Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Surrealism in the great outdoors revisited

Photos 1 and 3 by Lucy Nieto

I suppose that we all titivate our gardens - some more than others. While watching the ABC series, Around The World In 80 Gardens I saw this garden and it really got me thinking - about art and immortality, art and money, art and power, art and the notion of beauty, art and labels. All this thinking of course just gave me a headache and the realisation that if art mirrors life, then the politics of it will do likewise - whether we agree with it or not - and we each just have to do what is right for us.

The British multimillionaire Edward James made his name between 1920 and 1930, as a surrealist poet and collector or surrealist art - he was a patron of De Chirico, Magritte and Dalí - he collaborated with Dali to produce the Lobster Telephone and the iconic, red-satin Mae West Lips Sofa. But it’s through his own surrealist art work, the gardens of Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico that his name lives on.

In 1948, after spending most of the Second World War in Los Angeles, James went to Mexico with a friend to look for a site to house his growing orchid collection. The travellers came across the pools of Las Pozas, and James's friend immediately stripped off for a swim.

As he sunned himself afterwards on a rocky outcrop, a cloud of smoky-mauve butterflies appeared suddenly and covered his entire body. James took this as a sign and purchased the land. Over the next 20 years, he paid annual visits to Las Pozas, constantly adding new orchids: by 1965, he had 18,000 plants. But a freak three-day snowstorm killed the whole collection.

So James began instead to cultivate giant plants made of concrete - to say nothing of towers, obelisks, pavilions, bridges and spiral staircases. Hidden within the rainforest is a surreal concrete jungle - enormous man-made trees, bamboos and flowers –that range in height from 1.2m (4ft) to 9m (30ft), designed by James and built by Xilitla men. James was also wild about animals of all sorts, travelling the world with snakes in his luggage, and many of the garden pavilions were designed to hold an aviary or a menagerie.

A poem written by Edward James, prior to his death in 1974 -

I have seen such beauty as one man has seldom seen;

therefore will I be grateful to die in this little room,

surrounded by the forests, the great green gloom

of trees my only gloom - and the sound, the sound of green.

Here amid the warmth of the rain, what might have been

is resolved into the tenderness of a tall doom

who says: 'You did your best, rest - and after you the bloom

of what you loved and planted still will whisper what you mean.

And the ghosts of the birds I loved, will attend me each a friend;

like them shall I have flown beyond the realm of words.

You, through the trees, shall hear them, long after the end

calling me beyond the river. For the cries of birds

continue, as - defended by the coretege of their wings -

my soul among strange silences yet sings.

Read more about the interesting background and life of Edward James here.

I find the Las Pozas gardens fascinating, and would love to visit them, to see them up close, to photograph them. Another that I'd love to visit is the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, in the UK. The beautiful contemporary piece Mudmaid is installed there.

Photo from JohnnyH

Definitions of any kind can be limiting, and confusing. There's a simplistic easy to understand definition of ‘surrealism’ here and a not so easy but interesting one - an Andre Breton lecture - here.

Below are a few 'surrealism in the outdoors' artworks from the ever inspiring artists of Etsy.

Groundhog Hair Print by
Amber Alexander

Not All Good Journeys Are Bad Print by Bryan Collins

Beginnings Print by David V Moore

Black Rose Cameo Brooch by
Lush Punk

The Night Belongs to Them Print By Jaime Best of
Best Art Studios

Eggplant With Chicken Legs Sculpture by Melissa Sue

[still squatting here in toowoomba and visiting the place for sale every couple of weeks...real estate is starting to pick up so hopefully it won't be long before i sell and can settle in here...with internet access! so a revisiting of a post from last year. i send loving kindness to you all, chrisy]


Rose said...

Hi Chrisy,
The garden photos all look amazing. I love visiting different botanic gardens around Adelaide, its just so relaxing.
I must say that eggplant with legs is a little scarey eeeek
I Do however adore the Not all journeys are bad print, such a magical image.


Edward James Las Pozas said...

Nice post, Cristy ... glad you enjoyed Las Pozas so very much!

Jacquie said...

Gorgeous images Chrisy!

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Joanna Jenkins said...

That's a garden I would like to see too. The history is fascinating-- and the butterflies that covered his body-- very cool. Thanks for sharing.
Happy weekend, jj

Kitty Stampede said...

i ADORE the groundhog one...there are groundhogs everywhere here and I love them. apparently most people don't cause they are known to dig up gardens. but they melt my butter everytime i see them. adorable creatures.
that eggplant sculpture is utter it.
you always find the cooolest stuff! :D

susan said so said...

I had to look up "titivate" - love when that happens!

The poem is beautiful, and gets me right in my solar plexus.


planettreasures said...

What a wonderful place!
I so want to go there.

PeregrineBlue said...

you always find the coolest artwork.

Swan Marcon said...

What a wonderful place! I so want to go there.