SOPHIA


Maimoun Sophia Moreno Bunge Dialogue Feature

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN DIALOGUE WITH SOPHIA MORENO-BUNGE, ARTIST AND FLORIST

 

 Sophia Moreno-Bunge is the founder of ISA ISA, a floral design studio based in Los Angeles. Working with flowers, branches and other plants, Sophia’s arrangements reflect a uniquely cinematic, at times surreal style rooted in a deep appreciation for nature. Wielding shape, color and negative space, Sophia’s organic, emotive works vibrate with deeply personal inspiration, from formative childhood moments spent in the wilderness of Argentina to her artist residency at the Villa Lena Art Foundation in Tuscany. We sat down with Sophia to discuss her family, her first artistic loves and the path that led her to her career and passion.

 

Interview by Gabriella Lacombe ~ Photos by Mina Alyeshmerni

 

 

 

 

Can you tell me about the home you grew up in? 

 

ISA ISA is named after your two grandmothers. Did they have influence over your affinity for the culture behind your work? They definitely did; my whole family is from Argentina. I grew up going every year to my grandmother Isabel’s farm outside of Buenos Aires, where she had a cattle ranch, and to my family’s farm in Patagonia and was very inspired by the landscapes and cultures of these two places . The pampas are quiet and magestic- miles and miles of grassland and endless horizons, amazing birds and beautiful sounds; as dwarfing and humbling as the glaciers and the archaic araucaria trees of Patagonia. We spent a lot of time horseback riding, hiking and lake exploring, and a lot of time together as a big family.  I’ve always been very inspired by the Argentine gaucho aesthetic- not just the quintas with large verandas, tall windows, antiques, and beautiful textiles, but also the time spent both alone and with family in nature, appreciating simple things like sharing tea and homemade meals and asados... the grace of horses and cows grazing. These scenes are ingrained in me. It has certainly all influenced my sense of design, my values, and appreciation for beauty and nature. 

One of my grandmothers was a serious rose admirer - there are stories of her roses- and the other was a real entrepreneurial woman, who did so many things, one of which was starting a quail egg business, raising quails and selling their eggs to restaurants in Buenos Aires. So yes, I am very inspired by both of my Isabel’s, and the rest of my family. 

 

 

You’ve said that photography was your first love. Can you tell me about how this love began, and how it exists now? 

 

I learned film photography and darkroom processing when I was 13, my high school offered classes. I did it for years. It was sort of my safe haven as a closeted queer, not knowing what to do with myself/my feelings around this; having this outlet was really helpful. I still love photographing my work, documenting it, creating strange still lives.

 

 

How did enter into and grow your floral design career? 

 

I read an article about Emily Thompson flowers in the New York Times; she seemed so interesting and wonderful, a sculptor turned florist. I reached out to her and began interning with her; the internship turned into the most exciting and inspiring job I’ve ever had. It was an incredible place to learn, and I became good friends with everyone that worked there, that Emily drew into her wonderful world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does empty space play a role in your arrangements? 

 

It’s so fun to play with negative space, to create arrangements that can breath and that are almost dancing a little; negative space facilitates this, gives your eye a place to pause until you move onto the next delight.

 

 

What were your biggest takeaways from working under Emily Thompson? 


What didn’t I learn from Emily?! Emily once said that she would like an arrangement to be so airy that a bird could fly through it and that always stuck with me (she has a way with natural materials and words). She is such an incredible teacher- passionate, inspired and generous. Her vision is so strong and clear. I really learned about setting intentions for your work; really exploring the medium, the story and concept. Working with materials in season, celebrating them in all their stages and with all their weird and gnarly imperfections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You were an artist in residence at the Villa Lena Art Foundation in Tuscany, and also had a residency in Sicily. Can you tell me more about these experiences, and if there’s anything particularly special about Italy in relation to your work?

 

I do really love Italy, and feel very inspired by the landscape and history there. My residency at Villa Lena was very special, and informed my work for the years to come. It was really amazing to spend time with a small group of artists, sharing meals and collaborating with them. While living at the Villa, I thought a lot about the value of labor, as all the materials I worked with had to be foraged. I would take daily walks to gather and could only carry so much; this made me very conscious of how I used the material. I played with a lot of dry and dead clippings, scraps, bark, and embraced a bit of minimalism, which is all a part of my work now. Being at the Villa gave me time and space to re-evaluate how I want to work as a florist and artist. This can be a very strenuous job—early mornings, long hours, and immense physical exertion, carrying heavy buckets of water and building large installations. Putting on a big event requires a lot of bodies and a lot of work; the reality of the job is often obscured by the idyllic results. I hope to bring a little relief and create a working model that is more sustainable for myself and my employees, to create an environment where there is flexibility, time to eat and take care of ourselves, and not just run ourselves into the ground.

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

You were an artist in residence at the Villa Lena Art Foundation in Tuscany, and also had a residency in Sicily. Can you tell me more about these experiences, and if there’s anything particularly special about Italy in relation to your work?

I do really love Italy, and feel very inspired by the landscape and history there. My residency at Villa Lena was very special, and informed my work for the years to come. It was really amazing to spend time with a small group of artists, sharing meals and collaborating with them.  While living at the Villa, I thought a lot about the value of labor, as all the materials I worked with had to be foraged. I would take daily walks to gather and could only carry so much; this made me very conscious of how I used the material. I played with a lot of dry and dead clippings, scraps, bark, and embraced a bit of minimalism, which is all a part of my work now. Being at the Villa gave me time and space to re-evaluate how I want to work as a florist and artist. This can be a very strenuous job—early mornings, long hours, and immense physical exertion, carrying heavy buckets of water and building large installations. Putting on a big event requires a lot of bodies and a lot of work; the reality of the job is often obscured by the idyllic results. I hope to bring a little relief and create a working model that is more sustainable for myself and my employees, to create an environment where there is flexibility, time to eat and take care of ourselves, and not just run ourselves into the ground.

 

 

I think floral design is a really great example of a kind of beautiful work that many people admire and some people dream of getting into, but don’t know where to begin. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start off on a similar creative journey, but might not know where to start?

Everyone’s journey is different; I really got so much out of working for someone whose work I admired and immersing myself in the work. For me it was also important to stick with it- to exercise discipline.  It’s really easy to walk away from things; riding out the hard moments when I really wanted to give up or start something new is a large part of what has brought me to where I am today.

 

 

Maimoun Sophia Moreno-Bunge Dialogue Feature 

 

 

What or who inspires you, both in work and in life? 

Lots of things...reading, dance and music shows, trying to be the most honest and thoughtful version of myself; traveling, the Los Angeles landscape, ocean and plant life.

 

 

Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon that you can speak about? 

A cutting garden in Malibu, and hopefully some other communal projects in this space.

 

What is something you are yearning to experience? 

A deeper connection with, and being more of service to my community here in LA. 

 

Maimoun comes from the Persian language word, meaning to welcome guests into your home. If you could invite anyone to dinner in your home, who would it be and why? 

This is so hard ! There are so many people I would love to meet and talk to; a couple off the top of my head since I’ve been reading their work the last couple years: Rebecca Solnit and Maggie Nelson, to talk about life, love, exploring, and being an artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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