bromeliads and air plants. These plant sculptures were activated by Faena Theater’s SENSATIA Cabaret, who performed a ceremonial dance inspired by the Tree of Life.
WW: The Tree of Life piece is a symbol of hope, healing, and regeneration. Why?
LK: The concept for this piece came from studying cultural tradition of “tree worship,” which crosses beyond the borders of religion, geography and time. The installation honors the longstanding role of trees as a universal symbol of physical & spiritual nourishment, transformation, liberation, union and fertility. Trees are considered bridges that connect the heavens to the mortal, earthly realm in cultures ranging from the Mayas to the Japanese. The floral adornment of Faena’s Clusia rosea, the accompanying performance and dramatic lighting installation pays homage to the Tree of Life. The fact that this tree lost nearly every leaf in Hurricane Irma, yet survived and will generate new growth before long is a testament to nature and humanity’s resilience and power to heal.
WW: What is special for you about doing an installation in Miami, and at the Faena?
LK: I got my start in landscape design in Miami as a project director for the LVMH Design District. Miami is where I re-connected with my deep passion for the natural world and plant life, and some of my greatest mentors in horticulture and design are based in South Florida. It feels really auspicious to come back to the city where I cut my teeth and created a botanical piece during such an exciting week for art and culture. I respect how Faena has woven architecture, contemporary art, music and dance into the fabric of urban life. We need more dynamic, unconventional spaces in our cities. Plus the landscape was designed by one of my design heroes, Raymond Jungles. To get to interact with his work is a true honor!
Kwong’s Tree of Life installation is a semi-permanent installation. The neon house installation is on view through Sunday.