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Musings from a Saturday afternoon

I had all the intentions of writing a blog about going green for the holidays but last weekend I experienced the exhibit Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As I made my way thru the exhibit I knew I had to write about this. To say it was spectacular is an understatement. It is a collection of some of the most talented artists work from museums around the world including many from private collections. Oh to have a Monet or Matisse just hanging in your house.

Art is subjective. We all see different things when looking at a painting and as I moved thru the exhibit, I wondered if Monet and his fellow artists knew that they were doing such great things for the environment by planting so many wonderful plants and cultivating their gardens. Did they know that these plants have long root systems that filter pollutants and prevent erosion? Blame it on the day job, but that is the thought that was going thru my head.

When we do education programs, we realize that not everyone is planting plants to better the earth. Perhaps you plant a row of hedges to block out your neighbors (we’ve all been there). Perhaps you want to attract more wildlife to your yard. Perhaps you need to see more color in your yard as a form of therapy for your soul (hospitals use gardens to help patients heal faster). Or perhaps you will be inspired to paint a masterpiece. The audio and text in the exhibit talked about how many of these gardens were built during and after times of war. To paraphrase – ‘planting gardens during times of crisis and distress arose from a deeply felt need to restore the world to harmony and balance, to find beauty to counter the ugly, joy to overcome sorrow, life to defeat death.’

Whatever your reason, you can never go wrong incorporating plants into your yard in favor of turf grass. And I will tell you that you will never see an art exhibit about turf grass.

Make the time to go see this exhibit. It’s only there until January 5th. Get advance tickets and book a time as it tends to sell out. Don’t be discouraged by the crowds, just go.

As an endnote, I happened to fall in love with one painting near the end of the exhibit. The painting was Murnau Garden by Wassily Kandinsky. A picture of the painting is above. The audio talked about Kandinsky writing a letter to his partner describing the garden – a rose grows here, another flower there – quite mundane in his explanation, but his interpretation of the garden on canvas was anything but. The description and audio read “..this painting focused on the metaphysical forces that unite the garden with the cosmos. The painting produces visions of an unseen or ‘felt’ world of spiritual experience that supersedes ordinary physical reality.” This was much different than the other paintings in the exhibit. Bold colors and abstract. It very much appealed to me. I truly believe that all the answers we seek are in nature. Working in this field is not only enjoyable to me it is also deeply personal. I am not a technical person so I will not be taking apart nature to see how we can mimic it in our world, but I will always work to protect it so those mysteries can be unlocked.

Blog Author: Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education Specialist

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