PHYLLIS ODESSEY

A form of slavery: KIKU

The New York Botanical Garden

September 17 – October 30, 2011
End A. Haupt Conservatory

Dazzled. Yes! 
    Disturbed.Yes!
        Admiring. Yes!  

Kiku is a form of gardening that asks a plant to do your bidding.  Through discipline and mastery, you subjugate the plant’s natural growth habit and transform it into something other worldly.  I call it a kind of slavery.  Contrived, manipulated, controlled and magnificent:   Fall Flowers of JAPAN (NYBG).

The Botanical Garden got it right this year.  The exhibition has an environment, not just these amazing stage sets of chrysanthemums that make you swoon.  The flowers are surrounded by other Japanese plants.

Japanese Burnet
Ware moko
Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Purpurea’

There are water, rocks, bamboo, Japanese maples, Japanese forest grass, etc. ,etc.,etc.  It’s easy to lose yourself in this make believe garden,if you can manage to feel you are not in a straight-jacket.

The sculpture by Tetsunori Kawana is a tremendous relief to all this order and containment.  I felt I could breathe again.

Tetsunori Kawana
Kawna is a  Master Teacher of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana in Tokyo.  The sculpture is made of salvaged fallen branches, twigs, vines, stumps and roots from the grounds of the Botanical Garden in the days following tropical storm Irene.

“Through gathering and reassembling these items, Kawana seeks to give them a second life as a truly site-specific work of art that engages the five senses and encourages appreciation of the passage of time and the five natural elements of earth, wind, fire, and sky.” from the exhibition board.

I went to the preview of the exhibition.  And what really goes on at these private showings…

Paula Deitz ended her excellent article for The New York Times entitled “In Autumn, a Garden Lover’s Thoughts Turn to Kiku” by quoting a poem by Otomo Oemaru:

Frost! You may fall!
After chrysanthemums there are
no flowers at all!

I prefer the haiku from Basho:

When the winter chrysanthemums go
there’s nothing to write about
but radishes.

And a maybe few other things. At least there is always another post in the offing.

For more photos from the show go to: snapdujour.blogsport.com


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