Imagine palm fronds splayed like a fan, sprayed with industrial paint and interspersed with multicolored feather tufts and fluffy floral clusters. Shining ribbons and delicate flower petals on the brink of decay drape about gnarled branches and sunken fruit. This is Portland-based Manu Torres’s floral work—inspired by the opulence of 16th-century Dutch still lifes and by the simple, raw beauty of nature’s best designs, straddling the line between timeless and ultramodern.
Two years ago Torres was making sandwiches in a downtown sub shop. He arranged flowers as a hobby, posting the psychedelic explosions of color on his Instagram (@uunnaamm), where he built a loyal following of about 10,000. Everything changed two years ago when downtown shop Frances May asked him to decorate a Christmas tree for a holiday display. From there, word of mouth grew his hobby into a business, with Torres landing big-time clients like Russo Lee Gallery and Nike.
“I’m an artist, but I still consider myself a florist first,” he says. “I noticed all the flora in Portland—the roses and rhododendron—and I became obsessed.”