Monday, July 23, 2012

Garden Designers' Roundtable: Art + Garden

Art may be the ultimate focal point in the garden.  Unlike plants, which are ephemeral throughout the seasons, art can be used as a permanent statement to express one's personal identity or enforce a sense of place.  The garden itself can be used to set the stage for the artwork and provide the backdrop, frame, and foreground.  Here are a few examples of art in the landscape, and why they work so well.

Representational artwork  may best represent / reenforce a specific place.  Nothing is left to the imagination; the association between object and place is clear, and the artwork contributes additional information about the space to the viewer.

This life size bear trio looms over the entry court of a private residence in Vail, Colorado.  They look like they've just emerged from their woodland home. Notice how the white trunks of the aspen trees create a nice contrast with the dark patina of the bronze.  The colorful flowers at the base of the sculpture catch the eye (as if the bears aren't enough!) and bring them into scale. The large size and prominent location make this a major focal point for this home.

A Japanese quince (Chaenomales japonica) paired with a Japanese lantern reinforces the identity of the Japanese Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.  Again, a bright flower companion may initially catch the eye, but the dark, evergreen background in contrast to the pale stone sculpture is key.

This statue does not reinforce its urban Denver location but is, instead, a memento or symbol of a specific time or place that's important to the owner.  This small piece is part of a vignette within a garden — a treasure to be discovered. Here, the gardener has used a  Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) with dark foliage as a contrast and color echo to the clay.  I also like the way that the water's reflection has been used to magnify the presence of this little piece. 

Abstract artwork may be viewed as the self-expression of the owner. It represents an emotion or a memory — perhaps related to a specific person, place or time — that's meaningful to the owner.

This joyful sculpture of stainless steel by Denver artist Kevin Robb, is reaching up to the clear, blue sky. It's hard, shiny, geometric form is wonderfully contrasted by the organic, undulating forms (lavender? rosemary?) beneath it. Perfection is the color echo of matte gray foliage to the steel.
photo courtesy of Kevin Robb Studios

Another whimsical art piece is this sculptural gate by Denverite Dennis West.  The lively, nature-based forms bring a hard, impersonal entryway to life.

 Sinuous curves feature in the simple, repetitive design of this sculpture (perhaps originally part of an architectural detail), which is the perfect focal point of a small meditation garden. Note how the fine textures and limited selection of the companion plants create a calm and relaxed setting.

Last, but not least . . . my favorite art piece in my garden is this tile mosaic that hangs on our patio wall, adjacent to the place that inspired it.   It was made by our daughter when she was 10 or 11 years old (sadly, it's not dated) and is simple titled "Pond."  Erin went on to earn a degree in apparel design and production from Colorado State University and became a talented textile designer. She recently opened her own business and is the proud owner of Super Good Art Stuff in the Tennyson Art District of Denver.

Art is a wonderful investment (at any price) in improving one's quality of life.  Buy (or create) what you love, and integrate it into your garden.  Read more about art in the garden from my fellow members of The Garden Designers' Roundtable, or click on the direct links to their blogs here:
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ
Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX


Susan aka Miss R said...

What a good primer on sculpture in the garden. Two things...YEAH! Your excellent advice to buy what you like and I love Kevin Robb's piece and how the grey and silver play off each other.

rebecca sweet said...

I think I love your daughter's tile the best, too! So, so talented!!! I love an artful gate, and wish I had a place for one in my garden. Someday....

Pam/Digging said...

I love the Kevin Robb cubes -- a nice change from the representational, nature-themed sculpture that seems especially popular in the West (for those with money). But there's nothing like the personal art created by one's obviously talented child -- the pond plaque really evokes the nature of a pond!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Thanks, Susan! Yes, Kevin creates wonderful abstract sculptures --- you'll have to check out his website.

Rebecca and Pam, thanks for letting me indulge in a bit of sentimentality and mother's pride. Appreciate your comments!

Tree Company Queens said...

I couldn't have said it better my self Jocelyn, the garden is all about finding your inner nature and producing a wide spread variety banquet course full of the most beautiful and decadent flora and fauna.

-Carlos Hernandez

Robert Webber said...

From my perspective the sculptures improved taste wise as we proceeded. Loved your thoughtful assessments. And yes you saved the best for last. Wot a talented kid. Like her ma!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Carlos, thanks for stopping by and participating in the conversation.

Robert, I confess, I'm a big fan of abstract art. Although I greatly admire the talent needed to create good representational work, I am always more intrigued, moved, and inspired by the abstract!

Garden sheds Melbourne said...

Wow! I love it specially the tile mosaic. It is really a lovely piece. I have a blue bottle stand in my garden. I was really pretty specially when the sunlight passes through the glasses. Lovely share.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Blue really comes to life in a garden, doesn't it? Thanks for your comment, GSMelbourne!

Shyrlene said...

My favorite piece - definitely the last one! Mosaic artwork from your own budding artist is absolutely priceless.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Thanks, Shyrlene, --- I think every creation by a child is fresh and fun, but that one is definitely a keeper!