Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sculptures Within a Garden Within a Park

New Orleans' City Park is the sixth largest city park in the US.

If the park consisted only of this section populated by the live oaks, it would be a beautiful park worth visiting.

But it was a five-acre section near the New Orleans Museum of Art that supplements the natural beauty of a garden and its lagoon with the artistic beauty of some sixty works of an international group of sculptors that drew us to the Park. This is the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

The setting and the works were impressive, so we want to highlight some scenes from our walk through the garden.

Deborah Butterfield
Restrained (Horse)

In this piece, the slightly larger than life-size horse was cast in bronze pieces. In this process, Butterfield constructs a horse from found wood pieces. The wood she chooses for these pieces are evidently weathered and well-worn. The artist constructs her horse from found wood and then photographs the wooden sculpture from all angles. Then the scupture is disassembled and each wood piece is individually cast in bronze. Butterfield then reconstructs the horse with the bronzed
“wood” using the photographs of the original wooden horse to put each bronze piece in its exact place. The bronze horse is then painted with patina to make it look like the original weathered wood.

A close-up view of the horse shows the driftwood appearance of the pieces.

The next work was especially interesting--especially the story behind its creation.

George Rodrigue
We Stand Together

“It was probably ten years ago that George Rodrigue started work in earnest on the concept of a Blue Dog sculpture….

“From the beginning there was a real challenge in creating the dog as a sculpture, because for George the Blue Dog only exists in two dimensions—on a flat plain within a Rodrigue painting.

“Rodrigue was in search of a sculpture that would stand on its own while retaining the strong, well-defined Blue Dog shape….

“As I mentioned above, it was probably ten years ago that the idea of a sculpture became almost a daily part of George’s creative process. He played with paper and cardboard, bending and pasting and cropping, with occasional add-ons such as toothpicks and mini-easels, in hopes of creating a model that was more than just a shape cut from a painting.

“And then one night in 2003, as we sat talking at a restaurant bar while waiting for our table, and George played (so I thought) absentmindedly with the cocktail napkins, he suddenly stopped, looked up with a huge grin, and said,

“I’ve got it!”

“Got what?”

“The sculpture. I know how I’m gonna do it.”

“And that was how three cocktail napkins, each balanced on one edge and held together in concave arches between our pinching fingers, became the design for the Blue Dog Sculpture. Each side would be a dog-front, with the feet matching up at the bottom” (, “Musings of an Artist’s Wife”).

Some sculptures evoke a smile, others a response of wonderment, while others are simply creepy.

Rona Pondick

A really strange piece. Made of stainless steel, these hybrid monkeys seem to be crawling from the center. Rona Pondick's works have always been about fragments: body parts, such as teeth and objects associated with bodily functions.

“Monkeys present a gleaming tangle of maniacally gamboling creatures. Pondick has fused casts of her own body parts—her face and arms—to several monkey bodies. These hybrids embody cultural fears about genetic manipulation and experimental mutation” (The Sculpture Garden's walking tour booklet).

“Pondick has been teasing and provoking audiences since the 80s with her eccentric and unnerving sculpture…. (T)he artist makes seamless mergers that unite the improbable and the impossible, the emotional and the intellectual, the sublime and the grotesque, the aggressive and the pathetic, the rough and the smooth, tradition and technology” (, article by Barbara MacAdam).

Arman Fernandez
Pablo Casal’s Obelisk

An exponent in France of Pop Art, Fernandez creates his sculptures by combining dozens, sometimes hundreds, of similar objects discarded by the consumer culture, such as empty toothpaste tubes or tin cans.

Here he has sliced a cello into fragments, cast them in bronze, and duplicated them to create a massive tower—a tribute to cellist Pablo Casals.

At different points in the garden, we took time to enjoy the natural beauty of the Park.

Arnaldo Pomodoro
Una Battaglia

The columnar themed sculpture translated into a later style as can be seen in Una Battaglia (A Battle). His interest in buildings and destruction is evident in this work from 1971. The artist was also greatly influenced by his upbringing in war-torn Italy. In Una Bataglia, a shining shaft made of stainless steel penetrates the bronze decaying base. Pomodoro’s metal work appears deeply gouged and deteriorated, revealing the inner structure. The absence of metal is just as important as its presence in Pomodoro’s work. Technology and the passing of time are his themes. The Museum of Art’s Una Battaglia is one of two castings of this piece. The other was commissioned by the City of Modena, Italy, as a World War II memorial.

There were many more thought-provoking works to see.

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