Monday, September 11, 2017

GARDENS AND ART

Huntsville Botanical Garden Center

I’ve walked through many gardens, accompanied by a botanist, and Huntsville (Alabama ) Botanical Garden is among the world-class gardens I’ve seen. A few days ago, we spent the morning in this garden, viewing what the publicists tout as “the blending of traditional botanical garden elements, the aesthetic heritage of our region, the conservation of natural resources, and a thrust into the future.” This sounds like hype, but we viewed beautiful trails like the Mathews Nature Trail featuring the Holmes Trillium Garden, which is the largest Trillium Collection in the U.S.; the Damson Aquatic Garden featuring lotus and water lilies; and the Children’s Garden which contains eight gardens in one, including a wading pool with a Pollywog Bog.

Skipper on Ixora
Of course, I’m always enchanted with butterfly houses within a garden and the 9,000 sq. ft. structure housing 2,000 butterflies during butterfly season (May-September) seemed to be the highlight for children walking (and running) through the House. A waterfall and pond attracted one small three-year old female whose mother was busy trying to deter the child from taking off her shoes and jumping in. My favorite pond was that occupied by yellow-bellied slider turtles, and I felt sympathy for the three-year old who wanted to wade in for a closer look, turtles being critters that I think bring good will messages. A poem I wrote for my oldest daughter when she was five flashed through my mind. It’s entitled “On Being Needed:”


“Any kind of a pet will do,
we found a turtle hiding in tall grass,
coin-sized as a dime store relic
just daring her to take him in;
Yellow-bellied slider turtle
she has an infant sister
but five years passed before she had,
so any kind of pet will do
to guard the inner differences.
She sleeps now, close to his back,
asks me to baby sit
the small something left behind,
not to shriek the way I do at her;
turtles, absolutely; any pet will do.
For graver reasons she believes
he got lost from the race
just to prove that needing
reigns more important than running;
to the swift, a chase,
getting winded to pull in your head,
to the slow…
becoming the cared for.”

Gardens in Tennessee and Alabama that I’ve seen usually highlight sculptures scattered among natural settings — I was privileged to see Chihuly’s glass sculptures in the Cheekwood Gardens near Nashville, Tennessee a few years ago. The Huntsville Garden features the work of George Sherwood, “Wind, Waves, and Light,” an exhibit of kinetic sculptures that show patterns of movement — wind speed and direction, shades of light interacting with their natural settings. The “Turns,” made of the stainless steel Sherwood uses for his creations, shows the dynamic movement of wind in what could have been a static sculpture; and I stood a long time before another piece entitled “Wind Sphere” that caught the wind’s movement in a silver sphere on a day filled with brilliant sunshine. The interplay of light and wind was stirring and captured the idea of “Wind, Waves, and Light” Sherwood employed for his imaginative creations. The exhibit is an artistic event set among botanical displays that is only one and one-half hours’ drive from our home in Sewanee, Tennessee.

"Turns" created by George Sherwood

Sherwood has degrees in Engineering and Art and has exhibited in Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Wyoming, and many other states in the U.S. He has received several awards for his kinetic sculptures, including the Lillian Heller Curator’s Award, Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood Museum, Stockbridge, MA.

Photographs by Victoria I. Sullivan

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