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Decoration and Space: Saint-Gauden & Kendrick
For some unexplicable reason, I am fascinated by so-called lawn ornaments, sculptures, and other decorative Richard Serra. I am interested in finding out what individuals deem suitable for yards and gardens and how the decorative nature of those choices alter and visually play against their surroundings.items folks place outside their houses. This category includes mirrored gazing balls, wishing wells, old agricultural equipment, sometimes repainted and planted, and statues of Our Lady and St. Francis. Sometimes I find fine art on people’s lawns. One friend has a fountain with a sculpture by Frederick William MacMonnies of Pan. On a grander scale, another client has a
I can say straight out that a few lawn ornaments go a long way and hence, in some cases even one lawn ornament per household may be too much.
At present, my front lawn is Madison Square Park. (Our office is fortunate to face it.) It has a superlative work of art in the form of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Farragut Memorial.
It is considered by scholars to be one of the most important sculptures in America because of the life-like presence and the abstraction in the rendering, especially noteworthy on the base relief. With the restoration of Madison Square (as the park is often called), it has pride of place. I am not sure if many of the estimated 40,000 people who pass by the park each day understand its import, however, it no doubt adds quality and gravitas to the setting.
This fall there is another work of art joining the Farragut Memorial, a series of 5 sculptures called “Markers” by Mel Kendrick. It will ornament the central lawn through the end of the year.
Photo by Steven Kaplan
As the press release explains, each individual piece in the group is "born of the play between addition and subtraction, destruction and creation.” As with many of Kendrick’s sculptures, the artist begins with a block that he carves up into voids and then reassembles the discarded interior elements onto the top. This series is made of concrete and painted with black and white stripes.
The scultpures are sited in the middle of the park’s busy central lawn where children drawn to the forms frequently spend hours climbing through their holes and voids and office workers take their brief lunch hours propped against them with food and books in hand. Their aesthetic meaning aside, they seem very much enjoyed by the users of this space.
Photo by Nancy Romeu
I wonder about the Saint-Gaudens being near the Kendrick. Is their placement proof that there should be only one ornament per lawn?
I know it is seemingly absurd to place such things as gazing balls and the work of Saint-Gaudens into the same consideration. However, for me they are all engaging “markers” for examining and understanding the play of decoration and space.
Photo by Nancy Romeu