Different Gardens

by Emily Adams (MFA 2011)
The Terra Foundation residency has come to a close. On the flight back I watched from the plane window as Paris morphed from a city to a Mondrian painting, and then to some kind of off-kilter fractal in shades of green as we moved over the countryside, over Giverny.

West Texas crop circles

This is the superman garden, I thought; the garden whose boundaries are dictated in offices and whose water is pumped through miles of pipeline and complex irrigation projects. This is, at least, what accounts for the appearance of around 40% of American landscape. (http://www.ers.usda.gov/statefacts/us.htm)

It seemed that the French aerial agricultural view was a bit more organic in form than its American counterpart (fewer grids, fewer perfect geometrical forms). Perhaps the French 18th and 19th century love of the garden has somehow translated into contemporary farming practices. Empress Josephine, originally called Rose, once hired an artist, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, to live in her palace and make a drawing of every rose in her collection of over 250 varieties collected form around the world.
I wonder if we could ever have a love affair with the agricultural landscape seen from above the way we do with the rose. I imagine standing in line at the Louvre behind a woman wearing earthy green and ochre-gridded leggings, or seeing a Pieta take place above the desolate scene of Iowa cornfields.

People in line - entrance of the Louvre
Wall paper at an abandoned house in Giverny

Will there ever be a time when wall paper design takes the form of West Texas irrigation-circles (the new Hortus Conclusus)? It’s highly doubtful, we tend to love inoffensive beauty and beauty that can be immediately processed by all sense-faculties.

So the rose is still in, agricultural fields out.

A painting I started in Giverny, not yet titled
But the paintings I started at the Terra Foundation are an attempt to explore the relationship between these two loaded images. I painted on photographs in part because the degree of separation of the material from the artist seemed the most appropriate technical approach for the subject matter.

In the last few days in Giverny, most of us forsook time in Monet’s gardens and the French countryside for the interior of our studios. Two weeks proved to be a surprisingly fertile amount of time for the development of our work— I have expanded my associations with ‘the garden’ to include the creative workspace.
Final Critiques
The final critiques, which lasted a full work-day on Sunday, were rich with discussion. We were joined by artist Kate Javens and Art Historian Veerle Thielemans (director of the Terra Foundation residency). It was clear by the end of the day that everyone had planted a good seed out there, to be watered and pruned upon our return to the Academy.

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