Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two terrific talks

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Last week, I was lucky to listen to two terrific talks: on Tuesday, I attended a charitable lunch with a talk by writer Isabel Allende, a Chilean writer living in Marin County in California. And on Sunday, John Walsh, director emeritus of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, gave an interesting talk at the Seattle Art Museum with title "The Museum Sculpture Garden: Whose Idea Was That?"
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Isabel Allende, who's books have sold in over 51 million copies since her first novel, The House of the Spirits, talked about her life and experiences as a woman, writer and a human being. She is a most engaging speaker, blending tough personal experiences and gained wisdom with wittiness and humour. Her main message was for us women to stand up for each other. She reminded that despite women in the West often have a very good life, two thirds of the work on this planet is done by women, while only 1% of the wealth is owned by them and she asked us not to forget our less fortunate sisters. She also talked about her deceased daughter Paula's words of "You only have what you give" as a guiding principle for one's life, about how giving and sharing is and should be the most important thing we can do to each other - giving time, knowledge, love and material things when needed. And I agree with her totally, even if I feel that I don't always live up to the level that I feel that I should. (A sidetrack...; in the latest issue of Gardennotes from the Northwest Horticultural Society, Hans Mandt wrote about how during this harsh winter, the Miller Garden had lost all of their Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus 'Hiemalis', a relatively rare variety of snowdrops. Luckily, Hans had got bulbs from them a couple of years ago, and had divided and grown them in different parts of his garden. So now he was able to return plants and to help "repatriate" them to the Miller garden, pointing out how important it is to share one's plants to assure their survival.)
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The second talk I mentioned above, held by John Walsh at the Seattle Art Museum with title "The Museum Sculpture Garden: Whose Idea Was That?" was a real treat to my Art historian brain and eyes. I've always loved both gardens and sculptures (and a couple of times even tried it myself - casting bronze in Melbourne, one of the best things I've ever done), and sculpture gardens and parks really combine these two loves. John filled two hours with his enormous knowledge about art, sculpture and how the sculpture gardens have emerged and evolved since the 1960's. I enjoyed every minute and filled more than 8 pages in my notebook...
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John talked about how gardens and parks actually fulfill the artworks potential by creating a reflective environment for the viewers. He also mentioned how the artwork is never the same in an outdoor environment, as the weather, seasons and light around it change constantly - something that sounds obvious, but many of us probably have not thought about. And then he went on telling the story of the modern sculpture garden, which differs from the old and ancient gardens that often were decorated with sculpture. Historically, the sculpture used in gardens was meant to be commemorative, reminding of gods and goddesses etc, or historical events and rulers, but in the modern gardens and parks, sculpture became art itself, something to be contemplated itself and not just a bearer of connotations.
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John discussed the first of all modern sculpture gardens, the MoMA Sculpture Garden in New York and it's development from 1936 to our time. In addition he showed wonderful photos of sculpture gardens and parks from around the world, as the Kröller-Müller Museum near Otterlo in the Netherlands (the idea of a sculpture park was born here), Louisiana near Copenhagen (landscape interacting with buildings), Storm King Art Center in New York's Hudson valley (contrasts natural surroundings with the difficult human effort of the artwork; I especially loved Andy Goldsworthy's lingering stone wall Storm King Wall), Wanås in Sweden, and other interesting and important sculpture gardens. He also talked about "our own" sculpture garden here in Seattle, the Olympic Sculpture Garden in the city centre and presented it as a development of the traditional sculpture garden, by the park itself being a sculpture and not only a setting for the artworks. An really interesting thought, and something I sensed but could not quite put into words while visiting the park myself.
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Two fantastic talks during one single week; so much knowledge and new thoughts, so much enrichment to one's rather ordinary life. You only have what you give - so incredibly true even here. I send my earnest thanks to both speakers for sharing their knowledge and experiences.
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See my earlier post about the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park.
I've taken all pictures above at the Olympic Sculpture Park, list of works included on the park's web site.
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2 comments:

Karen said...

Hi, we missed you on Sunday, hope to see you next time! Sorry about the Doug Fir that was taken down in your neighborhood. So sad to lose an old tree to someone's idea of what the landscape needs (or does not, in this case). Glad you got to hear both of these talks! I love the OSP, took a ton of pics there and keep meaning to do a post. I'll have to go back and read yours, I'm sure it's very thorough and inspiring. Yes, it's so different to see sculptures in a landscape, and they have done such a great job there. I am always so proud to show it off to visitors, it's our one "museum" in town that seems truly world class!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hi Karen, I'm still looking at the "hole" in the horizon where the big douglas fir used to stand... so sad! Otherwise, I'm getting my first Finnish visitor here in the end of April, so I get to show the OSP to someone for the first time, fun! I'll try to make it to the next meeting.