Monday, May 31, 2010

Chihuly at Meijer Gardens

It's no secret I love the work of Dale Chihuly and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, so I jumped at the chance when Meijer's PR guru, Amy Sawade, offered me a behind-the-scenes tour. My local friend and fellow master gardener Amy accompanied me, and we met Diane of The Garden of Live Flowers there.

The exhibit Chihuly: A New Eden features many works of art in 15 indoor and outdoor locations. The pieces are on loan and were shipped to and assembled at Meijer to fit the unique landscape. The exhibit runs through September 30.

I like that the title New Eden reflects that the pieces have gone in new directions beyond the traditional Chihuly forms, both in materials and settings. In other exhibits I've visited, all pieces were made of glass and each piece was set in natural surroundings, so the organic and inorganic melded and blended, with complementary or contrasting colors and forms. The plants and the art were one.

In addition to those kinds of pieces, Meijer also had new creations made of polyvitro and neon, and pieces that stood on their own as centerpieces.

The Lime Crystal Tower in the Lower Falls is made of polyvitro, a polymer plastic that is much lighter than glass, which Chihuly developed to create very large pieces. The pieces are still blown and shaped in the same manner as glass pieces. The first photo also shows my favorite permanent piece at Meijer (right, Liz?!), Aria by Alexander Liberman.

I've never been wild about pale pink, but I very much liked the Rose Crystal Tower in the Volunteer Tribute Garden. The pale color of this second polyvitro tower allows the sun to really shine through and sparkle, and it matched the glass of the conservatory very well.

Sometimes my macro setting actually totally rocks it.

These Blue Polyvitro Crystals were floating in the Wetlands. I like how they look like mini icebergs. We also heard green frogs calling in this pond.

A few pieces were also made of neon. Three neon Tumbleweeds were hanging from the conservatory ceiling. I imagine they look especially impressive when turned on at dusk. I thought this bright pink one with the black tips should could just as easily be called Flamingo.

Another neon piece was Saffron Tower, here with Mirage I & II by Elisabeth Frink and Plantoir by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. I bet Saffron stands out even more at night!

Moving on to the Sculpture Park Waterfall and more traditional Chihuly pieces, these Niijima Floats added wonderful color and depth to the scene.

I just love the colors on this Niijima Float.

In my last visit, I somehow missed Summer Dance by Barbara Hepworth in the permanent collection and was bound to catch it this time. Here is the golf cart that transported us that hot day, through the back of Dance.

The Groves and Hekman Pond had some wonderful displays, including Yellow Boat. The boat is one of the first Chihuly forms I saw and I always like that setting.

Here are some of the boat pieces close up. The black ones are Belugas.

On the other side of the pond from the boat is this stunning "blue allium." I would have hugged it had I been able to get close enough without falling in the water or getting poked in the eye. It is orders of magnitude more striking in person, and its true name is Blue Moon.

The same pond also contains many Walla Wallas, with B-Tree II by Kenneth Snelson to the right. As near as I can tell, Walla Wallas have curly-cue tops (kind of like Hershey's Kisses), whereas Niijima Floats do not, though both are displayed on water.

The Red Reeds on the lawn alongside the Amphitheater Hillside Main Tram Path were striking, arranged in Vs which is impossible to tell from the photo.

The Yellow Reeds in the Woodland Shade Garden create an entirely different mood. Note they are inserted into tree trunks.

Eelglass in the Lena Meijer Children's Garden.

I was amused by this little door through which kids can enter. Meijer Amy thought it would be funny for one of us to pose with it, and "our" Amy did. (You knew I'd use this, right, Amy?!)

A lot of cool pieces were interspersed in the English Perennial and Bulb Garden. These blue and pink Herons look right at home there.

Someone must have done something uncouth there, though, because the grass paths that led up to most of the pieces were roped off. These wonderful Trumpets (did you hear a Hoo?) were visible only from inside through windows...

...as was this octopus (technically, probably Herons).

The Citron Green and Red Tower really stands out from a distance and is one of the first pieces you see when you enter the gardens. I was kind of wondering why it was called green...

...until I walked up closer to it. It was one of the handful of pieces you could get up close & personal with.

Another so-close-you-could-but-don't!-touch-it piece was Summer Sun in the Cultural Commons.

It's really obvious how it was named.

I could have looked at it for hours. The pieces were so intricate and detailed.

Polyvitro Chandelier was hanging on the ceiling of the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. I like all the metallic colors. The conservatory also had more traditional glass pieces, set in with the tropical plants.

Cobalt blue glass is a personal favorite, and I loved how the sun lit up one of the pieces of the Basket Forest.

Here you can see that each Basket contains smaller pieces. And can you see how translucent the glass is, so the fern shows through it?

I loved these orange Persians so much that I wanted to take one home, except that of course I had a tiny purse and the only place I have to float these is my bathtub stealing is wrong.

This orange Ikebana really fits into the tropical conservatory.

This Ikebana seems to be saying "Oh, so so close. Evil palm, I will reach you yet, buh ha ha ha!"

I love the Macchia bowls, one of my favorite Chihuly shapes and always so colorful.

I love how art and plants make me rethink things. I always think I love bold, bright, riotous colors, and yet I can think of dozens of pastel flowers I like. And while "pale yellow" in words does nothing for me, I adored how the colors of the bamboo and Macchia blend so wonderfully, while their textures provide contrast. Unexpectedly, it was one of my favorite vignettes in the whole exhibit.

If you're anywhere vaguely near Grand Rapids, Michigan, I strongly recommend you visit soon.

Check out an earlier post to see more sculptures permanently on display at Meijer.

Check out more Meijer photos in my Flickr album.

Special thanks to Amy Sawade for arranging our tour and lunch!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sundries Sunday

Fasten your seatbelts, my friends. We've got a lot to cover!

Volunteering at Kempf House
I was excited to discover that Deborah Burling was looking for garden volunteers at Ann Arbor's Kempf House. Deb created a Master Garden Plan and Guidelines, which we are following to restore and repair the garden to the 1890s-1920s period. (After having researched, planted, and maintained an 1860s fountain garden at Cobblestone Farm for five years, I was ready to move on to a non-leading role volunteering in another historic garden.)

Kempf House was built in 1853 in Greek Revival style, but interprets life in the late 1800s. I'd been inside a few times, with my friend Carole, to help decorate for Christmas.

My assignment today was digging soil out of the beds between the fence and sidewalk, moving the soil to other parts of the garden, leveling the area, and adding mulch.

At my first volunteer session on May 9, I weeded around the base of this gorgeous saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana). It's over 100 years old, and I was sorry to have missed its pink blooms.

Update: Deb just emailed me a photo of the tree in bloom in April!

I also pulled a ton of goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) out of various beds--those suckers have crazy roots. I was so glad I had my Fiskars hori-hori with me, because it sure helped. (Thanks again, Gen!)

I swear, the German connection is incidental! Ne, wirklich!

One of the "grilles" mentioned in the sign.

I took this photo last time. I love how the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) intermingles with the hosta. The bloodroot flowers early, before the hosta is fully unfurled, and will die back later, letting hosta steal the summer show.

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) was blooming today...

...as was this NOID lemon yellow day lily. It had a nice scent. The plan is to plant more lilies.

This large NOID rose caught my eye. I liked how the leaves are backlit by the sun so you can see the leaf veins.

I'm warming to roses... I love how the rugged calyx and the serrated, darker leaf margins.

Touring My Garden
Lots going on; too much to write about.

I haven't seen the groundhog all season, but someone has eaten my beet foliage. I'm pretty sure it was raccoons, a species I haven't had trouble with before. Someone also ate most of my marrowfat peas, but (knock wood) two remain.

The turnips remain intact...

...as do the radishes, which are almost ready to harvest. (All these veggies were winter-sown.)

Even though columbine are notorious self-seeders, I've always had trouble growing them in the garden. I have a few plants, but they only get maybe two to five blooms each. Then I find this columbine growing in extreme shade in the brick pathway next to my deck. I get it, Mother Nature, and appreciate your sense of irony.

Speaking of which, for the first time ever I had trouble getting nasturtium seedlings to sprout... and look what I found growing in the bin with my potatoes! I ask you!

Tooling around North Campus
Last week I was meeting my friend Mary Helen for lunch, and decided to ride my bike the 5 or so miles. I was huffing and puffing, but I didn't have a heart attack. I could even pedal up all the inclines, even those I used to have to walk up. And I made amazingly good time. I was just starting to feel the tiniest bit smug when the Universe humbled me: a 60ish-year-old gentleman (a regular guy in street clothes, not a super-aerodynamic bike racer) passed me at a clip that made me feel like I was standing still. Heh.

I had my camera with me and used the extra time before lunch to take some photos of the University of Michigan's North Campus. Allium, with no yellowing leaves!

I almost fell over, I was so shocked to see this Alexander Liberman sculpture. Not just because I oohed and aahed about his work at Meijer Gardens, and totally have a thing for orange, but because I'd never noticed this piece before, despite having been to this part of campus dozens of times over the eight years I worked nearby. Let's just say my job left me preoccupied!

I also like the Wave Field, which reminds me of Native American mounds.

The mounds are only maybe 3-feet tall, but I went ahead and rolled down one anyway. You kind of have to. Well, OK, you might not, but I did.

"Dude, some lady in a bike helmet just totally rolled down the mound!"

Lots more to catch up on, but I'm heading into the garden now. Happy Sundries Sunday, everyone!