May 7, 2018

SUPER NATURAL

Take a leaf, paint it pink. Now you’re thinking like Peaches.

Kyle Branch is Peaches. He’s a lot of other things, too: a fine arts painter, a shopkeeper at Tenoversix, and a cooler-than-thou dresser. But when he’s painting gigantic monstera leaves and fanning out the petals of lavender roses, he’s Peaches, one of the city’s most creative floral designers.

His instantly recognizable arrangements marry the sparse asymmetry of Japanese ikebana with the neon glow of ’80s MTV. Candy-red anthuriums weave through painted cholla wood. Ombré heliconias trail precariously down one side of a vase. A single acid-orange rose wears a spiral of blue wire, as if it were a hat.

Despite his botanical prowess, Branch didn’t get into this business because of his love of flowers. It, like all of his artwork, stems from his obsession with color. “In my first high school art class, another kid went on a rant about how colors can impact your feelings, and that stuck with me,” he says. “Back then, I was reserved and quiet—the only gay kid in my school—and so to find something two-dimensional with such power… That was very moving to me.”

Although Branch honed his skills as a painter while studying studio arts at South Carolina’s College of Charleston, he’s been drawing and creating for as long as he can remember. “Growing up, we had nothing, so we made it. My mom was amazing about that. She would sit at home and make things with me, like little animals out of wood chips from Jo-Ann’s. She always led me in a creative direction.”

Painting monopolized his creative efforts for a time. His vivid works of abstract geometry are inspired by pleasure, gender, identity, and again, color. Playfully suggestive swoops and circles splash across handmade canvases that bend into perfect circles and other figures.

“For me, painting is a way of taking these topical ideas and exploring them through hyper-sexual, hyper-florescent colors that are thoughtful, not arbitrary.”

This measured consideration carries over into his approach to florals. Most stems come through special request and are closely scrutinized. “Once, I ordered an orchid called ‘red lips’ that was supposed to be bright red in the middle, but when it came it was magenta. I looked at it and said, I can’t use this. I can’t do anything with these.” Sorry, red lips. Foliage is also a regulated commodity. “It all goes back to color. I don’t want to see big clumps of dark green. But take a palm leaf and paint it butter yellow—now, that’s intentional and cool.” The only thing that’s not deliberate may be his moniker. Why Peaches? “Because of the emoji and, you know, cute butts.” 🍑  —Michelle Padgett