Sunflower, Oh Sunflower!

September 29, 2018




Sunflower, Golden Mother

T'is the flower that nods unto the sun

Chasing shadows, each and everyone

And in spiraled ritual round this star of ours

The sunflower dances, for all the hours.


And a thousand eyes, She has, it seems, 

Homed within the depths of petaled dreams

This golden mother, this golden sphere

Protects her seedlings, from winged flight, so near!







Clytie, Our Sunflower

Legend tells of Clytie, whose love for Apollo never wained

Though affection ne'er he showed her, just torment and disdain.

And so in her sorrow she sat, her eyes a-fixed from afar

Watching, from rising to the setting, her beloved, our world's central star.


And in this repose she remained, and stems took place of limbs 

And from flesh to green she so became, the flower of golden dreams,

Who traces still Apollo, who light's this earth of ours

And perhaps by this telling, we understand  sunflowers. 




A little history, and then some...


The story of sunflower (Helianthus Annuus ) is indeed amazing. The wild sunflower is native to North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia. It was only recently that the sunflower plant returned to North America to become a cultivated crop.


But it was the American Indian who first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant with a variety of seed colors including black, white, red, and black/white striped.


If you are interested in learning more, visit:



Today when we think of sunflowers Vincent Van Gogh's famous painting, "Sunflowers" (above) comes to mind. The Impressionists in general were especially fixated on the flower, as indeed were artists throughout history, but we forget the relationship that Van Gogh developed with the flower, and indeed our own, when only a singular painting becomes accessible to public viewing. After all, we have used the sunflower for food, dyes, building material, in poetry & literature, and in rituals and ceremonies for centuries... 


Van Gogh made many studies of sunflowers, as shown below, they are simply not as popularized to the public. And seeing each painting offers us a different way of seeing (the same flower), which potentially has positive outcomes when encouraging individuality through art. 


 I often feel that selecting a particular artwork for display, as has been the tradition in promoting art and artists for centuries, does not give the viewer the opportunity to experience the relationship that Van Gogh, for instance, developed with subjects. It also perhaps discourages the idea that the viewers themselves are able to develop a relationship in this way, and a way of looking at things in a deeper, more reverent way.


Through his studies I imagine that Van Gogh would have come to some sort of understanding of and feeling for this flower. And this feeling for the flower, ultimately became imbued with his own individuality, as not all artists portray a sense of sadness when painting these flowers. I'm not sure what Van Gogh's intentions were when he painted, whether or not he thought about such things, but I'm sure he became acutely fascinated with the details.


A senior in an Art Outreach Program I run based on developing community through a pen-pal approach between seniors and preschoolers, said, "These are the flowers that reach out to you. Perhaps this is why the children love them so." I thought, so fitting for programs designed to help others reach out to the community through their art, and so fitting that a child would become so interested in them!





Lust for Life, starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh 




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