Gardens sow seeds of artistic inspiration, imagination

Artist Claude Monet’s house and garden in Giverny, France.

By Nancy Kranzberg, Special to the Jewish Light

People love gardens and to garden. They go on tours of famous gardens all over the world, including our own world-renowned Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Gardens are depicted in works of art going back to ancient times as well as in works of art being made to this day.

The Garden of Eden is the most famous of all gardens. Great masters such as Jan Bruegel the Elder, Michelangelo and Lucas Cranach have painted their interpretations of that magical, mystical garden.

Just recently there have been art exhibitions in St. Louis in which the garden is the central focus. The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) is featuring work by Ebony Patterson, a Jamaican-born artist who studied at Washington University and now resides in Chicago. She’s had exhibitions all over the country in prestigious museums and galleries.

Her exhibition at CAM is entitled “When the Cuts Erupt—the Garden Rings—and the Warning is Waiting.”  The description in CAM’s magazine Mesh says, “Patterson encourages viewers to look closer, to be drawn in by shimmering textures and bright colors. For the artist, beauty is a trap that captures awareness and makes the invisible seen — the garden an abundant setting for attraction. 

“Her new sight-specific installations extend her longtime exploration of the garden and its metaphorical possibilities. Among those is the idea of the garden as a ‘postcolonial’ symbol where the invisible remnants of violent histories interrupt visible space — Black bodies slowly exposed beneath plant life. The garden is also a symbol for the feminine as suggested in the final phrase of the exhibition title–and the “Warning is a Waiting”—through the body of a woman, we enter the world, and through the wailing—and warning of women’s voices we exit. The artist reminds us that women serve as public figures of mourning, with the garden as a space for lamentation.”

Visual artist Andy Millner resides in St. Louis. His work investigates the relationship between art and nature and has been shown in more than 55 group exhibitions and 15 solo exhibitions. His most recent exhibition, at the William Shearburn Gallery in St. Louis, was entitled “The Floating World.” It refers to the Japanese term Ukiyo, which has a complex history.

Lisa Melandri, director of CAM, describes Millner’s work, “Floating World,” as a state of being unhindered by the troubles of life. But in the case of Millner’s series, the double meaning invokes the complex duality of humanness and nature. These works bring forth the pure sensory pleasures of the landscape, while simultaneously calling out the garden as a place where abundance is fleeting. The garden is the ultimate metaphor for lifecycle — birth, generation and death.

At the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum, located within the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Garden, is an exhibition by Museum Curator Nezka Pfeiffer, entitled “Nymphs of the Garden; The Water Lilies by Arslan,” which pays homage to one of history’s most famous painters, Claude Monet.

Monet did a series of approximately 250 oil paintings depicting the flower garden of his home in Giverny, France. These paintings were the main focus of his artistic production during the last 30 years of his life in which he had cataracts for a lot of those years.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a genuine, carefully curated, work of art. Within the garden itself are individual gardens such as the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Ottomon Garden, the Woodland Garden and more.

Even during these difficult times, the institutions in and around St Louis have never ceased to make it possible for me to enjoy the works of these creative and brilliant artists from the past to the present.