Tuesday, 17 June 2014 15:55

Fred and Lena: A passion for art and a love of nature

Written by  Kerri VanderHoff
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David Nash. Iron Dome, 2010. 46 elements, 85 x 248 x 248 inches. David Nash. Iron Dome, 2010. 46 elements, 85 x 248 x 248 inches. PHOTO: Chuck Heiney

David Nash: From Kew Gardens to Meijer Gardens
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Through Aug. 17, 2014
meijergardens.org (888) 957-1580

A remarkable exhibition, David Nash: From Kew Gardens to Meijer Gardens, is currently on view at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The exhibition hosts more than 25 works by this internationally renowned British sculptor. In addition, Nash will be creating and installing several new works at Meijer Gardens.

In many ways, David Nash and the whole of his career, which conjoins sculpture and the natural world, is at the very heart of the mission of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park,” says Meijer Gardens President and CEO David Hooker in a press release.

It is understandable why the sculptor is also part of the Gardens’ 20th anniversary celebration next year, commissioning Nash for a unique, site-specific planting involving dozens of young larch trees on the open hillside in The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, scheduled to open June 2015.

He is a sculptor first but his visual language uses trees and nature," said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, chief curator and vice president of Meijer Gardens. "We are a sculpture collection conjoined with a botanical garden. It all fits together very poetically and honestly.”

Also very poetic is the way the mission reflects the marriage of its namesake and benefactor, the late Fred Meijer and his wife Lena. In the book America’s Garden of Art, Becherer writes about the various named outdoor gardens, “In each area, nomenclature and the expectations of tradition may signal the importance of horticultural planning and practices. Yet in most areas, sculpture plays a vital role, either as arias or choral arrangements.”

He continues, “Arguably, it is across these gardens and grounds that one understands most clearly and memorably the interrelationship of Fred Meijer’s passion for sculpture and Lena Meijer’s love of plants and flowers, that is both foundational and fundamental to the organization itself.”

The essay by Becherer in America’s Garden of Art, which is available in the gift shop, provides art historical context and comparisons regarding sculpture gardens and parks.

One can reach back across time from the early modern era to the classical world and find significant examples,” he writes about sculpture gardens. “English and French estates melt into Italian villas, which dissolve into Roman pleasure gardens and Greek shrines.”

He notes it is possible to look even deeper to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt for the carved sculpture sited in the open air. In most of the garden scenarios, “sculpture has been used as a kind of meditative accent amid tranquil green surroundings.”

The advent of the sculpture park came in the last century, where one will generally find “there is, by design, a restraint in the horticultural presentation in order to allow humans to experience human-scale imagery with greater clarity and focus…[t]he pendulum, as it were, has shifted.”

The art is now the dominant focus, while the garden plays the supporting role.

The unique beauty of Meijer Gardens, and apparently Fred and Lena’s influence upon it, is that it doesn’t choose between the two. Instead, it is a harmonious marriage of both garden and sculpture park, coexisting wonderfully across 132 inviting acres.

OTHER ART EVENTS

Con Artist Crew Present: COMMIX
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA)
Through Aug. 17, 2014
uica.org, (616) 454-7000

COMMIX is a multidisciplinary exhibition featuring contemporary street art and graphics, comprising a national network of artists and organized by the regional gallery group Con Artist Crew. Experience artwork from working artist that are redefining collaboration, entrepreneurship and regional identity.

Preliminary Study: RSI-T (part 2) curated by Naomi Lev
Fire Barn Gallery and collaborative locations
Through July, 2014
Panel discussion at LaFontsee Gallery on July 2, 7:30 p.m.
firebarngallery.com, (917) 572-0175

Presented by Chris Protas and the Fire Barn Gallery (Grand Haven), in collaboration with the Muskegon Museum of Art, LaFontsee Gallery and Richard App Gallery, this exhibition explores the outcomes from excessive use of technology. Panel discussion includes Naomi Lev, an independent curator from Tel Aviv now living and working in New York City.

Lakeshore Art Festival
Downtown Muskegon
July 4 & 5
lakeshoreartfestival.org (231) 722-3751

The Lakeshore Art Festival features a unique blend of arts, crafts, music, food and fun along the shoreline in historic Downtown Muskegon. This year's event will feature nearly 250 fine art, craft and artisan food market exhibitors. The event will include children’s activities, street performers, and a community canvas.

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