Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Art in the Landscape

Art in the landscape is not unlike a woman's jewelry. These days we think of landscape as fashion where the shoes no longer need to match the belt but where the art that we use does have distinct guidelines. Garden art is meant to adorn. This adornment can take on many styles. A few to mention are contemplation, agrarian, historic, religious, interpretive, humorous, vintage, the list goes on and on.

Art can match the vibe of the garden. Some of the greatest landscapes are often consistently detailed and the art is a thoughtfully simple feature to insure that the garden's surroundings are not too strongly challenged. Or, the art can be quite the surprising counterpoint. Again, some of the best landscapes bring ideas and features that will say something new or use art that depends the idiosyncrasies of the material of which it it created to be effective.

Art is quite often a subjective personal feature that I sometimes leave in my client's control to select or acquire. There are few garden features that are more personal or meaningful than an art piece. The art is especially meaningful if my client acquires the piece during distant travels where the art will always rest in their hearts to remind them of the special people or places that they encountered.

When the time comes to select art, I try not to encourage selection of garden art that is excessively ornate that would provide too much contrast for comfort. Rather, I prefer modest, distinct, tasteful, interesting pieces that possess visual clarity without overpowering the garden yet that are still profound. Your eye needs to be carried to the art but not to the point where your eye gets "stuck" on the art. The visual intensity of the piece is the key. It should conform with the liveliness and the planting contrast present in the design, be appropriate with the garden scale, compliment the architecture, be sensitive to light and shade where it is placed and respect the project color wave.

Art can be used, not as art or sculpture per se, but as something different such as a part of a wall or pilaster, as a planting container or as a water feature. I have even used the pattern of the light created with landscape lighting as "nighttime art". Sometimes, all the art that is needed as accent is a cool, tranquil, clear, reflecting still liquid plane that has the effect of making the surroundings multiply. The swimming pools that we now create are more closely related to art than for recreation.

In any form, art should evoke the feeling that the designer or client desire. The art needs to be meaningful, inspirational, express the feeling of the garden and maybe even be a little though-provoking. The art needs to be located, lighted and viewed properly. It can be positioned to be a definite focal point, a remote "discovery" piece, a pivotal garden feature or viewed through an aperture created with architecture or plantings.

I have always found that art elevates us, strengthens our belief in humanity, inspires us while impressing us. When used in our gardens, it should be an eloquent way for us to express ourselves when we are at our very best.

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