Saturday, January 30, 2010

Back East 2: Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Waterfall Looking In

My first memory of Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of embarrassment. At the height of my teenage years, my dad taught photography for a few summers at Harvard. During one of these, my mom dragged my younger brothers and I out to Mount Auburn with a Super8 movie camera and made us run around while she photographed. My brothers were exhilarated and I was mortified. But now I have my mom to thank for indelibly impressing my memory with this world-famous cemetery long before I was interested in landscape...
As a National Historic Landmark in Cambridge, MA, Mount Auburn fulfills many historic, cultural and landscape niches. Its heritage as the first of the rural cemeteries in the early 19C would make it interesting enough, but its pioneering spirit continues in the present. We went to see a recent addition, the Spruce Knoll, a cremation garden by Julie Moir Messervy. Since Julie is one of my landscape heroines, I had seen photos of this space at her lectures. But it is hard place to photograph (even harder on the day we went with contrasty, wet snow) and thus, best experienced in person. It is so successful at embodying a meditative energetic field that I will be including it in my talk on the Human Health and Wellness component of SSI (Sustainable Sites Initiative) at the MELA Annual Conference on February 25, 2010.

One Of The Many Compelling Paths

This garden not only engages thoroughly, but it makes the space feel much larger than it is. Also, the way JMM has built privacy and encouraged intimacy is perfect for the garden's function. I would feel content knowing my ashes were to rest here.

Looking Out In Context

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back East 1: NYC

You couldn't photograph at the Bauhaus show at MoMA, but it was really memorable. And I learned more about my dad's mentor, Moholy-Nagy.
Never have I experienced a more crowded museum, although the day we went, the hordes were visiting a Tim Burton program during his exhibition.

I know there are various opinions about MoMA's new building: pretty terrific from my vantage point. Here is the view into the sculpture garden. Roof garden is off limits...Google it if you're interested in that particular controversy.

This shot of a roof in the Oceanic/Rockefeller gallery of the MET was my most interesting iPhoto of that new wing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley

(Display Case: Native Crafts)

While our biggest snow of the season accumulates outside, I'm going to rhapsodize about the Berkeley Botanical Garden.

Wish I lived nearby so I could visit over & over...since I don't, lucky they have a fine website. Its diversity is matched by the creative displays which are both beckoning, memorable and educational: hard to do.

While the Berkeley Botanical Garden has had since 1890 to mature, it appears to have exceptionally manifested its mission of presenting plants of wild origin from diverse habitats from almost all the continents on the globe.

I know it's not fair to compare this garden to others that are not associated with one of the world's great universities, but I feel cheated living in a community where social concerns often appear to trump botanical in garden management.

(Autumn Light through Plants of Dryer Regions)

Have yet to meet a succulent that I wouldn't want in close proximity...guess our snowfall makes that highly unlikely.

(Harsher Light on Succulents)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter Light in Chicago Botanic Garden

Took these mid-December on a freezing cold day. My fellow adventurer, Penny, thinks the above container is "adorable." It's hard to get a sense of how mesmerizing it was from the picture.

I enjoyed the cream on white below amidst the veggies looking like fancy ladies after a ball.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

This installation won me over when I experienced it in October 2004.

It was located on the outskirts of the garden, so you had to walk away from the more crowded areas to encounter it.

It embodies the temptation of wanting to jump down into its earthy embrace.

California Dreaming: Andy Goldsworthy

A colleague read my post on the de Young Museum's landscaping and correctly observed that I must have loved Andy Goldsworthy's cracked granite boulders and paving at the entrance. Well: half-love anyway. If I weren't married, I might consider my investment in AG books as my dowry.

So, in theory, I think the world of his amazing creations, how he has fused his artist self with nature.
He is a giant! However, I wasn't terribly moved by his installation at the de Young. The crack (more delicately described as a "winding fissure") was my favorite part: my local Berkeley friends and tour guides especially liked how the it leaps up onto one boulder and then snakes back around just before running into the building's skeleton.

But for me it's too contrived and I don't respond to the harsh man-sculpted forms of the boulders. It's the same, although reversed, as why the exterior landscaping doesn't succeed in my eyes. The building is very modern and while Goldworthy's art is too, his best work seamlessly integrates man and nature. That balance is askew here.

Maybe that's what he intended? But I believe there is that paradox about artists getting so successful that their commissions have to satisfy more and more demanding consumers. Apparently he had the boulders brought from a quarry in England which, even if we ignore the low sustainability quotient, may speak to him, but did not have much meaning for me. The problem is I have such high hopes for AG since I consider him one of the world's best artists.

His creation process on-site seems the the most interesting factor to me. Perhaps I will include it in my talk at the Chicago Botanic Garden on March 23rd: "Being Present in Your Garden." Then, "Rather than just viewing the garden as product to be maintained, we will discuss how to design and inhabit the landscape as a process in four dimensions." Or at least I will try.

I did indeed love a piece of Goldworthy's I saw in Scotland five years ago: look to my next blog.