‘Art in the Garden’ at Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Every summer the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, NJ mounts an outdoor art exhibit,  ‘Art in the Garden’.  This year’s show,  titled ‘Missing Trees’,  with work by local artist Pat Brentano, is a disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for environmental awareness/activism and art being bedfellows, but this was just a snore.  What could have been a dynamic statement about trees (which you all know I love and hug regularly) and their importance to the planet and ourselves, is a passive, albeit sometimes pretty installation.

A series of white rectangular panels, some hinged, some free standing are installed throughout the arboretum.  Each panel has a cut out silhouette of a specific species of tree found in the arboretum.  I suppose these panels are intended to spark a dialog between the negative space and the living space, but for me they missed the mark completely.  There is no relationship between the land, the trees and the art and because the panels are bright white they each become the dominant focal point no matter where they are installed on the property.   If I dig down really deep I suppose I could make a connection between the virginal white and the rape of our forests…

There is so much dynamic and thought provoking work being done right now that comments on environmentalism, nature and our relationship with it.  I think the Arboretum could have found something much more challenging than ‘Missing Trees’  to show us.

10 thoughts on “‘Art in the Garden’ at Reeves-Reed Arboretum

  1. They don’t work here. The concept might work in a gloomy and treeless courtyard in a city. But the ‘exhibition board’ style of it is a bit of a turn off.

    Interesting idea, the gloomy and treeless courtyard. I saw a painting last year by a Native American artist that bisected imagery of Manhattan island before and after it became a concrete jungle. That image sticks with me, these won’t.

  2. wow, you guys are real jerks. congratulations Pat Brentano. i think you did a fine job. i love the idea that the viewer can look through the piece as if it were a giant white wall in a gallery some where. i can imagine walking up to these pieces and seeing the green through them as sort of a window. great job pat. open your eyes susan cohan.

    You are entitled to your opinion, just as I am entitled to mine.–s

  3. Whether they are art or not is the eternal question. Here’s what I think – they would make a great fence around a suburban house lot. They don’t belong scattered around the beautiful RR Arboretum (which is one of the little gems I loved when I lived in Berkeley Hts).

  4. if every blog post were goodness and light, Miss Rumphius’ Rules wouldn’t be the outstanding source of info that it is. I agree with you, Susan, that Kip is as entitled to his opinion as you are to yours.

    As for the art, I tend to agree with Robert that in a treeless courtyard somewhere that the pieces may have a different impact.

    peace on the garden path

  5. Kip, in his shortsighted analysis of the installation actually trips on the real problem with it – “as if it were a giant white wall in a gallery somewhere..” – that’s the problem Kip – it’s not in a sterile place, where the silhouettes could then make reference to and bring the idea of trees into a place where they are missed. Putting a reference to absent trees in an arboretum is a bit of a missed point. Missed by the artist and sadly, you too.

  6. I like the idea but the execution falls short for me.
    When the panels are linked together they lose all essence of their impact.
    A singular panel with good proportions juxtaposed against the dense greenery creates a visual and visceral narrative that I can be engaged in.
    The stark white does make you think and it does set up a fair amount of tension but there is an element of discord that I am feeling unsettled with.
    The discord from the white results in how the fabric / material is left to fall to the ground in an unfinished fashion.
    The taunt frames that are detailed with a finished bottom say ‘finished’, while the other say, I’m still a work in process and it’s not really going to well.

    Proportion is everything with this piece due to the strength of the negative and positive use of materials set out upon the space . Some of the panels are very well proportioned while others are not.

  7. Some people … expressing opinions is what blogging is all about, kip. And when dealing with something as subjective as art, opinions vary wildly.
    I am never concerned whether art is “good” or “bad” – my interest in art is how it presents us with a problem, moves a conversation forward, and/ or comments on or illuminates ideas and issues in interesting ways. To me, art needs to be more than pretty and well executed. This work seems a bit obvious and ham-fisted – negatives of trees in a tree-filled space. okay…

    I think Miss Rumphius RULES, and taking up art discourse on a garden blog is awesome!

    YES! I love a strong opinion. It doesn’t have to agree with mine. Isn’t what we do…landscape and garden design…directly related to all of the arts? I think so and that’s why write about it. To me, it’s just as important as plants.–s

  8. Rich, great name by the way. I meant that I think maybe the artist was trying to bring an atmosphere of “nothingness” like the walls of a gallery in to the openness and often times confusing pneumatic garden. I personally get lost in such places and I think it was nice of the artist to” Pigeon hole” the experience and show us,( the viewer) a part of the gardens through the white walls of the sculptures.I love the sculptures even if it makes me the most unpopular guy on this blog besides Pat the sculpture.

    How could you be unpopular when your view of the installation sparked so much conversation! It really doesn’t matter who you agree or disagree with as long as you’re thinking and talking about it. I hope you come back again.–s

  9. Hello to everyone and thank you for your very constructive criticism. I have given it much thought and I feel the need to respond. My installation was created to call attention to the trees that might be gone forever if we do not pay attention to our actions concerning the environment. Originally I created a ten paneled piece in response to a neighbor cutting down 21 mature trees to build an enormous house. They were meant as a memorial to those trees. When I was commissioned by the arboretum I was asked to use their trees in this piece. I think of them as 3-d drawings using nature as my palette. The negative cut outs change color with the light and time of day. The surface of the panel is not white but a very dull light value violet that reflects blue shadows from the surrounding foliage. The sunlight catches the edge of the cut out creating a contour line. However you must spend time there to see the changes. I used a fence motif because I it is strong and I can repeat a pattern. Perhaps you all should visit my website to understand more about the work. I do respect your opinions and I am thinking about them as I move forward with my work. Shortly the piece will be moving to the village green in Summit. Maybe there you will see it in a different light. Nevertheless one always needs feedback. Press is better than no press. So for that thank you for posting the piece and for your discussion. Pat Brentano

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