Friday, March 04, 2011

From Single Malt Cove - March 2, 2011: Nature can inspire us all

My raised bed gardens on Glenora Road

At "Seedy Saturday," last weekend at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Prince Edward County
residents brought seeds to exchange, checked out the various workshops on offer, and enjoyed chatting with other gardeners.

Seed saving and swapping events have been going on in Canada for many years. Picton's Seedy Saturday was sponsored by Transition Prince Edward County, an international movement supporting food security, permaculture, socioeconomic localization, and sustainable community.

A long-time seed collector, I plant a garden for food and to do my part to keep various varietals of Canada's heritage plants in a regrowth cycle rather than see them face extinction due to such trends as monoculture and hybridization. I also do it to obtain live botanical specimens to paint and draw inspiration from.

Watching the diminutive seeds suddenly sprout in my sunny front bay window on a chilly late winter's day gives me enormous pleasure and connects me to the earth. Like when you look at those maps of the solar system wherein the earth is a speck of sand in comparison to the rest of the universe, you feel small, grounded and trouble-free.

Transplanting the seedlings after the last frost to the garden beds is something I look forward to very much. Sketching and painting their progress is a delight — from sprout to bloom, to fruit or vegetable, to seed, and to rest when the first snow falls.

Nature is such a wonderful teacher if you give her your attention.

Artwork inspired by gardens goes back a long way, connecting us to artists and gardens of the past. This encourages us to reflect on the social, economical, historical and aesthetic contexts of the time, and how we value our gardens today.

Paintings of Ancient Roman gardens found in villas in the ruins of Pompeii were highly valued works of art at the time. Depictions of medieval gardens grace the pages of many precious manuscripts of the Middle Ages. La Primavera - Botticelli's opus - is set in a citrus orchard.

From the 17th-century Dutch masters to the French Impressionists — most notably Monet and his dreamy depictions of his gardens at Giverny — to modernists like Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney, many great artists have portrayed flowers, plants and gardens.

Each had his or her views on the subject. Often the aim of the modernists was aesthetic; realism was neither essential nor intended as would be the case with, say, the incredibly accurate botanical illustrations of German biologist Ernst Haeckel. (Google "Kunstformen der Natur" sometime over coffee, and enjoy a wealth of scientific illustrations that are fascinating works of art in their own right.)

Thinking locally, countless artists come to mind: Tess Moffat paints in her garden, Judy Plomer's vivacious poppies sprang from the red walls of SideStreet Gallery in Wellington at her last show there, and Mia Lane's vast perennial plantings in Demorestville surely serve as constant inspiration.

Getting down to earth and getting intimate with nature as part of the artistic process is invaluable. Whether growing our own or visiting others' gardens and farms to work, making art in the field can help the artist in us open up our concept of "landscape" while drawing attention to Prince Edward County's amazing diversity of plants.

(full article here)

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