Sunday, January 18, 2009

Art gardens, past and present

Nice segment on this past weekend'sVictory Garden (a rerun, I'm sure, but I hadn't seen it before) offering a tour of Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma, CA. Never been, but this quick glimpse certainly makes me want to plan a trip out west.

With its assemblage of outdoor installations fusing "nature" and "culture"--or "gardening" and "art"--Cornerstone also makes me wax nostalgic about the late 70s/early 80s heyday of Artpark, about 20 minutes away from me in Lewiston, NY. (The place is still there, mostly as a music and theater venue, but it's a shadow of what it once was--a state park where every summer you could find folks like Chris Burden and Vito Acconci working away on large, one-of-a-kind pieces.) The principle difference between the two organizations seems to be that, from what I could tell on tv and the website, Cornerstone's 17 or so installations are intended to stick around for the long haul, while the majority of those at Artpark (with some notable exceptions) were only made to last a single summer. In that regard, you might think of Cornerstone as a museum with a permanent collection, while Artpark was more like a contemporary gallery. Or perhaps you could think of the content of the former as perennials and the latter as mainly annuals.

While show host Jamie Drury and venue founder Chris Hougie talk a lot about blurring the lines between visual art and living things, and they refer to the individual works as "gardens" rather than "installation," most of the works at Cornerstone as VG portrayed it seem quite clearly to be art about plants, in many cases involving little or no organic plant material, as opposed to plant art. I'm not familiar with any of the artists, landscape architects, designers, and others who have created "gardens" at Cornerstone, so I appreciate the fact that the somewhat skimpy descriptions of their work on the main site are supplemented with links to their own sites. That way I can learn more about, say, Pamela Burton's recessed "Earth Walk" and other projects of hers.

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