Thursday, July 30, 2009


Valerie --aka Aquagirl--is the sunniest person we have on staff. She's taught us all the power of a broad smile to brighten someone's day. Aquagirl takes care of our aquatic collections, and is today's guest blogger...

I love my job.

I get paid to get muddy, wade in ponds and occasionally drive a tractor. I also get to work with some really creative people—and it creates a terrific synergy. The display in the crescent shaped pool in front of the Fuqua Conservatory is a perfect example of when we all independently add our talents to create a sum of complement.
When the Henry Moore Foundation sent an advance party to scout the locations best suited to each sculpture, the pool was in it’s glory last year. I had planted vibrant mix of tropicals including Victoria water lilies (Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’). The Victorias are the giant water platters.

Like I said, I get to work with lots of creative people, but we typically work together in the later stages of projects when our work begins to overlap. While I was focused on grooming and fertilizing my aquatic plants, the Henry Moore show was being cultivated and grown to its own maturity.
At the beginning of this year, the pertinent details of the show were delivered to our department. The Outside Horticulture Department is a team of 12 people. We work together in the spring and fall to plant the colorful displays of annuals, but the rest of the time we tend territories within the garden. This is when I discovered that the ‘Goslar Warrior’ was going to be placed in the Conservatory Pool.

Normally, I have more or less full creative control over the plantings in the ponds. This year was a little different because we were installing a new garden adjacent to the Conservatory. The Color Border along the Vine Arbor was designed by Tres Fromme, Mesa Design Group, and it had a cool twist. The plants at the end of the border leap from the ground into the pond.
The plants selected to make this leap work well in both settings. They are also dark and ominous, yet beautiful (just like the sculpture). A large swath of cannas dominate the outer edge of the pool. This group is a mix of Canna ‘Australia’ which has vivacious orange/red flowers, and Canna ‘Intrigue’ sports painterly peach/orange blossoms. The cannas are bordered by black elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’).
The sculpture appears to levitate on the water thanks to a dark footing beneath. The echo of the fallen warrior’s shield drifts out as the water platters grow and spread. Originally, I had slated a different version of the platters. I ordered seven Victoria cruzianas. These are a species of the platters that has a smaller leaf (up to 4 feet in diameter at maturity) and a higher lip (4-6 inches) and is bright green. As you probably know, not everything works according to plan in gardening. My growers had uncooperative weather this spring and lost the entire crop of this selection. The platters in the pool are my Plan B. In the end, I think they look right with the sculpture.
The end of the pool beside the Conifer Garden retains the large Umbrella Palm (neither a palm, nor an umbrella; it is Cyperus alternifolius) to balance the heaviness of the opposite end of the display. I’ve also planted Black Marble Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Marble’), a division of a favorite lotus (Nelumbo nucifera ‘Shiroman’ which also echoes the shield with it’s round leaves) and my personal favorite—the Mosaic Plant (Ludwigia sedoides).

So back to synergy…
I stood at the pool looking at the sculpture one day while the Henry Moore Foundation staff were supervising the installations. I talked with David Mitchinson, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at the Henry Moore Foundation, who was part of the advance team who scouted locations way back when. He said that he was inspired to place the Goslar Warrior in this pool because of the water platters, and how they reminded him of the Warrior’s shield. I almost fell over. I excitedly told him my plans to plant the water platters when the water warmed sufficiently. We shared a common vision that had been hatched independently.
I love my job.
Valerie VanSweden
Curator, Aquatic Plant Collection

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In my view, showing up in an internationally distributed, highly regarded magazine such as The Economist makes you a celebrity. So imagine my excitement when the curator of our exhibition, Anita Feldman, received in it a glowing, full page review of her recent project: Henry Moore Textiles. I could hardly contain myself! Although by time I read the article in January 2008, I was of course already impressed by Anita's passion, patience, and commitment to presenting Moore's work in the most thoughtful, appropriate manner possible.
I first met Anita (above on the right) when we traveled to London in 2007 for the opening of Moore at Kew. The exhibition was stunning. It focused on Moore's later, monumental works, and explored all his major sculptural themes. Viewing the show, you felt like you were getting to know the artist, not the curator, which I think is a good thing. We were already emotionally committed to this exhibition, but by the plane ride home, we knew we needed to make it happen. Anita helped us "make it happen" in so many ways, from educating us on Moore's life and work, to advice on installation and shipping, to working through the loan agreement with us. I'm so happy to have her as our guest blogger this week, addressing one of the most commonly asked questions in her post, following... (And by the way, Henry Moore Textiles and Moore at Kew are both available in the Garden Gift Shop.)

As Curator, people often ask me how the works were selected and sites chosen. For the Moore show in Atlanta this was a peculiar story. Because the exhibition was already on view at Kew Gardens when we received the request from Atlanta the selections had already been made. So it was not a question of which pieces to bring to the US but how to fit these twenty colossal bronzes initially selected for a much more expansive garden into the formal and more intimate spaces of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. We decided to turn this ‘problem’ into an asset – so that you could turn a corner on a path and BOOM be faced with something really impressive and unexpected. Moore once explained the dichotomy between scale and setting by saying ‘If you put Stonehenge in the Grand Canyon it would be lost, it would be nothing’(1971). That’s a bizarre thought - Stonehenge (right) in the Grand Canyon (below). People forget Moore could be a Surrealist at heart and imagine objects in the most unlikely surroundings.

Coupled with the fact that we needed to find sites for twenty sculptures was the fact that the Garden was undergoing extensive renovations (new visitor center, and gardens beyond) which meant that four sculptures were planned for sites that did not yet even exist. We looked at plans for the renovations, walked through the dense forest and wore hard hats through construction areas and imagined how it might look when it was complete.

Knife Edge Two Piece (LH 516) has two dynamic sheer walls of bronze that come together leaving a tense angular gap. It is a sculpture that can withstand the power of an architectural background, (indeed another version of this sculpture stands at the entrance of the east wing of The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC designed by IM Pei) so it was decided to use this piece in the courtyard of the new entrance.

The most popular site is probably Oval with Points (LH 596) in the bog garden. The sculpture becomes a window to the Atlanta skyline. Its dramatic vista shifting as you approach is spectacular, but for me there is also a darker side. The carnivorous plants surrounding the bronze with their little sharp ‘teeth’; the large bronze looming up from the bog with its two points, nearly touching but not quite; there is a pent up energy here – a force unreconciled.

Being from the Moore Foundation I was immediately attracted to the large open lawn – in contrast to all the densely planted areas – here was a great expanse of green calling for a big sculpture! But to my dismay, the lawn had to be left open for summer concerts. This needed some thinking about. The idea then evolved to ‘hold’ the lawn with three large sculptures at opposite edges: Large Reclining Figure (LH 192b) in fibreglass – its white open forms contrasting with the dark foliage of the cannas and banana trees; Goslar Warrior (LH 641), serenely shimmering in the reflecting pool, and Two Piece Reclining Figure: Points (LH 606), boldly holding the sight line of the approach as a gateway to the landscape beyond – its rough cliff-like forms announcing change.

The upright motives are always enjoyable to site – their upward thrust a change from the reclining figures, and the combination of natural and industrial motifs in the works lend themselves to either landscape or architectural surroundings. Here, they rhyme with the verticality of the cacti, and also pick up on the details of the architecture behind. The changing heights of the three motives also echo the undulations in the landscape – reminders of Native North American totem poles that also serve as markers of human intervention with the land.

For me, perhaps my favourite site is that of Reclining Mother and Child (LH 649). It is not spectacular or clever – it is elegant and simple. Everything about it is reassuring – the subject, the material; it is meditative and calm without being boring – no one can say that that baby is like any other! The proportions of the site – its enclosed walled garden perfectly suit the scale of the figure. And the contrast of the weathered green patina of the bronze with all its subtle colour variations could not find a better complement than this warm red brick. Even the rather strange child – inspired by the shape of the inner coil of a seashell - retains its mystery yet is somehow understood in relation to the many leaves, flowers and twisting stems and vines surrounding it. It is these connections between the human figure and the forms of nature that remind us that we are all inextricably linked.
Anita Feldman, Curator, Henry Moore Foundation

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blogging Bibliognost

What is a bibliognost, you say? Why, a librarian, of course! Did you know we have a librarian and TWO libraries here at the Garden? Many don' allow me to introduce you. LuAnne Schwarz is our beloved librarian. With the help of a handful of dedicated volunteers, she manages the Sheffield Botanical Library, Orchid Reference Library, and the Plant Hotline. The libraries contain 8500 titles and 65 journals on plants, design, outdoor sculpture, etc. and are one of the Garden's best kept secrets. (Both are available for public use, but be sure to check times and restrictions on our website.) The plant hotline can be accessed via e-mail or phone and is an invaluable resource for help identifying pests, "that beautiful flower at the Garden", and all kinds of other inquiries.

LuAnne began as a volunteer in 1985 at the “birth” of the library (with 100 books) during the fabled "trailer days" when the organization was just budding from a couple of single wides near where the magnolias in the center of the Garden now stand. She joined the staff in 1989, 20 years ago. "It has been very interesting to collect books in the areas of art and sculpture for the various exhibits we have hosted. In searching for material on Henry Moore on both adult and children’s levels to support our education mission I learned a great deal about his background and creative period including the artists who were his peers," says LuAnne. Here is her fascinating guest blog submission. Enjoy!

Using materials on the Sheffield Library Henry Moore Bibliography and inspired by colleagues at the Lloyd Library and Museum who created a wonderful “fauxfacebook page for their Darwin exhibit, I submit as my blog a sampling of what might have appeared on his personal site: his art, life, friends and inspirations.



Jackson Pollack

Georgia O’Keefe


Ben Nicholson

Pablo Picasso


Alexander 'Sandy' Calder

Marc Chagall

Jean Arp


Irina/misc. Album - I married Irina Radetzky in 1929. Vacation Album -- 1931 Irina and I went to the country on holiday with Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth - talked, walked, bathed, played cricket and worked (of course)!


Joan Wyndham: I have a crush on Professor Moore! “When he comes into a room it’s like a spark being struck.” 10 p.m., 4/25/40

Joan Wyndham: “Today he hammered his thumb doing something to my armature and said ‘Bugger’. There was blood all over the clay.” 8 p.m., 6/6/40
Henry Moore: New pics of the kiddo! Mary's 3 now and learning about shapes 3 p.m., 1946

Henry Moore: After dinner with friends this evening Irina and I took the Underground home, bombings began. For the first time I saw “rows of people sleeping on the platforms….amid the grim tension, I noticed groups of strangers formed together into intimate groups and children asleep within feet of the passing trains.” 11 p.m., 1940

Bibliognost: The images of the reclining figures influence Moore. He compared the train tunnels to the holes in his sculptures…

Henry Moore: I received a fascinating gift today from Juliette Huxley – the skull of an elephant which I find to be powerful yet gentle at the same time, maybe I will sketch it… (1968)

Henry Moore: I observed Sheep Piece which looks lovely in the countryside. It commands attention with its sheer presence and size. I saw sheep grazing all around the piece, as if it were as natural as the grass they were eating. “Sculpture on this scale has relationship with living activity and naturally becomes part of the environment.” (1972)

Henry Moore: My first grandchild – a boy! Gus. “A chip off the old block.” (2/1/77)

Bibliognost: Atlanta scores huge gift!!! Emory University Robert W. Woodruff Library receives 60,000 volume collection of 20th century poetry from Raymond Danowski (he married Mary Moore 1976 –she was his 3rd wife) (2004)

Lu Anne Schwarz, Librarian (aka Bibliognost)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moore Girl Power

After a short hiatus, I'm happy to be back on the blog today, introducing you to Laura Robinson of the Henry Moore Foundation. She's been pictured here before--in April and May posts--but I thought it was high time you get to know her better.

Laura studied Fine Art -Sculpture (4yr BA Newcastle and 2yr MFA at The Slade School, University College London). During this time she worked with her sister in theater as a scenic painter. After completing her studies, she worked in a variety of related jobs including assisting other artists such as Rachel Whiteread (fabrication of 'Empty Plinth' for Trafalgar Square), making and installing work in the British Art Show 5 for Phyllida Barlow, and being cast by Antony Gormely as one of his first 'Insider' series. She then worked at the Tate Gallery in the Art Handling Department.
Affairs of the heart drew her away from London, to the idyllic British countryside, otherwise known as 'the sticks'. Moving into the realm of Conservation, she found herself working for a company repairing stone and plaster work on churches in the East of England. After some years she saw an advertisement in the paper for her current position, and knew it was more "her" and more closely related to what she trained in. She went for it and has"never looked back!"

Laura's current position is Sculpture Conservator for the Henry Moore Foundation. The position involves preparing, caring for, and installing the Foundation's collections which include not only monumental sculptures such as the ones installed at the Garden, but also works on paper and textiles.
The large-scale sculpture work is extremely demanding physically, and frankly, you just don't see a lot chics out there lifting the sides off crates and rigging massive bronzes. (Rigging is the process of hooking straps up to the artwork and guiding it as it is lifted by the crane.) She fit right in at the estrogen-driven Garden (most of our own staff happens to be female). But, not one of the equipment operators or riggers from Superior Rigging, our beloved local rigging and equipment company, had ever seen much less worked with a female rigger before. They had to visibly restrain themselves from their mostly-Southern upbringings and refrain from the compulsory "I'll get that ma'am."

Getting to know Laura has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. She's extremely smart, thoughtful, and genuine. She and her relentlessly teasing co-worker James make a HILAROUS partnership I truly miss. One Laura's most endearing qualities is her curiousity. She is deeply interested in people, in art, and the world around her. She often uses her artist's eye and a camera to explore, so I asked Laura for a photo essay of her experience and she sent me the following images, which I've arranged roughly in chronological order from arrival in Atlanta through the installtion. Enjoy! You can post comments for Laura at the end.