Embraced by Ivy
A day after visiting the winery with the sculpture gardens (in yesterday’s post) we went to visit a friend who was beginning a small gardening business. tomatoes are his dream crop. Standing in the newly raked rows I thought about how this space will soon be filled with these rough bamboo stakes which will, in their way, create a space and impression not too dissimilar from the work of art in the last post. Except that this is functional and made without esthetic concerns, although, as can be seen by the sense of order visible in these first 3 rows, there is a pure and practical, and even beautiful esthetic underlying his system.
What came to me while standing there was that this ‘installation’ would ultimately be be the more impressive one once it was fully staked, and then, during each stage of the season, it would be transformed by nature and time, and that in the long run it was this place that might be the real work of art.
I know it could easily be said that this is a garden not an art work, but who is to say what kind of effort brings us closer to the spirit and intention of the maker. I would like to stand here at summer’s end, with a sun warmed and ripened fruit in my hand, and take in the thousand bright red spheres shimmering against their sun burnished leaves, and breathe in that particular fragrance that tomatoes in the field give off, and then ask myself which experience pleased me more.
It was one of those spring days where everything seemed to be popping. Radiant greens along sun-warmed banks and walls, tiny buds pushing out of branch ends, grape vines beginning to look like miniature candelabras, a joyous day where I was aware of trees in a way that winter made me forget. When I stop to look at each tree individually their complexity and magnitude become astonishing, even trees that at first don’t seem to be worth the look, but then grab my attention because of where they are growing and what trials they had to overcome to survive.
I have probably photographed hundreds of trees in my life as a photographer, and none of them are just a ‘generic’ tree to me. They seem to me to be more like portraits of creatures who are extravagant in their proportions, structure, overall form, and, in season, their foliage. None of them are asking to be seen or photographed, but when I stand in their space I often get their message.
Here are some trees I encountered along the way, and what they suggested I do if I wanted to play with them, or watch as Maggie did.
That vine I carried home a few days ago has leaped up onto my still life table begging me to be seen instead of sitting by the fire trying to avoid being the next piece of firewood. I had been wanting to do something with it, but nothing was calling out to me, then today I found this flask at a local flea market. It’s made from a gourd and has some beautiful little dotted lines etched into it, and the cap screws on with a satisfying little ‘click’ a it snugs into a perfect, spiraled fit. A real craftsman’s trick, and probably the thing that made me bring it home.
It’s handmade, but since it was an organic thing, like the vine, I felt some kind of kinship was possible, so I set them up simply to look at them together to see if they had any kind of affinity beyond their origins as vine and gourd.
They’re a handsome couple – in their way – but nothing is going on with them, no dynamic, no mystery, no fire, pardon the pun, nothing but their separate identities.They’re boring, like some couples you meet at a party! But I’ll leave them up overnight and see what other objects might want to muscle their way in and bring some life to this static duo. To be continued, or not.
Show Me The Way
A beautiful day for a walk through the fields of Provence. Here they let travelers and hikers cut across what we think of as private property, as long as you are respectful of the vineyards and orchards, which are the main crops of this fruitful valley, it’s fine with landowners. They must have been pruning the vineyards recently because I came across piles of vines like these everywhere, and while there were hundreds to choose from these two had a quality and form that spoke to me. And besides, I had to carry them for a couple of miles, so they had the right heft.
I was thinking they may work in a still life somehow, but as yet I have no idea what role they’ll play or how I’ll use them. Might just be for firewood in the long run. Who knows? When I got back I placed them on the terrace floor and just looked at them. Sometimes the quiet study of what I have in front of me sends sparks through my mind, which, given room to catch fire, can send me on flights of imagery; aimless, loose, sometimes insightful, and even more often not connected to anything I’m involved in, which is the best I can hope for since it may open a door not yet known.
The light was gorgeous, but on the wane, so I carried the vine around like Liberace with a candelabra, looking for a place to see it separate from the other vine, and not as a still life object. This is not something I have ever spent time doing before. My photographic stance has always been; “the world gives, I receive,” don’t touch a thing! But this year abroad, and the making of some recent still lives, has allowed me – in some cases – to play in ways I never have before. Where it’s all leading I don’t know.
I’m just letting photography show me the way.