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Walking Tour: Maloof Garden Art

February 21, 2010

A reflective mood piece

Saturday brought an abrupt end to my Debbie Downer at the Flower Mart impersonation. To make sure I didn’t backslide, Paul and I decided that a commune with nature would be in order, and to that end we headed to the Maloof Garden in nearby Alta Loma. The garden is part of the Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, named after the master craftsman and furniture maker, Sam Maloof. Featured on the 6-acre site is a compound dedicated to Maloof’s life and work which includes his residence — filled with examples of his beautiful artful furniture — as well as classrooms, a library, and meeting and a gallery spaces. Tours and various educational opportunities are offered and the gardens are open to artists for plein air painting (which I hope to participate in on an upcoming Saturday). For full info click here. Today, though, in spite of threatened rain and chilly temperatures, we’re concentrating our attentions on the garden — more specifically the art to be found there. The figure in the example, above, found in a patio area behind the house, cradles a bird in one hand while studying the viewer, seemingly waiting for an answer to a recently-asked query. A simple water-filled dish at her feet finishes the tableau. There’s more to see …


Metal sculpture is well-represented in the garden … and metal allowed to rust openly complements the overall feel of naturalness the garden possesses. There’s a tall gentleman made of cast-off metal implements and scraps, an even-taller squawking ostrich, a hunting/gathering couple in rebar and a mechanized undersea predator. Each gives lie to the idea that metal is always cold and hard; a rusty patina refutes that notion beautifully.

A scrappy flag waver

A most vocal ostrich

Returning with fish and fowl

Torpedo as sea predator

Wood is everywhere at the Maloof foundation, it being Sam Maloof’s chosen medium of expression. These two example seen during our garden wanderings are expressive and alive, but in very different ways. Found in a raised pavilion, the carved carousel stands still, but is bursting with tension and visual movement; its horses almost breaking free from their pedestals and making a run for it. The longhorn steer that follows is, by contrast, much simpler, and made from found wood objects. It’s not imbued with the same rough-hewn energy, but seems to have a macho nonchalance that might appeal to unattached found object cows in the area.

Not long for this 'go-round

Come here often?

Ceramics, and other like materials, feature prominently on the grounds. These pieces are figurative, like the rosary-waving singing priest that surprises under a tree, and the two wood sprites that follow, one with a cricket and one a squirrel, on their respective heads. Next, simple earthenware pots quietly accent the base of a small tree in a river-rock festooned patio area on the side of the house. Lastly, candy-colored totemic ceramic poles stand around like extras waiting for their call to perform in a Tim Burton fantasy for children.

Ave Mariaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Grassy meditation — with cricket

Squirrel is my co-pilot

Rocky serenity

"It's like Beetlejuice meets Gumby"

I love garden art of all types but I have to say even the finest and most interesting examples pale when put up against nature itself. The wild exuberance of this potted echeveria found in a courtyard, the gnarled branches of a small leaf-stripped tree and the amazing flower stalk emerging from the center of a rhythmic agave could only have been created by that most uncontrollable creator. Visit the Maloof foundation soon, there’s lots to see and learn for everyone.

Twisty, colorful, natural beauty

Nature's beauty, stripped bare

Nature's regenerative creativity

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. faroutflora permalink
    February 21, 2010 7:05 pm

    The echeveria is amazing!!!! Love all the sculptures too. Matti and I need to take a garden visiting trip to S. California sometime soon. There are so many cool nurseries and gardens I want to visit.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 21, 2010 8:20 pm

      Hey, Megan, lemme know if and when you come down … and bring some of those faux rock planters with you, I’d love a couple!

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