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Commentary: Gardens Have Been A Universal Subject For Art Throughout The Ages


People love gardens and to garden. They go on tours of famous gardens all over the world. Of course our own Missouri Botanical Garden is world renowned.

Gardens are depicted in works of art going back to ancient times and in works of art being made to this day.

The Garden of Eden is the most famous of all gardens and great masters such as Jan Brueghel the Elder, Michelangelo and Lucas Cranach have painted their interpretations of that magical, mystical garden.

Just recently there have been art exhibitions right here in St. Louis in which the garden was the central focus. The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) featured work by Ebony Patterson, a Jamaican born artist who studied at Washington University and now resides in Chicago. She's had exhibitions all over the country in prestigious museums and galleries.

Her exhibition at CAM was titled "When the Cuts Erupt--the Garden Rings--and the Warning is Waiting." The description in CAM's "Mesh Magazine," says, "Patterson encourages viewers to look closer, to be drawn in by shimmering textures and bright colors. For the artist, beauty is a trap that captures awareness and makes the invisible seen--the garden an abundant setting for attraction. Her new sight-specific installations extend her longtime exploration of the garden and its metaphorical possibilities. Among those is the idea of the garden as a ‘postcolonial’ symbol where the invisible remnants of violent histories interrupt visible space--Black bodies slowly exposed beneath plant life. The garden is also a symbol for the feminine, as suggested in the final phrase of the exhibition title--and the "Warning is a Waiting"--through the body of a woman, we enter the world, and through the wailing---and warning of women's voices we exit. The artist reminds us that women serve as public figures of mourning, with the garden as a space for lamentation."

Our own Andy Millner resides in St. Louis. His work investigates the relationship between art and nature and has been shown in over 56 group exhibitions and 15 solo exhibitions. His works are in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, just to name a couple.

Millner's most recent exhibition was at the William Shearburn Gallery in St. Louis and was titled "The Floating World" which refers to the Japanese term Ukiyo which has a complex history.

Lisa Melandri, Director of (CAM), describes Millner's work, "’Floating World’ is now used to describe a state of being unhindered by the troubles of life. But in the case of Millner's series, the double meaning invokes the complex duality of human and nature. These works bring forth the pure sensory pleasures of the landscape, while simultaneously calling out the garden as a place where abundance is fleeting. The garden is the ultimate metaphor for lifecycle--birth, generation and death.”

At the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum located within the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Garden is an exhibition curated by Nezka Pfeifer, Curator of the museum titled "Nymphs of the Garden: The Water Lilies by Arslan", which pays homage to one of history's most famous painters, Claude Monet.

Monet did a series of approximately 250 oil paintings depicting the flower garden of his home in Giverny, France. These paintings were the main focus of his artistic production during the last thirty years of his life in which he had cataracts for a lot of those years.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is and of itself a genuine, carefully curated work of art and within the garden itself are individual gardens such as the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Ottoman Garden, the Woodland Garden and more.

Even during these difficult times, the institutions in and around St Louis have never ceased to make it possible for me to enjoy the works of these creative and brilliant artists from the past to the present.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for more than thirty years on numerous arts related boards.