Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Renewable Wilderness is Within

"The Renewable Wilderness is Within" is a quote taken from one of the more unusual sculptures in the Lynden Garden collection. The sculpture, "Open-Air Writing Desk" by David Robbins, is unusual for several reasons. One is its location away from the mown lawns where nearly all of the other sculptures reside, which is a part of the Lynden property to which I am drawn--for its relative wildness.

As one of the 2015 Artists in Residence I have not lived in the barn since March. But I have been active, making day trips periodically to check on things, to see how the seasons affect the mood of the place. This post is a brief update with a very small selection of images and an invitation to see many more posted on flickr.

I have long admired and enjoyed the Lynden Sculpture Garden. As a photographer, the opportunity to spend a more concentrated time there as Artist in Residence provides perspectives to which I have not previously attended. I have been able to see the familiar in unfamiliar ways, such as this small, minimalist sculpture called "Windfall" by Robert Murray.

I am also privileged to observe many more than I would otherwise of the frequent transient interventions that are a regular feature of the programming, such as this detail of a cyanotype installation by Milwaukee artist Tori Tasch.

The "gardens" part of the Lynden Sculpture Gardens have also drawn my attention far more than they have in the past.

And the formal gardens are only a portion of the floral displays. I caught this sunrise surprise out in the wilder section of the grounds.

And while nature is not characteristically symmetrical, I seem to find it in unexpected places.

Though asymmetry suits me just fine.

Last Saturday I gave a guided tour of the gardens and grounds. I was asked if I have a favorite sculpture and I do--while it lasts. As I told the group, there are so many sculptures throughout the grounds that it is easier to tick off the short list of those for which I find less affinity. But I do have a favorite and it is "The Feast," a temporary installation by Linda Wervey Vitamvas. When it was first installed over a year ago it consisted of two shelves placed next to the shoreline on the pond. On the shelves were a large set of earthenware vessels, mostly plates, bowls and chalices. These were made from clay harvested on the Lynden property. Over time the unglazed pieces began to decay and fall into the water. Recently the two shelves came entirely unmoored. The few pieces of pottery that remain now float among the lily pads. I have enjoyed watching entropy take its toll, nature reclaim the art, the earth reabsorb the earthenware.

Next week I will once more be ensconced in the barn on the premises, an artist in residence in fact as well as in name. So, there will be further updates, be assured. 

To see more of my work go to the 2015 Artist in Residence album on flickr.

I've also posted separate albums of special events at the Lynden. If you missed the in earlier posts, I invite you to check them out as well.

 The Winter Carnival was in February (left).

The 5th Anniversary celebration was in May (below).

The Fairy Queen Fantasy was performed on the grounds in June (left).

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Art in Portland, OR: personal selections.

Although my primary reason for a recent trip to Portland, OR was to attend a convention (the annual Unitarian Universalist General Assembly), I did manage to skip out long enough to visit the Portland Art Museum. Here are a few of the things that caught my eye.

The museum provides several types of offerings even before you enter the building.

There is a small, enclosed courtyard between the two buildings that make up the museum campus. Modern and contemporary sculptures have a home there. Deborah Butterfield's horses have long had a particular appeal for me. It was my great fortune to have had her as an instructor at UW--Madison (way back when!) This one, entitled "Dance Horse," has a distinctive and compelling gesture, at least for me.

The entry plaza was graced with a series of decorated pianos that had been sponsored by businesses and civic groups.

The decorations were eclectic and many of them reflected the interests of the sponsoring organizations.

All of the pianos were playable and several could be heard being played at any one time, both outside and inside the museum. The inharmonious cacophony made my stroll through the collection more poignant. "No Wrong Notes" is a quote by Thelonious Monk. Wonder what he would have made of this arrangement. I thought it was fun. It was certainly an entertaining draw.

The outside of the building itself serves as a kind of canvas as enormous posters are hung on the walls to promote the current exhibitions inside. This one is for a show called "Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris!" The sculpture is "Floating Figure" by Gaston Lachaise.

Another giant poster depicts Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei peering back at you. I found this juxtaposition with one of the sculptures in the courtyard to be trenchant.

Inside you could see Ai Wei Wei's "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold." Here you see a close up of one of the 12 animal heads that make up the zodiac.

Not having a lot of time, I did a quick run-through of the historical galleries to get a flavor. I noted that the local landscape and cultures were a common motif, as you might expect. Mount Hood is a particularly iconic favorite, seen here in an 1885 painting by William Samuel Parrott.

It's hard for a visitor to Portland to miss Mount Hood. I didn't get quite the Romantic view of it that the 19th Century painters sought, but I digress.

I'm quite fond of Inuit and Northwest Coast Indian art and so was looking forward to seeing what Portland had to offer in this vein. I was not disappointed. This tiny set of ivory figures, called "Tupilak," are by unknown Angmagssalik Inuit artists.

This "Drum Dancer" is by Aqjangajuk Shaa, a Canadian and Cape Dorset Inuit.

In the section on late 20th Century abstraction I found this atypical (for me anyway), thickly impastoed painting by Jules Olitski. I seem to recall having seen one of these somewhere before but I'm much more familiar with his sprayed color field paintings.

Walking around a corner, as I did, one can come upon this huge earthenware piece by Richard Notkin in a manner that puts you up close to its textured, relief surface, which is quite interesting.

However, only when you walk back away from it do the variations in the burnt clay surfaces resolve themselves into the overall gestalt. It's called "The Gift."

No, this isn't the museum any longer. I also went for a hike into a small corner of Forest Park, billed as the "largest urban forest in the world." At the trailhead I found this unattributed suite of sculptures. My story about hiking into the largest urban forest will appear on my other blog, Urban Wilderness, when I get around to it. I hope you'll join me again then.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fairy Queen Fantasy at Lynden Sculpture Garden: Bravissimo!

If you made it to the performance, then you've experienced the magic and I don't have to say a word. Enjoy a few photographic reminiscences.

If you missed Fairy Queen Fantasy, which was performed twice this weekend on the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden, allow me to give you a small taste of earthly and other delights.

The fairies, who could appear from anywhere, were warm and welcoming.

The story, adapted as an opera by Henry Purcell, was based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." While I'm not normally an opera fan, the few that I've seen and found memorable have stretched the genre in creative ways. I will remember this one a very long time.

Over 50 performers led an audience estimated at over 400 (on Friday evening) in two directions around the central pond. Professional members of Danceworks and Milwaukee Opera Theater were supported by a cast ranging in age from seven to seventy-seven (I was told.)

The settings were stunning as musicians and dancers alike took advantage of the monumental sculptures that grace the landscape.

The lighting was spectacular!

The musicians were suitably dignified and occasionally--and appropriately--undignified. They managed to be heard in the outdoor environment, accompanied now and then by sirens on Brown Deer Road and bullfrogs in the pond.

Even the younger fairies were poised and well practiced...

...and when they weren't performing themselves, they were engrossed by those who were.

At the climax, when both groups of performers and their trailing audiences had made a full circuit and returned to the patio, the audience was invited to join in the fun.

In the end, in what seemed to be (from the startled and amused looks on the musicians' faces) an impromptu departure from the script, Oberon swept Titania off her feet.

But wait, there's more. If you'd like to see the complete set of photos from both a rehearsal and the Friday night performance, go to my flickr album.

Full disclosure: I am serving as one of the Lynden's Artists in Residence for 2015.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Danceworks' Fairy Queen Fantasy will enliven the Lynden this weekend

The latest in a series of creative collaborations with arts organizations will unfold throughout the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden on Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20. Danceworks is presenting a tour de force adaptation of a piece by Purcell called Fairy Queen Fantasy. The performance involves 53 dancers aged 7-77, along with a host of musicians.

I went to a rehearsal last night and I was quite captivated by the performance, even in the rough form of a stop and start rehearsal. The action moves throughout the grounds, weaving around and through many of the sculptures (as you can see from the photos.) Here are a small selection of images. To see the complete set go to my flickr album.

For more information about the performances go to the Lynden Sculpture Garden website.

To see additional images from the rehearsal go to my flickr album.

Full disclosure: I am serving as one of the Lynden's Artists in Residence for 2015.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lynden Sculpture Garden celebrates 5 years of art and nature

At the Lynden Sculpture Garden, the place "where art meets nature," sometimes nature gets the upper hand. This happened on Saturday when visitors coming to celebrate the fifth anniversary had to brave blustery, unseasonably cold conditions along with rain showers of varying intensity.

The Lynden opened its doors to the public on May 30, 2010. Seemingly fortuitously, that date fell on a Saturday this year. The event planners accordingly scheduled their 5th anniversary event to coincide with the exact date. But you can't plan for good weather (not here in Wisconsin that is!)

Some stalwarts showed up anyway. Many of the scheduled festivities went on despite the unfestive weather. Children made kites and painted rocks. Former artist-in-residence Paul Druecke joined former writer-in-residence (and birder) Chuck Stebelton for a soggy bird walk. They reported seeing a total of six species, including the resident flock of Canada geese.

A featured one-day exhibition of bonsai trees, beautifully installed on the patio by the Milwaukee Bonsai Society, was undiminished by the rain. The tiny, sculpted trees were in themselves worth the effort to brave the elements. Bonsai, of course, takes the intersection of art and nature to an extreme, making them one and the same.

Sara Caron occupied Brian Nigus's vacant Sightseer installation. She could be found ensconced inside--where it was dry! She had created in there a pop-up welcome center and gift shop.

The shop was stocked with Lynden items, including a special 5th Anniversary t-shirt (a first for the sculpture garden) and Lynden cards by artist Sarah Luther. Caron had added a number of umbrellas for the occasion, appropriated from the Lynden's lost-and-found.

Caron also had creatively packaged up a series of natural items--twigs, pine cones and such--that she had collected the previous day from the grounds.

Speaking of the grounds, the landscape was quite lovely in the wind and rain. The fresh foliage whipped wildly about and gusts continually drew swirls of steam off the pond.

Flowers and lily pads were particularly striking, bejeweled with water droplets.

Linda Wervey Vitamvas installed a temporary assemblage entitled "The Feast" in 2013. Whenever I come to the Lynden I revisit the piece to see what changes time and weather have wrought. I've enjoyed seeing the gradual decay and dissolution of the unglazed ceramic plates and chalices. This time the entire structure of the installation had finally come completely unmoored from the shoreline on the pond where it has been situated for two years.

Lovelier than ever, I thought, the earthenware plates emulated the lily pads, floating among them on their submerged platforms.

Art meets nature.

Next time the Lynden Sculpture Garden has an event planned and you see inclement weather in the forecast, dress appropriately and come anyway. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

To see more images from the Lynden's 5th Anniversary event go to my 5th Anniversary flickr album.

Full disclosure: I am one of the Lynden’s 2015 contingent of Artists in Residence. To see many more images from my residency (so far) go to my Artist in Residence flickr album.