When he lived in Chicago, Hastings artist David Cook created sculptures that fit the city's industrial nature. It was moody, haunting and even a little scary, he said.
About four months ago, he started a new project that is vastly different. He made a collection of large, brightly colored flowers and temporarily installs them in various spots around the Twin Cities area.
"I've been getting nothing but smiles," he said.
Cook has been doing art for the past 35 to 40 years. A Minnetonka native, he got the bulk of his recognition in Chicago. There he was known for his sculptures. He's lived in several places, always making some sort of art.
"When I think of my art past it's like scrambled eggs," he said, laughing.
He started working with clay and moved into plaster, cement and scrap metal to create his pieces.
"I used to climb mountains of scrap yards in Chicago," he said.
Cook has been living in Hastings for the past six years.
The flower project is one that is in a constant state of evolution. It started with a painting phase. He has several framed paintings of the flowers.
Then he got the idea to sculpt the flowers using wire and bits of glass. The sculptures would include light bulbs that lit up. While searching out materials at a scrap yard, where Cook often searches for materials to use in his artwork, he had an idea. He had a can of black spray paint with him that day, and on a whim decided to paint flowers over the junk pile.
Next came the idea to make a flower to put into the pile, and the art of "flower-bombing" was born.
The art started here in Hastings last December. After making the painted cardboard, duct tape and plastic flowers, Cook started planting them in various spots around town and taking photos. He visited downtown businesses with the blooms and took pictures of people in the shops holding a flower.
"I just wanted to put them out and get reactions," he said.
He didn't stop there. In January he took a three-week trip to Florida and planted the flowers on the beach. He set up a lawn chair a ways back from the display and watched how people reacted. He has several pictures of people taking their own pictures of the flowers. He took some videos of his artwork as the waves watered the stems.
He's also flower-bombed several spots in the Twin Cities, including the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater and the Walker Art Museum, to name just a few.
Wherever he installs the flowers, Cook just sits back and lets the public enjoy the work without getting involved.
"That's what's so great about," he said. "...I don't have to explain them."
"I can just sit back and let my work speak."
A growing movement
Cook understands that his flowers are still evolving, and it's difficult to say exactly what the next stage will be.
"I don't know what happens after this," he said.
"I think I've created something that's just going to evolve."
His gut feeling is that it's a form of artwork that will start to catch on across the state and nation. There's an anti-establishment movement going on in the art world right now, he said, and some people have told him his work fits right in.
He has a growing audience on Facebook, and several of his fans have told him they need to see the flowers in their cities.
He said he would love to get a permanent installation somewhere in the Twin Cities.
While many people just smile or laugh when they see the colorful, sometimes randomly placed flowers, Cook knows that what he's doing is serious.
"I think this is the most important work that I've ever done. I don't think, I know," he said.
His old work was good, he said, but it was also a little scary and haunting. The flowers are simple, and that's what makes them better.
"Sometimes the simplest ideas have the most impact," said Janet Letnes Martin, who co-authored the book "Lemonade for the Lawnboy" with Cook and has seen much of the public reaction to his flower bombs.
"We need it so badly right now, these beautiful flowers," Cook said.