On February 13th, I went grocery shopping on my way home from work. Right away I noticed things seemed different in the store.
Men. There were lots of men.
Oh yeah, tomorrow’s Valentine’s, I realized. So there were the men– old & young, fat & thin, hirsute & hairless, all kinds — buying flower bouquets for their sweethearts. They all looked slightly bewildered, and they were all purchasing either Valentine’s Day Default Gift #1 — Red Roses with Baby’s Breath in a Plastic Sleeve for the Big Spenders — or Valentine’s Day Default Gift #2 — Pink Carnations in a Plastic Sleeve for the more frugal/slightly less-committed set.
I thought, awwww, how cute. Until I realized how much they were clogging up the checkout lanes, and then I was like, get a move-on, you unimaginative bunch of lemmings!
In the Final Comprehensive of my Landscape Design Course, we had to work in teams of three. I was in a group with two other talented people (both professional designers), and our task was to redesign a small park on the campus of GW.
We brainstormed. We sketched. We had meetings — many, many meetings. We discussed. We argued. We tried to change one another’s minds and we attempted compromise.
A few miles south of where I live there’s an old DC prison complex which used to be known as Lorton Reformatory. Several years ago, they shut the place down and transformed a few of the larger buildings into a new “Arts Center” where painters, sculptors, and other creative folks can rent studio space and teach classes.
No wonder they shut it down in 1979 for a major redesign. Can you imagine what it would have felt like to be down in that place in the middle of July surrounded by all that paving, baking in the Washington summer sun? Plus, remember that the garden is sunken, so whatever moist and tepid “breezes” might have oozed off of the Anacostia wouldn’t even have reached this garden.
Take a look at the pair of images below. What would you say they have in common?
Left: “The Arch of Nero” by Thomas Cole Right: Photo by John Glover.
Now, I’m pretty sure the garden vignette on the right was not modelled directly after Thomas Cole’s painting (on the left), but the two certainly do seem to share some genetic material, don’t they? The arches, the vines, the muted colors, the effort to capture antiquity — all are present in both painting and garden.
All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
One of the more frustrating aspects of teaching school is being party to a system that drives the joy out of learning for probably nine out of ten students. By the time students get to high school, they have had their “skills drilled” and their “proficiencies assessed” so often it’s no wonder they finish out their secondary education in a cynical haze so thick that neither my most inspired lessons nor my most intimidating deathstare can penetrate it.
In American classrooms today, there is so little opportunity for personal expression and genuine exploration it is almost laughable.
This week Garden Designers’ Roundtable is posting about Art and Sculpture in the Garden. Even though I signed up to post this month, I have to confess that art and sculpture intimidate me a little, in the garden and everywhere else. In fact, you might say that I am uniquely disqualified to give advice about art. To preface my GDRT post, I thought I’d share a story about my early experience in art to show what I mean.
As a kid, like most kids, I had fun with art. I liked coloring with crayons, making papier mache masks, creating construction paper mosaics. I wasn’t particularly talented, but I reveled in the creative aspects of art, and loved all the fun materials.
I’m sad to say that it was a middle school art class that drove the joy for art right out of me. During the ceramics unit for that class, I created this clay beaver: