Art and Architecture

31 05 2011

The third weekend in May has become Arts in Bloom in Salem County (South Jersey for those that have lost track of me). This was the third year, for the annual event, but the first for Judy and I. Though it is scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday, previous commitments (a huge mound of mulch and an afternoon picnic) kept us away on Saturday; so, on a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning we hit the trail on an amazing route of discovery that would satiate our artistic hunger (OK, Judy started out placating me but became engrossed in the beauty, almost immediately).

Believe it or not (I was surprised) there were over 50 artists represented in 27 locations throughout the bucolic county that we call home. The various components of the Salem County’s public voice did a great job of promoting the event, locally, and published a great guide that allowed Judy and I to map out our picks for up-close and personal visits. We were looking for variety and were not disappointed.

As an architect, I’ve always been drawn to the connections between art and architecture that so many people seem to miss. I’m not sure the reason for the disconnect; architecture appears as subject matter in all mediums of art (including music, prose, and poetry) and most of my architectural colleagues would agree that building design qualifies as art (even utilitarian architecture can have artistic panache).

On this particular Sunday, I was not to be disappointed. And, though we toured many locations, today I will focus on four and briefly describe in the effort to entice you to a future visit.

  • Our first stop was Ironstone Sculpture Garden which showcases substantial works, in stone, wood, and metal of artists Daniel Gantenbein, Mitsuo Kikuchi, Casey Schwarz, and David Tothero. The various worldly interpretations were strategically placed amongst a rolling, 4.5 acre pasture adjacent to Daniel’s restore farmhouse and the studio these creations evolve out of. A wide path, cut from the natural pasture grasses, provided an idyllic procession through the garden that was punctuated with bamboo, flower, and vegetable gardens (all artistically composed, of course).

And while there were many architectural references in the art and landscape,  I have to say, the studio was magnificent; what started out as a small agricultural barn has morphed into an architectural statement. The barn has been added to, on a number of occasions; but, each time with a purpose and with sculptural finesse. One of the later additions is, superficially, a metal building but the connections to previous and newer components is a series of intersecting planes that create a unique volume in which to work. Material, though ordinary to most observers, provide a play of shade, shadow, opaqueness, and translucency that changes with the seasons and weather. Certainly a testament to the fact that fat budgets seldom equate to great architecture.

  • Later in the morning, we rolled into the driveway of artist Molly Sanger Carpenter. We toured the lower level of a gorgeous 17th century farmhouse that has been lovingly restored. From the studio, large windows looked out onto the Salem County farmland which supports much of the wildlife portrayed in Molly’s sculptures and paintings. And, though the architectural references are more subtle, there are many fine details in the cast frames that surround many of her creations; the architectural beauty of the space surely has its influences.

An additional treat was to view the potato barn and carriage house as we drove around the drive for our exit.

The potato barn, though used for utilitarian purposes, is a great subterranean structure with its massive block walls holding back the land and a great gabled roof protecting from the elements. It has a storied history and, in another life, could be a wonderful gallery or studios such as you see in SoHo and other artist enclaves (were the structure to be transported in time and place).

And, the carriage house is just a gorgeous little gem of Victorian architecture that will, possibly, find its new calling as a studio and gallery for Molly and her fabulous work.

  • After lunch, it was off to Klayhorse Studios and River House Gallery for a little change of scenery. These two structures sit on a small plot overlooking the Delaware River in the eclectic little village Elsinboro.

Klayhorse studios is, solely, a working studio and gallery for the beautiful sculptures of Deborah Waddington Smith, And, though more of a residence, River House Gallery, provided great gallery space for Mary Waddington, Donna Bennet, Stephanie M. Cocchi, Phoebe Hemphill, and Laura Timberman who were showcasing works of photography, jewelry, stained glass, water colors, tiles, etc.

Again, each artist had many ties and references to architecture in there work, but we also appreciated the architectural spaces in which they work and exhibit. Their was an interesting juxtaposition between the two wooden structures as one hugged the ground while the other soared on pilings to observe the ever-changing scenery of the Delaware River. Each space enjoys soaring ceilings which capture great light and a feeling of volume without a large footprint.

One of the wonderful treats, though, was to hear about the interior wooden timbers; these existed, in a previous incarnation, as rough hewn components of a sailing ship’s structure, and now act as structural support to Klayhorse Studios. As a matter of fact, you can still see carvings of roman numerals in the beams that tallied various pieces of information in the former sailing vessel.

  • As with a great gourmet feast, we started to wonder if our appetite had been satisfied and if it was time to call it a day; and, as with a great gourmet feast, just one more bite.

Our last stop of the day would be the home and studio of Handcrafted by Abraham Warren. Judy and I had already been treated to the artistic furniture designs of Abraham Warren, last year, at an Auburn Road Winery event but wanted to see the source of these creations; disappointment, again, did not exist. Abraham, and his wife, have transformed a, previously, dilapidated and nondescript rural bungalow into an eclectic showpiece of home and studio.

The artistry and humor that you find on this property are too numerous to list, and I know I missed many subtle twists and turns. But, I will tease you with a few elements such as:

  • a work-in-progress fireplace, complete with glass bottles and flower pot.
  • Old door wainscoting.
  • Carved timber stair.
  • Glass doors turned windows (literally turned).
  • Wooden arbors, bridges, sculptures, etc.

The list could go on forever; suffice it to say, beautiful and artistic furniture may be a primary endeavor but, nothing is wasted and it becomes a component of an ever evolving architectural artistry. And, this backdrop provided a great display venue for Jason Hemsley and Bob and Vicki Dyer to display carved wooden bowls as well as wood, metal, and stained glass creations.

Truly, the fabled wood carver’s home tucked into its wooded enclave.

Whew, what a trip and, as I proof this writing, I know there is so much more that could be said.

One thing does stand out, though; Salem County is home to some amazing artists. I wrote a note on my obligatory Comments sheet, at the end of our day, that the term “best kept secret” is not always a good thing; we need to be promoting this gem and celebrating our cache of talent. And, you don’t have to wait for next May, to enjoy these (and many other) delicacies; check with the Salem County Web page to find information on locations and hours of these treasures and spend a wonderful summer day exploring the arts in our beautiful slice of South Jersey.

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2 responses

12 06 2011
Daniel

Hi Hue,

First of Congratulation to your website… I love what you set out to do. A wonderful pattern of flow nicely augments your architectural musings and thoughts around a rightfully corelike pattern of living.

And a big Thank You for the niece review of Arts in Bloom. Of course the way you expressed spatial qualities at our Ironstone Sculpture Garden thrilled us in particular.

Indeed the openness of Salem County holds a unique quality where in Art, Architecture and Nature, the spacial interaction of the cultivated and more naturalistic deserves wider praise and exposure… and protection:
you help whittle down this “best kept secret”.

I look forward to see your blog grow (thanks too for opening my eyes to wordpress)

Daniel

14 09 2011
Hue Architecture

Good morning Daniel,

First, my most sincere apology for the delayed response; my summer was hectic and I allowed the blog to move to the back burner without noticing your wonderful comments. Second, thank you for those wonderful comments; while we thoroughly enjoyed the entire day, your studio was our first and favorite visit. I would like to pop over, this fall, and enjoy the seasonal variance of you site.

Again, thank you; I look forward to seeing you soon.

Warm regards,
Hue

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