Going big with art

Going big with art
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Deborah Butterfield

On a recent visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens, I was almost as impressed by the thoughtful sculpture installations throughout the grounds as I was by the plantings (which are lovely). The DBG has a distinguished partner in this art project: Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center has placed modern and contemporary works by Judith Shea, Henry Moore, Deborah Butterfield, George Segal, and others throughout the gardens. They are on view through October 2.

Judith Shea

Anyone familiar with twentieth century art will immediately recognize many of these works—or at least the artists who must have made them. I only had about an hour to explore, so missed some of the biggies, like the Henry Moore; I think I saw about half of them. The works are in perfect balance with their surroundings; they don’t clash, but they don’t blend in either. Everything maintains its autonomy.

Dale Chihuly (natch)

I’d be very surprised if anybody reading this could afford to have a Henry Moore in his or her garden. It’s a high bar. But the installation reinforced thoughts I’ve long had about objects in the garden and why I have no many issues with “garden décor.”

It’s hard for a mass-produced piece of resin to stand up to a gorgeous stand of peonies or a magnificent viburnum. They’ll be outclassed. It’s easier to make an impact with high-quality hardscaping and beautiful ceramic pots.

On the other hand, there are usually interesting local artists who make objects that can stand up to the elements. A great one-of-a-kind bronze piece is worth a dozen bits of resin. I also love rusting steel—it seems to go great with plants, somehow. Susan’s hand-dyed prayer flags are beyond my capabilities, but they, too, hold their own as autonomous garden art.

If you can, check out the Denver installation.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on May 26, 2016 at 10:07 am, in the category But is it Art?.


    • Allen Bush
    • 21st March 2016

    Elizabeth, I’m happy and jealous that you got to the Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s a treasure!

    • Pat Evans
    • 6th October 2016

    I had the good fortune to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens in August 2014 during the Dale Chihuly exhibit. I had to keep reminding myself to look at the flowers which were in their full glory. It was a great experience and totally unplanned.

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