Friday, July 31, 2015

Yard Art

I have a piece of sculpture in my garden. It’s a natural sculpture, not a traditional hunk of marble, chipped into shape by Michelangelo. My sculpture is made of wood, a piece of root from an ancient cedar, about my height and width, but otherwise without any human characteristics. I don’t display it prominently, in fact, it can easily be missed where it stands, slouched against the arbour. At times it makes me stop in wonder as I try to imagine the size and majesty of the tree that formed this remarkable shape. I suppose that’s its role now, like any sculpture, to cause one to pause and ponder.

Some would say that a garden is not complete without a sculpture or artwork. For many, a garden gnome might be the principal feature of their little plot, and I confess, I too own one, but he’s not easily spotted, partly because he’s not painted in garish colours, but mainly because he wanders off and I forget to look for him. Sometimes it’s months before he reappears, usually after the leaves have fallen from the shrubs. Interestingly, an internet poll shows gardeners are equally divided over whether gnomes should be welcomed into a garden.

If garden gnomes are indeed an artistic benchmark, then I’m guessing that plastic deer, fat fannies (those colourful plywood cut-outs of a person bent over weeding), or items that have served time in a bathroom would fall below the line.

A notch or two up the scale would have to be gazing balls, also known as gazing globes, rose balls, good luck balls, Victorian balls, or witch balls. The first recorded history of these hand-blown glass garden accents dates back to the 13th century where they were made in Venice.  In the 16th century Francis Bacon stated that a proper garden would have round coloured balls for the sun to play upon. I find them intriguing, but I’m happy to gaze at them in someone else’s garden.

I suppose at the top of the statuary heap would be something by Rodin, a little beyond my range, but there are tons (literally) of beautiful replicas, including Michelangelo’s David. Many are now cast in concrete and are long lasting, although they don’t look their best until they’ve attained that ancient, moss covered look.

Besides the work of the old masters, it’s possible these days to find something to suit anyone’s taste from cute hedgehogs to ancient urns, or even fascinating, but hideous, Victorian gargoyles. They make a great conversation piece but I think they look more at home lurking in a huge gothic garden than lurching off a suburban deck, unless, of course, they happen to frighten rabbits away.

Since most garden accents are not meant to have such a practical use, then placement becomes the most important factor. Smaller items are useful for punctuating an entrance or creating particular interest within a planting, but using too many can disrupt the flow and confuse the design.

A garden is enhanced by a sculpture, and many an expanse of green lawn cries out for a focal point, but a cleverly placed statue awaiting discovery at a turn in the pathway will gently delight the unwary visitor. Similarly, a magical effect is created when a piece concealed by plantings is revealed only when a breeze stirs foliage or tall grass, or when Aphrodite, framed by an archway, is positioned to emerge in the distance from a September mist. Scale, theme, and location, should be considered when choosing a sculpture for the garden.

I have in my collection of well-placed garden art (?), in addition to my old cedar root and my concrete gnome, one broken pedestal that originally supported an old birdbath; a pink cherub; a concrete fedora; a steel heron; and Albert, a small, stone figure—my favourite. Most of these were gifts, found, or simply wandered in and I haven’t the heart to dispose of them, despite their artistic merit, which I suppose is how other folk feel about their fat fannies and plastic Bambis.

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