Paula Hayes is the first comprehensive monograph of this American artist’s work. Famous for her exquisitely detailed terrariums, Hayes also does full-scale landscape designs. Both are represented equally here. Her terrariums in particular are visually striking, provocative pieces that make a strong statement about our relationship with the natural world.
The word “terrarium” seems inadequate for describing what Hayes creates. Encased in hand-blown glass and meticulously arranged, her terrariums are living sculptures and their glass containers are as important as their contents. Every aspect of each terrarium is deliberate and highly detailed, from the living plants to the layers of substrate. The overall effect is that of a miniaturized, self-contained ecosystem enclosed in a bubble. These terrariums have a level of artistry that elevates them above something like a ship in a bottle or a bonsai tree, though they do achieve a similar miniaturized quality.
Precisely crafted and sculptural, Hayes’s terrariums are undeniably works of art. Unlike most art, however, her work uses living things and therefore requires constant maintenance. This required maintenance is deliberate: In his introductory essay, Richard D. Marshall writes that Hayes “considers the watering and feeding of the plants, that is, the daily human-plant interaction, as the actual art form.” He elaborates on this point, writing “this forced interaction of caring for and protecting nature on a small scale will ideally expand into a fuller appreciation of the entire environment and an understanding of the fragile relationship that exists between humans and nature.”
In other words, Hayes’s work uses living components not only for aesthetic effect but to achieve a very specific “forced interaction” between people and nature. An individual’s responsibility toward his piece of living art illustrates our larger responsibility toward our land.
Entirely self-contained, Hayes’s terrariums have an insular quality. This is true of her landscape designs as well. Full of detailed plantings and small elements such as sculptural planters and rock arrangements, these landscapes feel personal and enclosed.
Like her terrariums, Hayes’s landscapes are also designed to be nurtured. Hayes describes, “You could say when the landscapes or pieces are installed, that’s the end of the process, but that’s not true. They will continue to grow and the interaction with them will develop over time.” Her garden designs are highly controlled; each plant is carefully chosen.
Apparently, Hayes practiced landscape design before moving into terrarium design. This makes sense, as her terrariums clarify the relationships hinted at in her landscapes. By addressing her terrarium designs first and landscape designs second, the book frames her landscapes in terms of the issues addressed by her terrariums. And while I found her terrariums to be the more compelling part of the book, this ordering does lend additional layer of interest to her gardens, which are beautiful in their own right. I found it difficult to view her gardens as anything but human-scaled terrariums.
Still, the terrariums are the real attraction of the book. With them, Hayes explores a variety of interesting possibilities. She also experiments with double-layered glass, turning the terrariums into lenses to alter the perception of their contents. With her exhibitions, the arrangement and context of the terrariums becomes important (one exhibition featured one hundred tiny hand-blown terrariums, appearing almost as scattered beads of glass).
Some projects even house living fish and corals, taking her theme of stewardship to a new extreme. Blurring the distinction between landscape and sculpture, Hayes’ art is worth a look.
Slowly but surely western influences are gathering ground in third world countries. It is important when trying to maintain the cultures of these countries that these influences from outside are integrated into existing structures with caution. Western modern-day architects have been active in this field from all over the world for years , Has their [...] → READ MORE
With the success of the High Line park in New York City, it seems almost every city now wants one. Toronto has long been batting around ideas for its Gardiner expressway, while Los Angeles is trying to dream up the money for new parks to cap old freeways. Philadelphia is moving forward with reusing parts of its old rail infrastructure at the Reading Viaduct, while Chicago has already created plans for its own High Line: the Bloomingdale Trail. Now, London wants to get in on the game, with the launch of a new international design competition to create some ideas for a British High Line.
Still, they say they don’t want to copy the High Line exactly: “The judges are looking for proposals which similarly engage communities with green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is the network of open and green spaces, including features like green roofs, designed and managed to provide benefits such as flood management, urban cooling, green transport links and ecological connectivity – an approach which can have a huge and exciting impact on the way in which we live in the capital.”
Judges include High Line founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond; landscape architects Kim Wilkie and Johanna Gibbons; Matthew Pencharz, Environment Advisor to the Mayor of London; and Dr Penelope Curtis, Director of Tate Britain.
The winning team will get £2,500 and the runner-up £500 as prize money. The finalists will also be displayed in the Garden Museum.
Also, read more about the “real” High Line effect in a recent op-ed in The Huffington Post by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) president, Charles Birnbaum, FASLA. Birnbaum says that instead of trying to copy the High Line in an effort to spur economic development and boost tourism, cities should understand that a unique set of circumstances led to the High Line in Chelsea. “In fact, the ‘High Line effect’ should be viewed more broadly as a holistic approach to urban design that suggests how to transform existing urban landscapes to meet contemporary needs. The High Line was almost magically reawakened by a team of landscape architects, architects, horticulturalists, engineers and others, led by James Corner Field Operations. What really happened there is, first and foremost, a triumph of historic preservation and design.”
Image credit: High Line. 2010 ASLA Professional General Design Award / copyright Iwan Baan.
The Nature in the volcanic region of Auvergne has something definitely sacred. It seems to be invisibly linked with the idea of art. Our approach, as artists, is to search this specific nature in order to let the fear, the mystery, the metaphysical and spiritual questioning appears from the volcanic memory. A gigantic skeleton has [...] → READ MORE
By name, Athena Tacha may be little known beyond the art and landscape architecture worlds, but her work is beloved by many, particularly all those who experience her 50 plus public sculptures first hand in cities across the world. In Greece, her home country, a recent 40-year retrospective brought in thousands. The High Museum in Atlanta also did a major retrospective of her work in the late 1980s. But these days, Tacha, who teaches art at a number of U.S. universities, is no longer creating her unique environmental sculptures, which are so closely related to landscape architecture, like she once did — so there’s even greater reason to save one of her masterworks in New Jersey from the wrecking ball.
Created in the mid-1980s in honor of Green Acres — New Jersey’s famed land conservation program — right in front of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection building downtown, her work, also entitled Green Acres, is 77 by 85 feet. It’s an example of “site-specific environmental sculpture,” an art form Tacha helped create. These kinds of pieces are different from land art found out in the wilderness because they are rooted in social contexts, often taking shape in city plazas and other high-trafficked areas.
Tacha out-competed many other artists to get her piece in that place. Winning a competition by the New Jersey State Council for the Arts’ % for Art program, all 1.5 percent of the state’s alloted budget for the environment department building project went to her $417,000 sculpture.
According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which is lobbying to save the project, “The sculpture [...] contains 46 slabs of green granite onto which photographs of state landscapes, plants and animals (many of them endangered species) have been sandblasted. Crescent shaped planters with stepped seating ring the edges and the whole design recalls Roberto Burle Marx’s biomorphic modernism.”
Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, head of TCLF, says a number of experts think the sculpture also works perfectly well with its surroundings. On three sides, there are three 7-story concrete buildings; another side is a lane of Sycamore trees, which act as a buffer to the cemetery next door. The work acts a badge for the building, offering a sense of quietude for the cemetery.
Unfortunately, Artinfo.com writes, the New Jersey government is no longer feeling it. Larry Ragonese, a representative from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, said: “It’s not that we don’t like it. The intent is just to do something different, something that would characterize what we are preaching and set an example for others.” That something different would be a rain garden designed by environmental protection department staff. (While we applaud public education on green infrastructure, isn’t there a way to accomodate both the historic sculpture and those efforts?)
In April, the New Jersey Treasury Department sent Tacha a letter saying Green Acres was to go by the end of July unless it could be removed on the artist’s own dime. Arguing that the maintenance would be too high and not available in these economic times, the New Jersey Treasury seems at odd with the state’s legislature, which recently appropriated a million for restoration of the courtyard. Seems the crucial piece is that the building’s tenants no longer want it.
Birnbaum told us: “There’s a huge irony here. Some want to tear out an environmental sculpture designed to honor the Green Acres program and send it to the trashheap. It’s a hell of a way to memorialize the program, one of the most respected environmental programs in the U.S.” How could “ripping out the work and replacing it with something new be a good example of sustainable financial practices?” To preserve the sculpture, Birnbaum said Tacha’s career could be “bracketed” so that her work can be “assessed under criteria C of the National Register of Historic Places — the work of a master.”
The New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has also stepped up the pressure, telling the state, ”We urge you to reconsider your decisions and investigate the potential to restore the paving that is in disrepair instead of completely removing the art piece.” Richard Bartolone, ASLA, the New Jersey chapter president, also argues that “relocation, one of the suggested options offered to the artist, is completely inappropriate as it is a site-specific sculpture; the etchings of New Jersey flora and fauna are uniquely related to the DEP core mission ‘to protect the air, waters, land and natural resources of the state to ensure the continued public benefit.’ The removal of the art work will result in the loss of this significant and defining work of social art.” Basically, you can’t relocate an art work designed for a special place and have it make sense; the work is also embedded into the ground plane.
Bartolone concludes: “There are so few significant, socially relevant art works in New Jersey, let alone in our state’s capital. I hope you can understand our frustration with the potential loss of this artwork.”
If you want Tacha’s work to stay, let New Jersey know. Write to: Guy C. Bocage, Deputy Director of the N.J. Department of Treasury, P.O. Box 034, Trenton, NJ 08625-0229.