“I want to buy everything, but I have to text my wife pictures first for approval,” said Donald Robertson, the MAC Cosmetics co-founder, at an opening for artist Michael De Feo, also known as The Flower Guy. “Wife approval is the most important.”
If his wife is into the bright, simple flower drawings of a street artist gone legit, then Mr. Robertson would indeed find himself buying everything. The show space, tucked in a modest corner of the third floor at 526 West 26th Street, was given to De Feo for the year by Rush Arts—the charitable arm of the Russell Simmons empire—to show off a series of nearly thirty new flower works fittingly titled “A Pocket Full of Posies.” “I started making the flowers twenty years ago sort of by accident through a brainstorming exercise. I didn’t plan on this becoming my moniker, but twenty years later here we are,” De Feo said.
His interest was first sparked in Amsterdam after seeking out a set of paintings by the 17th-century Dutch masters, all of which featured flowers. “It’s all about making something permanent out of something perishable,” De Feo said pointing to his works lining the walls. “And of course to highlight our brief time here.”
The event was a welcome reprieve from the fashion week fakery currently swirling all around Manhattan. Instead, his fan base has been cultivated organically through a variety of social circles—both in-person and digitally. “I only recently met Donald through Instagram,” De Feo says, “He seemed like just another guy who might live somewhere like Mamaroneck. He would comment on my pictures, and I would comment on his, and we finally met at his show over the summer.”
De Feo also has a working relationship with fellow street artist Shepard Fairey, and co-produced gallery shows with him in Bushwick and Greenwich, Connecticut. Long before setting his sights on art world stardom, De Feo taught art to children for fifteen years in Stamford, Connecticut, which he still continues to do with Rush Arts.