Two artists are currently showing us flowers and plant life in very different ways, but to the same end: drawing our attention to a part of the world around us that we too easily take for granted.
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One is local botanical artist Gusta van Dobbenburgh, whose luminous and elegantly delicate paintings of garden beauties have now been brought together in a fine “Botanicalendar” with Lausanne designer Sue Niewiarowski as the calendar designer. The artist recently had an exhibit at EPFL in Lausanne, “Where art and science meet”.
The calendar sells for CHF25 directly from the artist and it is also on sale for slightly more at the Vullierens Iris Garden gift shop near Morges, which has a spectacular show of several thousand irises on view until 13 June.
“Wonderland: Rediscovering the Garden”
The flower images which feature in artist Mary Tiegreen’s New York exhibition, “Wonderland: Rediscovering the Garden”, are simply the most stupendous flower portraits I have ever seen, and I do a good deal of garden photography and follow the work of others.
Mary Tiegreen’s flowers are complemented by an extraordinary lineup of vegetables and small treasure “finds” from her garden on the Hudson, not far north of Manhattan. Her husband is Swiss, his family lives in Europe, and the couple spend time each year in the Lake Geneva region.
If you’re in New York City 1-14 June, put the exhibit on your agenda. It is hosted by the National Arts Club in its garden court.
These are not flowers that Tiegreen is presenting, but glimpses into a secret miniature world, with access provided by her desktop scanner, used in the dark. She has a good eye and a sound knowledge of technology. She uses both to shrink us down to Lilliputian size compared to the garden treasures.
These are portraits by the artist as a marvelling, humble gardener. The sense of joy given by her garden to the artist is clear in the images, as is her sense of perception, reversed from our everyday relations with these objects. We are small: nature is suddenly grand.
The portraits are huge, for a start—larger than life doesn’t quite describe them: 40 x 60 inches ( 1m x 1.27m) for a single bloom. The detail is extraordinary, something you don’t achieve with normal photography, and the lighting casts a magic of its own, especially noticeable with the white flowers. The result is breathtaking.
The portraits on canvas sell in limited editions (and yes, they can be shipped internationally, although not cheaply). If you have a large wall space and want to bring a greener world indoors, this is a spectacular way to do it.
Tiegreen is a designer, author and photographer who has worked in New York since 1978.
She has been capturing seasonal visitors to her garden north of the city since 1995.
Her up-close portraits include poppies, peonies, magnolias, calla lilies, a variety of tulips, morning glories, heirloom tomatoes, dragon tongue beans and objects found in the garden which have become part of it, each observed and captured for the marvel of nature that it is—if only we pause to really look.
“After more than 15 years of living in Manhattan, we moved to a small village on the Hudson and I rediscovered nature in a big way. I found a sense of wonder that I had misplaced, coming back again to my childhood summers in Northern Michigan, where I loved communing with pine cones and minnows and maidenhair ferns,” says the artist.
Exhibition: “Wonderland: Rediscovering the Garden”: free and open to the public
1-14 June 2010 (opening reception 3 June, 18:00-20:00)
National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy South, New York City
Sponsored by WINGS WorldQuest, a non-profit organization that recognizes and supports visionary women who are advancing scientific inquiry and environmental conservation
My father would have been 100 years old this week. I’ve thought about him often, as have my sisters, they write, and their children. I can think of few examples as fine as my father of how the best way to teach your children about the value of truth and generosity is to set an example. Live it, don’t preach it. Everyone in my family has rich memories of this.
Earlier this year I sat for some time in Lucerne, a city my father loved, and spoke with artist Hans Erni and his wife because Erni has been celebrating his centenary year. I was in Lucerne with a group of journalists to fete his 100 years, but I quickly realized when I met him that I had been wanting to pull a thread from Erni’s life – the artist, but also the citizen, the family man, the creative soul – and another thread from the wonderful life of that generous man born in a small town in the Midwest in the US, my father, and tie the two together. Put in a room together they would have found much to talk about.
My father, Robert Eugene Wallace, later Robert Joseph Wallace when he took the name of the carpenter of New Testament fame, was born October 19, 1909, in a year when other things happened that had an impact on the world he would live in, things some of us have forgotten or pushed onto the shelves of history.
But my father, with the passion for history he developed as an adult, would have corralled and later remembered with passion and huge pleasure these threads in the tapestry that made up his own life:
- in January of that year US troops left Cuba after a presence that dated back to the Spanish-American war
- the NAACP was founded on Abe Lincoln’s 100th birthday in February 1909 and “colored” became a word of racial pride
- construction work began on the Titanic in Belfast, a passenger liner that would become the pride of the shipbuilding industry before it became more famous for sinking
- Joan of Arc was beatified in Rome, an event in which my devoutly Catholic father would take pride, as he told me in 1959 when I did a school project on this strange French girl, martyr and patriot
- Louis Bleriot, a Frenchman, became the first person to fly across the English Channel, a place where not many years later young men my father’s age would carry out the Battle of Britain in the air
- the US Navy founded a naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the second world war as a result were what prompted my father to go off and fight a war as a volunteer, leaving a wife and two little girls at home
- the Ottoman Empire slaughtered thousands of Armenians, a subject he read about in disbelief in his later years, when he found world history to be a fascinating tapestry coloured by the lives of ordinary people.
My father had an extraordinary ability to transmit values through the richness of what he lived rather than through discussing them. He was born before the first world war, scrambled to make money and find a job during and after America’s Great Depression, married and had two small children and then volunteered for the US Navy and was sent off to the South Pacific during the second world war. Later, when he came home, two more children were born, and I was the youngest.
I don’t know if he left for the Marianna Islands fighting for decency, freedom, family values, and even deeper, a belief that love and generosity are at the root of human success, but he certainly came home with those notions.
They didn’t always come easily: when I told him I’d been terrified of rats squealing in the dark in China during a bicycle trip I’d made there in 1985 he recounted how much scarier it was to watch a rat running rapidly towards him on the line inside his tent in 1943 than it was to think about Japanese bombers coming at the island. When I recounted a stupid mistake I’d made traveling, embarrassed by my own foolishness, he chuckled and said he’d gone as far as New Orleans with the idea of riding a banana boat to South America, took one look at the cut-throats on the dock and he headed north again.
For some people, these would have been events that marked their lives and explained their behaviour, but for Bob Wallace, my father, these became threads that he rewove into a lifelong series of small quiet gestures and acts of generosity. When his mother died he quietly took me out to the end of our garden to plant carrots and, in silence, we worked the earth, which spoke volumes to the small girl I was. He spent hours explaining the constellations to me and sharing his sense of enchantment with the skies. I was never lectured about religion, but the quiet nightly example of him praying, on his knees by the side of his bed, meant that while I might argue with him about God I would never question the sincerity of others’ beliefs.
Once, driving home from school, I was astonished to pass by the football field and see my father breaking up a fight in the middle of his business day. He never mentioned it, but later one of the boys at school said my father was good at that kind of thing. When I infamously wore a forbidden skimpy bikini to the beach for a day with my friends, my father showed up and made a lasting impression on the others by wordlessly, without anger, telling me we were going home. The quiet disappointment taught me more about respect than any lecture could have.
My father was a good raconteur, and his stories stick with us, of being an independent traveler before anyone knew what that was, or fighting in a war, or trying to be decent and successful in business when the competition appears to be winning through dishonest means. The stories nevertheless pale next to the examples, a multitude of them, that he set of making us feel we were loved, and that we, too, could be good or even better: truly fine individuals.
In fairness, he did it well ahead of the global financial crisis, in 2001, and mainly because of a long love affair with images. He set up his own company, creating calendars for Carouge and Geneva, but in 2005 he turned his hand to painting, taking his love of images to another level.
His work is both familiar because of its everyday Geneva area scenes and taunting, because the richness of the canvases makes you sense that this familiar world hides another, more emotionally coloured one.
Forty of his acrylics on canvas are on display until 13 June at the Espace.