Guest Blog on Art & Nature: An Inspirational Duo
It’s a shame that there is little reverence for the artists whose canvas or paper is the land. Many great masters were gardeners too. Their palettes were not only their brushes and pens, but they used their hands, hoes, and trowels to explore innovative ideas or simply create on their small plot of the earth. They used the landscape to mold a different yet similar vision.Along with cave walls and huge rocks the earth was the first blank workspace or workscape for the mind’s ideas and recordings of everyday life. These creations are not less or more artistic, but certainly as creative a work.
Today’s art is constantly reshaping its meaning. There is a snail’s pace recognition that gardens are art and art is in the garden. In 2004 the Tate Gallery inArtistic expression and its outcome have been an enduring part of the human condition. Where a footprint etched the earth, the hand painted the soul’s angst and delights.
had a major exhibition that examined the creative, emotional and intellectual ways that British artists have been affected by gardens. Currently, botanical gardens, galleries and museums also are examining this relationship. England
Many artists garden. In fact, their partnership with nature served and serves as a tangible and intangible source of creative wondering. Some artists were so inspired by nature that it was their life’s mission to interpret its presence. For others gardening was their avocation, and it was or was not (formally) expressed in their work.Claude Monet was the most famous artist/gardener. Although he painted other subjects, his garden in
, was his most influential and precious inspiration. Another artist who had a passionate connection to the landscape was Henry Moore, who was the ultimate artist/partner with all that is green. His sculpture was placed in a symbiotic relationship with the English landscape. As his notoriety spread, his work formed the basis for many sculpture gardens at major twentieth-century museums around the globe. Piet Oudolf, who is a native of Giverny, France and trained as an architect, has become a twenty-first century champion and creative voice behind the garden design movement Wave Planting. He advocates the use of shape and texture through the plantings of grasses and perennials. Truly, his masterpieces are art in its most natural form. And what can be said about Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy’s works--visions of breathtaking collaborations with nature. His art reflects the intimate bond that he has formed with the land and all its above-ground layers. He says, “When I’m working with materials it’s not just the leaf or the stone it’s the processes that are behind them that are important. That’s what I’m trying to understand, not a single isolated object but nature as a whole.” Holland
Often the act of gardening is a source of meditation and solitude to create new forms of inspirations. Stanley Kunitz comes to mind. He was a former
poet laureate and a devoted U.S. Cape Codgardener. Mostly, he considered his garden to be a microcosm of life. For Kunitz and many of us, gardens are the epitome of the interconnection that is woven between nature and human nature. When you read his glorious words, the influence is obvious. Just the last few lines of The Snakes of September demonstrate the hold that nature had upon him: “After all, we are partners in this land, co-signers of a covenant. At my touch the wild braid of creation trembles.”
Many, many renowned artists used and are using the flora and fauna as the basis for their creativity. Examples include Georgia O’Keeffe, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Imogen Cunningham, Cézanne, Tasha Tudor, and Jane Kenyon. Either the garden was their sketchbook and a place to use color, light, texture, structure and intuition, or it served as a blank book for the placement of the colorful and imaginative language of all that renews itself through the seasons. Unlike a completed work (painting, poem, photograph, novel, or sculpture), the garden serves the artist’s eye as open material that is ever-evolving and changing. Green space is constantly building chapters; a garden is continually refining its luster.Eudora Welty was an avid Southern gardener. Her “green” gene was so deeply embedded that her masterful novels are injected with the names of wild and domestic flowers and plants. She used her love of nature to color her fiction.
The devotion to nature also inspired one of art history’s most elegant movements: Art Nouveau (1890-1914). Those turn-of-the century artists used their passion for gardens as an archetype for their work. Art Nouveau spread its seeds across
Europeand North America. Much of the work was architectural, and it seamlessly transported the outside into the interior design. Today cities such as , Barcelona , Paris , Vienna, New York , Munich , and Chicago remain dressed in the elements of that movement. Brussels
As a space for contemplation a garden inspires more redefinition and sameness all at once, and it is a safe haven for quiet repose or human interaction. Certainly, Mother Nature’s landscape can be absent from an artist’s vision. But the artist who also gardens creates an inner connection that moves boundaries and induces another source for their creativity.
Even if a gardener is not a “practicing” or “recognized” artist, the land still serves as a natural canvas or blank tablet for creative energies. The possibilities are infinite and the results produce the bond intended or not: a true partnership between nature and human nature.
© 2006 Sally W. Donatello. Her previous guest blogs include The Struggle to Understand War Against Nature & Human Nature (click here) and Nature As the Quintessenial Master (click here).