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Shadow Play

July 30, 2010

Sinuous and shadowy

Using a large portion of one day each weekend to tend to the Rancho’s grounds and plants, is my idea of heaven. It can take a good 3 to 5 hours to get everything watered, looked at, raked, pruned and plucked … and, it’s very zen. I can listen to Erykah on my headphones and just drift off with my thoughts. Add in Summer’s sun and heat, and the experience can almost be hallucinatory … This past Sunday while working outside, I became fascinated by the shadows being cast by plants in the garden. I isolated the most interesting ones for this post. Looking at the pictures later, art references began to occur to me; click on the link included with the caption for each picture to see them. Either you’ll see the same connections, or you might think I should come out of the sun sooner next time. The picture above is the dried flower stalk from my large aloe ferox. I thought it was so beautiful I couldn’t throw it away. Its distinctive shape, and shadow reminded me of this terrific painting by American painter, Brice Marden. The sinuous lines of one echoes the other …

A Disney production?

The overlapping shadows of this opuntia’s circular pads seemed interesting enough, but looking at them later they took on a definite vintage Disney feel. Click this, look at the picture on the right, then look above… That’s a prickly Mickey, right? (Yes! I do consider animation art, art.)

Garden goth

A contemporary New York artist, Donald Baechler’s paintings are gorgeous. So simple, child-like and iconic. I’m especially taken by his floral silhouette paintings, with their textural surfaces and folk art air. The shadows cast by these black aeoniums reminded me of this dark duo of his.

Tracery elements

1960s Pop artist Jasper Johns elevated the basic cross-hatch to fine art in his thickly painted canvases. Although not as colorful, this succulent’s linear jumble has the same manic energy.

Crowning glory

The halo-like effect edging this agave’s shadow put me in mind of this 17th-century Italian painting by Guido Reni. Gardening as religious experience? Hell, yes!

Not Chihuly

This is part of a garden installation by contemporary glass artist, Dale Chihuly. The photo, above, is not … I actually prefer this, with its natural, less regular, jutting force. Chihuly’s bright, glassy, plant-like elements are naturals in a garden setting, but they can never upstage the beauty of the real thing.

Dark shadows

Finally, a favorite aloe finds a doppelganger in this almost sinister canvas by American futurist, Joseph Stella, painted in the 1920s. Not as dark as the central image in Stella’s piece, this succulent could easily come across equally primordial. Did you make the same visual connections as I made? Doubtful … but I hope you find working with your own garden and plants as mind-opening and enjoyable as I find my own. Hot tip: If it’s sunny be sure and wear a hat — hallucinations are fun, but sunstroke’s no picnic!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2010 7:20 pm

    That was a lot of fun, thank you! I too enjoy a good few hours spent “working” in the garden. It’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon, well, except maybe out buying plants. It’s a cheaper afternoon though! I love everyone of your comparisons!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      July 30, 2010 7:28 pm

      You’re welcome, Loree, thanks for commenting!

  2. August 1, 2010 5:02 pm

    Love this post. The comparisons are spot on I think. I hadn’t ever seen Donald Baechler’s work, thanks for the intro! Wonderful what the garden provides us. Insights, beauty, death as well as aching muscles.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 1, 2010 6:02 pm

      Thanks, Yolie, I’m glad you liked it… For me, art and the garden are naturals together!

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