Visual artist Maurice Harris sits firmly at the intersection of fine art and the empowerment of Black bodies. Harris’s many layers inform his artistry as he elegantly explores the textures of masculinity, femininity, and freedom while successfully reflecting his own complexities in striking floral arrangements. “I’m a Black, gay male living in America, and that's complicated,” he says, flatly. “So there's a lot of stuff to work out and plenty of inspiration there.”
The grandson of a florist and son of a crafty mother, Harris acquired an eye for creative inspiration at a young age. His family possessed an artistic audaciousness that emboldened him to eventually embrace his own. That ultimately led Harris to creating art that stands as a testament to one’s autonomy through his floral business, Bloom & Plume. Located in the heart of L.A.’s Echo Park, it’s much more than a flower shop as Harris and his team don’t just create beautifully ornate floral arrangements but works of art. This extends past the bouquets themselves to postcards and calendars that capture both the beauty of flowers and the Black experience.
Through his personal and creative journey, Harris aims to provide his community the type of access and exposure to the arts that he did not have growing up. “Bloom & Plume is a hub for creativity,” he says. “It's a hub for showing the importance of beauty and aesthetics, and not having to always be in an oppressive state.”
That mind state is a direct result of the California native’s family upbringing. As a child, Harris was encouraged to explore everything he wanted to do as long as he promised to “do it well and give it all that [he had].” Taking that directive to heart, he initially pursued fashion, studying at L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design before later pivoting his focus to the school’s Fine Arts program.
“I’ve always had my own voice. I'm only ever good at doing me,” Harris explains. “I wanted to figure out how to do me the best. And when I switched over to fine art, I found that was a great medium for me to explore that.”
Harris eventually took on a position at fashion brand, and experimented with flowers as a hobby. Aware of Harris’s love for flowers as a medium, his assistant booked him as a florist for a wedding. When the gig prompted a need for business cards, Harris coined his floral service, Bloom & Plume. When the economic crisis of 2009 led to Harris getting laid off from his fashion job, it was the exact stroke of “bad luck” needed to land Harris squarely in his floral career. He launched Bloom & Plume full-time with his severance package the following year.
Harris’s blooming began well before the launch of his business, however, with his decision to no longer conform. “It has been a really interesting battle to not fit into society in a heteronormative way, to not just fit all the boxes,” Harris shares. “I’m big and I'm tall, and people always ask me do I play football or basketball? No, I don't. I'm more fluid with my expression, with my feminine energy, my masculine energy, all those sort of things.”
“I think that beautiful things allow us to dream, allow us to escape, allow us to hope and aspire towards other things.”
While Harris is aware that the art he creates stands as a luxury and most of his clients are wealthy—he has designed floral installations for everyone from Ava DuVernay to Florence and the Machine to Vogue—he is clear on the power of beauty and has selected it as his weapon of choice. “I think that beautiful things allow us to dream, allow us to escape, allow us to hope and aspire towards other things,” Harris remarks.
This belief prompted Harris to extend his brand to a community cafe, Bloom & Plume Coffee, which he owns and runs alongside his brother. Opened earlier this year, the coffee shop employs Black and Brown members of the queer community, and is thoughtfully decorated with Harris’s artwork and aesthetic. It falls in line with Harris’s mantra that “we are only what we see.” Hitting several marks, the shop not only brings awareness and visibility to LGBTQIA people, it provides Harris’s non-elite customers the affordable luxury of coffee in a beautiful space and an opportunity to experience his work.
More recently, an even broader community has gotten to sample Harris’s creativity thanks to his current Microsoft Surface campaign, which showcases how technology helps enhance Harris’s vision. “As organic as I like to be, you have to stay organized,” he explains. "And as much as people want to trust your creativity, they want to see a mood board; they want to see a rendering; they want to see something that allows them to have an insight into what's in my brain."
ComplexCon attendees got to witness Harris's creativity firsthand at his Microsoft activation, where he incorporated several beautifully-designed floral arrangements into the booth, providing the perfect backdrop for attendees to not only capture great photo moments but also utilize the Surface to enhance them live on the convention floor. The overall experience was a direct reflection of Harris’s core mission of providing people with the power of freedom.
“When I think about my values and things that are important to me—and freedom being the thing that’s my vibe—I felt like this partnership really encouraged that. They’ve really been celebrating my creativity and aligning myself with a company that is about that is kind of cool,” he says. “The thing that bums me out is that we do such beautiful work and it's so rare that many people get to see it, but brands like [Microsoft and Complex] create platforms for so many people to be engaged with the magic of what flowers can do. And that’s really beautiful and exciting to me.”
FOR MORE INSIGHT ON HARRIS'S INSPIRATION AND CREATIVITY, BE SURE TO WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE AND STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 TO SEE HOW HIS COMPLEXCON ACTIVATION CAME IN TO FULL BLOOM COMING SOON.