STANDING GARDEN SCULPTURES

l970-75



Sculpture specifically intended for display in a garden or around a lawn is of course different from "gallery pieces", which may look fine in a gallery setting but outlandish when set outside. Some out-of-doors pieces will be tall and vertical like the trees in the background, which you look up to as you walk around. Others can be middle-sized figures which catch your eye in a corner of the garden as you pass along. If too big or splashy they vie with the trees and call too much attention to their ego. But if minuscule they get lost in the shrubbery.

What pleases one person annoys another, and there is no accounting for taste here any more than in clothes. Traditional pieces in marble or bronze can range from pure Classical to the new trends which appeared after mid-century; while steel pieces, whether rusted, painted black or polychrome, all have to work with their own sense of new and evolving design. Perhaps this makes them stand out better in gardens, which represent the evolution of aeons of plant evolution along with centuries of our selective gardening.



Tall Piece in Red for a Garden

Steel red enamel 9 ft/004

This piece from l965 was one of the first constructed with 4 inch leg of folded 12 ga. steel, and was sited in a garden beside a pool in Vermont. On the left side there is a strong upward- going motion, with some breaks and hesitations, but it is that upward thrust which contrasts with the other lower, part of the piece. That one folds back, goes lateral for a bit before trying to reach up again, and it is the difference between the two sections, in both form and overall reach, which gives this piece its internal dynamic tension



"Lady on a Barstool"

Steel, polychrome 5 ft/007

Perhaps my only piece developed from a sketch, this five foot polychromed sculpture is only very slightly figurative, if you have the title and a good imagination. Assembled with rods as armature and support, it is light and airy despite its plate- construction, and look equally good from all sides, although the title speaks to the front. It still stands in my garden spot.



Tall Garden Piece 1

Steel and acrylic 10 ft/001

Mounted on a cube of Vermont marble, this eight foot tall piece with its three colored plates of transparent acrylic window, has a gently swaying motion in the wind. It was designed to get the interesting sun-illuminated plates up away from the viewer, to be seen against the sky, and it does make you look upwards.



White Standing Figure

Steel white 5 ft/013

This "Standing Man" is about five feet tall, heavy steel plate joined with surprisingly thin connecting members. The large "head" area at the top, hugely perforated, rides above a thin "hand" which reaches out over a weaker body-plate. The whole sculpture descends to three weak-looking and insignificant "legs" which tiptoe on an ancient millstone. It is the inversion of mass which makes this weighty piece of steel plate seem to stand on its toes



Big Pink

Steel, pink paint 10 ft/019

The upward thrust of this eleven foot piece starts straight up from the base, but at mid- height reconsiders and goes into a set of box-like hesitations forming a mid-stage hold. Then it changes its mind and sweeps upward with a set of arched stainless steel rods, which give a complete relief from the pink box sections below, and reach to the sky. You can tell from what decade it dates, if only by the title.



Two Rings

Steel red enamel 8 ft/54

This piece stands in my garden area, and I find I often have to explain to a casual viewer what the "meaning" of the sculpture is, so I consider it my introductory piece. Well......... the thin legs start off at ground level and with the mast support a complex jumble of block shapes at about mid- height, which would seem to be the psychological center of the piece. But not so! It is the two thin rings aloft which take your eye upwards immediately. So this is a study in a mass poised on insignificant feet below, with floating rings above through which you can continue to view the green world of nature. And what is the "meaning" of a rock, or a human being for that matter...?



Floating Form

Steel red enamel 12 ft/93

This piece has a curious history. It was made in l972 but in the transit of many years half of the upper section broke off and got lost. However in l999 I found the remaining part in a bed of briars, cleaned it up and decided it was time to finish it up. So the whole section to the right of the mast is new, and it turned out to add a new dimension. Now there is a slope upwards, while the large horizontal tube at the top has become an eye, sighting on something off there in the far distance. Generally it is bad to rework but it turned out allright this time. A close-up of the upper section is right below, so you can see if my description makes sense.

....closeup

closeup.. /92



Wind Fingers

Stainless rods
12 ft/94

For the moment this is my only shot of this sculpture, which is special, but very hard to photograph against any background. It is about twelve feet tall, with six thin square stainless rods which go up almost to the top, but then break into two new directions. The breaks are all different, the rods sway in and out to each other as the wind gently pushes them around. The bright reflective surface catches different light at different times of the day, the rods move differently with the weather, and the "fingers" at the top are all fighting with each other in shape. In fact I was thinking, when working on this, of "fingers", which like these top ends have two long bones and one short (the dactyl of verse). And there were ancient Greek dancing priests called "Iambic Dactyls", an insoluble riddle which fascinated me. I continue to work with this medium at the present time because I like it so well.



Pole Piece

Steel yellow 11 ft/95

This piece is about ten feet tall standing straight up from the grass. The lower sections are of square folded steel and tend to close themselves, while the upper part is open, with some perforations for visual lightness. This is an early piece, I remember finishing it late one night and after torching out the upper perforations, looking up through one hole at a full moon. I suppose the idea of a bright color like yellow came from that moment.



Organ Pipes

Rusted tubes 10 ft/016

Years ago I found a pile of rusted boiler-pipes scrapped on First Avenue in NYC, loaded my ridiculous Fiat 20 HP MicroVan to the limit and somehow made it back to Vermont. Later that year I saw possibilities --- if an aggregate of pipes could be mounted high enough to stand under, so one could peer upward through the rusty crusts into the blue sky. But when a strong wind blew, the pipes resonated suggesting future wind-sculpture, and of course gave this piece its Title. This piece has been rusting and whistling in Ontario since.



Hercules Rising

Figure welded steel 5ft/96

Started in l960's, this unusual direction in rusted steel Figurative Sculpture was something I always intended to turn upside down, meaning right end up, and finish with head and arms. But I never could decide how to go about it. He stood around waiting for me to make a decision for so many years, that I got used to him as was, and decided in l999 to stand him modestly in a corner of the garden and let the poor fellow alone. A dozen friends told me this was right, and I guess I am going to live with it, even if gravity is defied in some small part.



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Apartment House for Birds

Steel tan enam. 14ft/015

This is the upper section of a 12 foot tall piece which combines the up-thrust I often use, coupled with a folded section which hunkers below as in fear. But I mounted atop the peak a set of curved stainless steel rods coming to a high peak, something like the pointed top of the Chrysler Building. Possibly because the color was drab and un-alarming, or because the spaces were convenient, year after year birds nested in the little apartments, until one year they decided it was their own place, they flew off with it and it has never been seen since.



William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris