when art and gardens collide

Those of us who chase gardens and plants seem to divide into two camps: Those who enjoy art works in the garden and those who don’t. Oftentimes, leaving out ostentatious decorative pieces is as bold a statement as their inclusion.

 photo P1015144.jpg

No need for any distractions from the muscular trunks of this tree in Connie Cross’ garden on Long Island.

But because they are intended specifically as outdoor settings where artists can develop work in response to the site, places like Longhouse on Long Island, New York, and Cornerstone, Sonoma, California, can give the viewer an experience impossible for indoor museums to duplicate. Another example would be what the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is doing with its ongoing exhibit “Natural Discourse.”

Being a simple creature, always ready to be dazzled by anything that sparkles, what I unreservedly admire is the work at Cornerstone Sonoma of Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot. Whatever the theme, such as the harsh life of Chinese migrants working on railroads in 19th century America, these two never underestimate the seduction of glittering surfaces. I love the gleam, the reflectivity, the shimmer, the swirl, the sensual results achieved with simple industrial materials — heck, I love everything I’ve seen by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot.

 photo P1018723.jpg

 photo P1018699.jpg

 photo P1018690.jpg

 photo P1018682.jpg

 photo P1018725.jpg

 photo P1018686.jpg

 photo P1018716.jpg

“Red Lantern,” Cornerstone, Sonoma, California

But not all artists choose the glittery approach. At Longhouse, a sculpture garden on Long Island, New York, Yue Minjun’s “Chinese Contemporary Warriors” stayed with me long after the visit. I don’t keep up with contemporary art, so hadn’t heard of this Chinese artist famous for his “laughing man” series. From what I’ve read since the visit, laughing maniacally seems to be the only response left for this artist after the heartbreak of Tiananmen Square. All I sensed at the time from the figures was a forced and disjointed communal gathering that resulted in an eerie isolation, which the enclosed setting of hedges on an austere groundwork of gravel reinforced. Very spooky and very sad.

 photo P1015338.jpg

Yue Minjun’s ‘Chinese Contemporary Warriors,’ a cynical riff on the terracotta warriors

Two very different approaches, one that attracts and one that repels, yet both had me wanting to know more about these artists and their work.

This entry was posted in artists, garden travel, garden visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to when art and gardens collide

  1. Marina says:

    Sugestion: Google “inhotim” and you’ll se pictures of an exquisite Botanic Garden that’s also a huge museum of contemporary art. They have diferent gardens that were created to go with the marvellous buildings wich serve as gigantic art galleries. The place is really big and receives thousands of visitors each week, myself included! Thefe you can find all kinds of gardens and me favorite in the dry garden and also the many orquid collections. Greetings from Brasil (hee we write the name of our country with an “s”)!

  2. Denise says:

    Marina, Inhotim looks fabulous! Thanks for the tip.

  3. Pat Webster says:

    Love this post, Denise. Your choice of art illustrates your point really well. I give talks about art in the landscape, and there is so much to say on the topic: what you choose, where you put it, what your choice says about you and your relationship to the world. There was an interesting piece recently in a British blog called Thinkingardens. The writer questioned whether art adds to a space or whether it only says, hey, look at me! It provoked some good on-line conversations.

    Thanks as well to Marina for the link to Inhotim. I will look it up. In the U.S., Storm King in New York state is one of favourite sculpture parks. In Canada, the international festival at the Reford Gardens links gardens and garden art more closely. I love both places.

  4. Denise says:

    Pat, you’re right, this is a huge subject. I do check in with Anne Wareham’s blog and will look for that discussion. Thank you for the info, it’s much appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *