Artists are funny creatures. They dwell willingly in the gossamer space between imagination and truth. It is a vague zone where ideas, dreams, and reality weave into each other to form the fabric of artistic creation. An ambiguous and open-ended place. A state of mind difficult to describe and even harder to inhabit.
Yet artists also connect deeply with their physical surroundings as it is in the case of gardens, which have been a solid source of inspiration for generations. As a subject matter, gardens have made appearances in the work of the Barbizon school members, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists, as well as in the work of many contemporary artists. Gardens continue to be a superb place that spark ideas and assist us in finding motivation to create.
I find my own garden to be a place of solace now more than ever. It has become and oasis and a hiding place simultaneously. In it I can hide in plain sight. I can remain amid the plants and the creatures that inhabit it without a worry or a dark thought. The garden envelopes you and cradles you into a sense of belonging. It welcomes you and makes you a part of the environment. It puts you square into the now.
Once the growing season starts (and in Vermont it is short and unpredictable), I split my time between the studio and the “huerta”. A simple kitchen garden that provides us with cutting flowers, herbs and seasonal vegetables that becomes the beating heart of my home for a few weeks every summer. We rake and plant. We clean up and sow seeds. We watch bluebirds make nests in the branches of our firs. There is no place I’d rather be on any given summer day, and I work very hard at encouraging all the frantic activity that is happening all around me. I sometimes sketch and photograph leaves and flowers, but often I just sit and enjoy the birds on the feeders. Nothing else is required of me. Just appreciation.
That gratitude spurs me to cultivate both my gardening skills as well as my creativity. I am grateful for all the critters that populate my garden, both seen and unseen. I am extremely grateful at the irrepressible perennials that peak from the hardened ground every Spring after being buried for months under a thick blanket of snow. I am grateful for renewal and hope. Gardens grow hope as much as they grow anything else. Hope and resilience.
I will continue to look to my garden (and other garden spaces around the world) for inspiration. There are so many different approaches to working with nature, both direct and indirect. I strive to show its beauty without disturbing it or destroying it. I want to share my vision of the garden not just as we see it by looking at its components, but as it makes me feel when I experience its beauty. The garden is the source and I am the conduit, and while I feel intrigued and amazed by it, I will continue to translate those emotions into artwork. One could say that we will continue to bloom together, each year renewed and hopefully more beautiful than the previous one.