Garden Diary - January 2009

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Thursday, 15 January 2009
More Moore, In Winter

Come. Walk with me around the seasons to view the Henry Moore sculptures at the New York Botanical Garden.

The exhibition, Moore in America, opened in May and was scheduled to conclude on 2 November. This date was rescheduled to 11 January 2009, and has now been extended to 15 March which provides those of you who might be within visiting distance a window of opportunity to come and see them for yourself. (Just remember that the grounds are closed on Mondays, to provide staff with the opportunity to safely work on projects that might be hazardous to strolling visitors.) Let me whet your appetite, and at the same time provide a virtual tour for those from afar.

Todd Forrest, Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections at NYBG, and staff members from the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire, England chose where to place the different sculptures, envisioning a location that gave each sculpture its own pride of place and one that would enhance it with the changing seasons. My first visit was on 20 May 2008, for the press preview. (See here, May 2008, click on Third Week for Moore in America: Monumental Sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden to join me on that tour.)

Reclining Figure: Angles

located on Azalea Way beyond the Everett Children's Adventure Garden entrance. Seen here in May, the verdant grass and tender green leaves of spring complement the glistening bronze, wet from the gentle rain.

Draped Reclining Mother and Baby, in the rock garden

I made another visit in October, for another appreciation of Monumental Sculptures: Henry Moore at the New York Botanical Garden, and again in November. Seasons alter each sculpture's relationship to its adjacent landscape.

The analemma dance of the earth around the sun changes the angle of the light.

Credit & Copyright: Vasilij Rumyantsev of the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory

And plants respond to the shortening daylight and longer nights with autumnal color shifts.

Locking Piece, outside the rock garden.
This is one that fascinates me.

I had wanted to visit again in early winter, hoping for snow that would accentuate the sculptural forms, hollows and curves swelling under a dusting of white. That was not to be. When there was snow it was heavy wet stuff with treacherous conditions for the long drive. But sometimes I get lucky. Unbeknownst to me the exhibition had been extended one more time, until March 15. So today when I came to the garden with the ostensible purpose of hearing my friend Ellen Hornig of speak at the American Garden lecture series (an excellent talk about South African perennials hardy in her Oswego, New York garden - but 10 feet of snow providing insulating cover every winter might have something to do with it) I was delight to learn that the sculptures were still on display. And, since I'd driven in in a fog of tiny dry snowflakes, there was clean new snow to accompany that already on the ground. With the temperature barely above 20� Fahrenheit, it might sublimate but it wouldn't melt.

I peer through a cleft in the massive, snow-covered boulder.
Locking Piece arising, appearing to float between the snow field
and clouds, limned with a line of white here and there.

There is the scent of cold in the air. It is as though the bronze
has taken in winter's cold, and even its smooth surface is affected.
Color is bleached from the land, with bare branches scribed against
the sky, and the landscape anchored by the sculpture's bulky mass.

I walk, making tracks in the crusted snow.
A different view, a scooping of space between glacier-carved ledge
and branch and sky. While I prefer my images which place
each sculpture in its landscape there is something to be said
for this one, where the sculpture becomes a lens that holds the view.

It is too cold to walk and view all of the pieces. I decide to focus on those near the Beaux Arts building, in and near the rock garden. But the rock garden gates are locked. I can see Draped Reclining Mother and Baby, and Seated Woman from outside the fence and wall but cannot find an angle for photography. Ah well. The eyes see, and the mind remembers. I think it was probably decided that not many people would be out strolling in arctic conditions.


Oval with Points is within my circuit. It is a magnificent piece in January snow, with conifers and tangled lace of bare shrubby branches. Equally captivating and very different in the soft misty light of May. We expect seasonal changes in the garden. What is so wonderful are the seasonal changes I feel fortunate to have seen with objects that could be considered a static, massive lump of bronze. These sculptures weigh a ton, or two, and more. Were they confined in a museum under artificial light they might well seem frozen. In the changing landscape of light and day, dark and night (oh, to have seen them under the full moon), rain and snow and the dancing variations the seasons ring in with leaf and branch - under these conditions the sculptures gain a lightness.


Knife Edge Two Pieces, near the katsura trees in the Ross Conifer Arboretum
in January and November, with the influence of the pattern play of seasons.
Their color seems to have shifted, and I think of the deer, whose color changes
from summer's bright chestnut to winter's somber dun brown. There is a quality
of light, lucidity that changes with the time of day and the cycle of the seasons.


Nearly 5 tons of bronze. Eighteen feet long. Hill Arches swoops and soars over the lawn
in front of the library building, near the tulip tree all�e. Elegant.

Moore in America had two extensions to its display period.
I cannot believe it will happen again. Come see it here and now
at New York Botanical Garden before 15 March 2009. Clearly,
I've been captivated. And so shall you be, when you come visit.

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