Book explores gardening from artists’ eyes

Posted May 09, 2010, at 6:33 p.m.

“The Inspired Garden: 24 Artists Share Their Vision” is the writerly creation of authors Judy Paolini of Long Island, off Portland, and Nance Trueworthy of South Portland. In their book, they give readers a look at 20 private gardens belonging to artists, and write about the relationship between the artists and their gardens. Ten of those gardens are in Maine; the others are located in other New England states.

“Artists bring their visual acuity and innate sense of design to the garden, but they also bring a certain fearlessness, a penchant for experimentation, a willingness to break established gardening ‘rules’ in order to achieve a particular effect. These are often the same characteristics they bring to their art,” the authors write in the book’s introduction.

That is what makes “The Inspired Garden” an interesting book to read — it gives the reader a glimpse into the creative mind of the artist, beyond the art — painting, photography, pottery or sculpture — he or she makes.

In their interviews with the artists, the authors draw parallels between the work the artists produce and the gardens they create, juxtaposing photographs of the artists’ paintings, sculpture or other work with photos of their gardens.

Maine artists featured in the book are Maggie Foskett, Holly Ready, Nadine Schoepfle, Loretta Krupinski, Annette Kearney, June LaCombe, Sara Crisp, Paul Heroux, Ann Stein-Aaron, and Erric Schottin and Joe Ferigno, some of whom garden in the midcoast area.

One small dilemma I had with the book is that it is not always apparent in what parts of Maine or New England the artists live. It would have been nice to have that information stated after the artist’s name or in the first or second paragraph of the text.

The book is about much more than the artists’ perspective on their gardens and why they garden. It also provides readers with snippets of information they can incorporate into their own thinking about garden design. For example, in the section about Maggie Foskett, who said she is attracted to shape and pattern, there is an accompanying bit about discovering form and pattern by looking at elements in the garden, such as seed pods or immature evergreen cones. The section on June LaCombe, who collects art, gives her thoughts about the place of sculpture in the garden.

Another thing I looked for in the book and did not find was contact information for the artists in the event that readers wanted to visit the artists’ Web sites or e-mail them with questions about where to see the artists’ work or, indeed, where to purchase it. But that is a minor complaint, when taking into account the enjoyment the book gives by taking the reader into the private turf, literally and figuratively, of the artists.

Visually, this is a lovely book and the photographs alone will give aspiring and veteran gardeners new avenues for thinking about and creating gardens.

Reading the thoughts of the artists about their gardens provides another kind of beauty for the book — the beauty of ideas formed in the artists’ minds and taking root in the reader’s mind through the printed page.

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