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Monday, June 8, 2020

A Return To The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Not Sponsored: The last time I visited The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park (New Orleans) was in 2014. I was enamored by the entire experience and truly felt like I was Alice in Wonderland. I found the sculpture garden to be so beautiful, calm, peaceful & tranquil. For the past year or so, City Park has been working on a second addition ... expansion if you will ...  to the sculpture park. I was really excited to hear about this, because I loved the first part. Well unfortunately covid-19 closed many places, so my desire to see it would have to be put on hold. Well, I'm happy to say City Park re-opened many of their attractions June 1st ... the Sculpture Garden being one of them. I visited and would like to share with you today, some features and sculptures from the new expansion.

Before we begin, I included a few of my favorites from the original sculpture garden below. You can read about all of the sculptures by searching for NOMA Besthoff Sculpture Garden in the App Store. Also, here is the map.

Now, let's cross the bridge and begin with what is NEW at the sculpture garden! Its kind of symbolic as to what we're experiencing right now in life isn't it? You know where you've been, where you're currently ... but what's on the other side? Are you curious? I was. You know, I love looking at the various sculptures displayed throughout the garden, but one of my favorite things to do while I'm there is to look at the various water features and installations. They're so therapeutic to the mind, body and soul. I was happy to see, that they added more of these in the expansion.

NOMA's Besthoff Sculpture Garden has an open water, lagoon system and weir that's designed to capture, clean, and aerate water. It works in conjunction with the park's ecosystem. I love that they built a path/walkway alongside the moving water. Movement is so important. You almost feel as if you're one with the water. It's a beautiful experience.

Below is a 70 foot glass bridge (Mississippi Meanders) by Elyn Zimmerman (American), that was installed directly over water. The first thing I noticed were all of the beautiful colors. There was a devastating flood in 1927 and a gentleman by the name of Harold Fisk (Louisiana Geological Survey) studied the changing patterns of the lower Mississippi River in the hopes of preventing future floods. So, he created maps that tracked the paths of the river (swirling lines and stunning colors). Zimmerman (artist) was inspired by his maps to create this installation. It is a reminder of water's powerful proximity to our everyday lives. It's truly gorgeous and such a sensorial experience to walk over.

I found the next area to be very playful! Here are some that caught my eye. You have Sean Scully's (American) Colored Stacked Frames, which contrasts sharply with the natural environment of the sculpture garden and attunes us to the endless layers of visual similarity and difference that exist in the visible world. Tony Cragg's (British) Sinbad sculpture has winding paths and pipes (which explore human perception). I loved the Schadel (Skull) by Katharina Fritsch (German). It is four feet! Skull amplifies the human skull's familiar association with human mortality by enlarging the object. I found Shirazeh Houshiary's (Iranian) Exuviae (purple sculpture) to be interesting. The title of this work is a Latin word meaning "things stripped from the body," suggesting the role that absence and presence play in this sculpture. So no matter what you "see", the transparency of the material asks us to consider the interior of the form too, which may have once contained something that has since made an escape. Interesting huh? Frank Stella's (American) Alu Truss Star explores the relationship between architecture and space, and form and function. It's title, Truss, refers to the framework created to support a roof, bridge, or other structure.

Teresita Fernandez's (American of Cuban descent) Vinales (Mayombe Mississippi) below is 51 feet long and composed of hundreds of thousands of tiny ceramic tiles. She responds to New Orleans as a "stacked landscape" because of historical tragedies like the Transatlantic Slave Trade and cultural and economic exchange with the Caribbean. Vinales asks us to reconsider the very idea of a landscape, reimaging it as a register for the history of people past and present who inhabit these places.

Below is a beautiful sculpture called Grande Jeune Fille a Genoux by Balthasar Lobo (Spanish). Baltasar Lobo employs abstract forms to explore new ways of representing the human form in sculpture. Lobo maintains the symmetry of the human form, but abstracts the figure into a series of curves that cascade down to the sculpture's base. This modification of the body conveys a sense of softness and sensuality. He says, "Abstraction is made by simplifying, which is also a way of synthesizing. And by simplifying I really mean concentrating emotion in order to feel it and communicate it more directly." I was really drawn to this sculpture. I loved its fullness, curvy-ness and softness. And then there was the Mirror Labyrinth by Jeppe Hein (Danish). Its a contemporary labyrinth through the placement of mirrored panels in an inward spiral.

Bear!!! I took pictures of this sculpture from a couple of angles. It has the cutest name, Bear With Us. This sculpture is by Frank Gehry (Canada). Rather than focusing on the imposing form of a fierce animal, the sculptor creates a wildly captivating surface that engages the viewer in Gehry's humor and sense of play. Then there was Tony Cragg's (British) Runner. This double helix shape (human DNA) has identifiable body parts all around it (faces, arms and legs). It's so beautiful.

I was entranced with the following sculptures! First you had Robert Longo's (American) Speed of Grace. He's known for gravity defying poses! He balances the figures full weight on a single foot and dresses him in contemporary business attire. And then you have Striding Figure, pictured here and in the sequence below. Its by Thomas Houseago (British). Its 12 feet tall you guys! It shows strength but also vulnerability. Pedro Reyes' (Mexican) Epicurus is constructed of volcanic stone. The title for this sculpture references the Greek philosopher Epicurus, known for his idea that ultimate happiness is achieved through modest living and the pursuit of knowledge. Combining references to both indigenous and classical Western traditions the sculpture resembles both the totemic standing figures of Pre-Columbian art and the marble busts that are a hallmark of ancient Greece and Rome.

The two statues below are called The Mete of the Muse by Fred Wilson (American). His works examine the politics of museum display. These are copies of ancient sculptures. One representing ancient Egypt. The other ancient Rome. They reflect the interwoven histories of Africa and Europe. The Egyptian figure is covered in black patina. The Greco-Roman figure in white. Wilson shows how our interpretations of these historical archetypes reflect larger racial and cultural biases. And then you had the beautiful Wind Sculpture V by Yinka Shonibare (British-Nigerian). It takes the form of a flag, painted in patterns and colors that recall the batik fabrics common throughout Africa. Shonibare centers his artistic practice on exploring the tangled and traumatic colonial relationship between Europe and Africa. The fabric looks like its blowing in the wind, reminding us at once of a sense of billowing freedom and the sails of ships that formed the backbone of the colonial world. The artist uses this symbolic tension between foreign and traditional, freedom and bondage, to challenge our notions of authentic and stable cultural identities in a globalized world. There are so many beautiful sculptures I didn't showcase here, so definitely check out the app to see the others (and if you're in New Orleans see them in person). I really enjoyed my time perusing the new addition of the sculpture garden.

I started off my day with beignets. Morning Call originally sold beignets in City Park. The contract went up for bid again and Cafe du Monde (French for "Cafe of the World" or "The People's Cafe) which is well-known in the French Quarter won the contract to sell beignets, cafe au lait and such in City Park. Due to the covid-19 epidemic, they're only doing take-out. But with benches and sitting areas throughout City Park its pretty pleasant. I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did putting it together. I love learning. It keeps our minds fluid and helps us to grow.

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