JoAnne Skelly: Sculpture in the landscape

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

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Sculpture in our home gardens can take many forms and describe many feelings. Some are representations of animals, while others are more abstract, like the sculptures in public sculpture gardens. Some can be found in nature and are often called specimen plants.
Harry Lauder’s walking stick, Japanese red maple (in sheltered locations), purple leaf smoke tree, and spring flowering trees like crabapple, Bradford pear, and flowering dogwood might be considered more seasonal sculptures, since the blossoms are what makes them special and draws our attention. The many forms of topiary are also sculpture.
The types of garden sculpture are generally limited only by imagination. Some forms of sculpture are only visible when they are moving, like water in a fountain whose jets might be coordinated with music. So, after deciding that we want to make sculpture a part of our landscape, the first decision is will it be natural/living or constructed.
This decision may be made using the real estate mantra, location, location, location. Do we want it to be part of the greeting in the front yard or public space, like the symbol of the pineapple, or private and contemplative, like a religious statue, in a cove or grotto?
Will it typically be seen from near or far? What we see in the landscape can be defined by the four characteristics of form – the shape of an object, line – its edge, color, and texture. What is the appropriate scale of the object, especially considering from where it will most often be viewed, and by whom? Is it intended to be viewed year-round?
Many sculptures are made of materials that are time-tested. Marble and granite come to mind. Yet so do metals like aluminum and steel, coated for weathering. Wood and clay can also be used with special precautions given the freeze-thaw action of winter, wind, and the intense summer sun of Northern Nevada.
The purchase of sculptures can be a challenge. Alternatives are friends and family who are familiar with metal fabrication, wood-working, and concrete forming and curing. Yet reasonable examples can be found in this area. The University of Nevada, Reno has an art department that may help in finding local artisans. Carson City has metal art in many places, that can inform a person interested in metal sculpture. There is of course the internet, with many forms and scales of sculpture. If you know your intended location, and have an idea of what you want, with persistence you will be able to find it or have it fabricated.
Sculpture can add dimension of sophistication, style and even whimsy to any home landscape. It might welcome visitors. It can provide a moment for contemplation. It can make a statement about who you are and what you value. Many thanks to my friend Paul Corrado for providing me with this article.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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