Best of 2016
“a sculpture in the form of a garden, which aims to be art”
47 Bidwell Parkway, Buffalo, New York
I bought this house in 2007. As a long-time curator and gardener it had always been my dream to commission an artist to design something unique here along Fredrick Law Olmstead’s parkway. I was inspired by the Central Garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, designed by California light and space artist Robert Irwin, who coined the above quote. His experiential space was a counter-point to the museum’s heroic, severe travertine buildings by Richard Meier. Irwin had transformed the elements of a classic formal garden with its hedges and symmetrical, proportioned beds (think Versailles), into a Cubist composition full of overlapping forms and twisting, curvilinear shapes. In addition, Irwin had never gardened and approached the plant selection uninfluenced by convention. Thinking like a painter and sculptor of perception, perennials, annuals, hedges were chosen for their formal elements first, roses next to succulents, nasturtiums with evergreens. As a result, when visiting this inspiring site, one feels as if the French garden has found a poetic translator for a new age in an alternate climate. There, a disjunctive equilibrium harnesses the lushness that is southern California (exemplified by Irwin’s creation of bougainvillea trees and a blooming hedge maze within in a sunken pool) giving the Getty Center campus a playful, sensuous foil.
Territory of Collaboration is a riff on Irwin’s desire to create an artwork with the materials of a garden – so that it was more than a composition of plants but a reflective agent responding to a specific site. Matt Dore, a landscape designer with a philosopher soul, took my request to translate these ideas here – a locale more intimate and yet less temperate. Dore devised the storm water diversion/swale (nicknamed the rain navel), the succulent mound, hedge designs, and general layout. Alfonso Volo, an artist who finds double meanings in what may appear as banal or kitsch and a loving, satirical humor and even spirit there, layered on metaphor. Playing off the 1895 Queen Anne/Victorian house, Volo saw its different forms, textures, and functions as templates for plant selection. The nigella (lovein-the-mist), balloon flower, columbine, turk’s cap lilies, and tulips echo the Victorian lamppost. The tree peonies, red-hot poker, and checkered tulips (Fritillaries imperialis) resemble shingles. The smoke bush, sea kale (crambe), meadow rue, and weeping Norway spruce, mimic the building’s ephemeral forms of steam, smoke, and flowing water. Volo also included a garden navel, a section of the earth that remains un-mowed, to allow the essence of the previous condition to remain. Finally, space around the rain navel has been left for shared plants (traded for the specially grown annual nigella (love-in-the-mist). I couldn’t be happier. This small patch of earth – on a green parkway with pastoral beginnings - holds the perceptual joy of Irwin translated through the lens of21st century Western New York creatives.
As with any garden, Territory of Collaboration is an on-going project. This year more brightly colored annuals were added. The nigella (love-in-the-mist), reseeded to create a cascading hedge, beginning with as a wispy form, becoming a sea of light blue flowers before developing its current seed heads.
Designed by Matthew Dore, Claire Schneider, Alfonso Volo in 2014. Installtion by Buffalo Horticulture. Maintenance and Evolution by Claire Schneider. Commissioned by Claire Schneider, C.S.1 Curatorial Projects.
Members of the neighborhood and community are invited to share property and family heirlooms from their gardens. These will be planted around the rain navel. In exchange, nigella (love-in-the-mist) will be traded. Please contact Claire (claire@CS1projects.org).