A lonely old garden gnome stands guard over the garden until spring. He is barely visible in summer, hidden in the foliage, being a gnome. He doesn’t stand out because he’s not brightly colored like a Disney character. It is in gray concrete, now embellished with a little foam. It has been in the garden for about 30 years, a gift from a loved one. His name is Gneville, with a silent G, of course.
Perhaps a little pretentiously, I like to think of Gneville as a sculpture, but hardly a work of art. I have another piece that could be considered as such because the pattern has been around since the Renaissance. It’s a cherub astride a dolphin that I picked up from the street a long time ago. He was sitting on the curb, waiting to hitchhike in the garbage truck. I couldn’t see letting the little guy get run over, so I drove him home in my wheelbarrow, kinda ignominiously for a cherub, maybe. I named him Riley and put him by the pond, and he hasn’t moved since. He is next to a hosta that wraps him in large green leaves in summer, and like Gneville, he almost disappears from view. There is no foam accumulated on it because it was originally painted pink, but over the years the paint has slowly chipped off.
Of course, a garden is enhanced by sculpture, and many expanses of green lawns claim one. A cleverly placed classical statue to be discovered at the bend of a path will delight the unwary visitor, or perhaps an Aphrodite framed by a distant arch. But then, in the words of Isamu Noguchi, American artist and landscape architect, “It’s the selection and placement that will make anything a sculpture, even an old shoe.”
In this case, I have other works of art in my garden. These are pieces collected over the years that are more natural and barely noticeable. I have a strange piece of root from an ancient cedar, my height and width, but without any human characteristics. On a much smaller scale, hanging from a trellis, there are pieces of driftwood with hens and chicks happily growing on them. They also grow well on weathered old brick that has a bit of history behind it. It came from the rubble of the old BF Goodrich tire factory which stood at the corner of King Street and Victoria in Kitchener.
Keeping the head of the trail rises Albert, a small limestone boulder balancing atop a tall, slender one. Look closely and there is a face naturally etched into the limestone. Hanging from the tree is a simple globe made of three old rusty hoops from an oak rain barrel. Other parts are things I made, like the obelisk reconstructed from an old teak windsurf boom and six other barrel hoops. A clematis and a black-eyed Susy vine do a great job of hiding her.
Across the trail, the corkscrew hazelnut that has slowly declined in recent years is now a meandering skeleton supporting another clematis, âPink Minkâ. I cut the clematis in late fall and the tree becomes a unique winter feature. One thing that is always visible and always catches the eye is a concrete fedora, also decorated with hens and chicks. I did this by coating an old straw hat with lightweight concrete.
As winter progresses and the plants collapse, all of my artwork will be revealed, the smaller ones disappearing under the snow to return to view in the spring, a welcome gallery, but only for one. short moment until the plants dominate and Gneville and Riley are again in hiding.