Being alone in Sheppard Craige’s garden, Il Bosco della Ragnaia is being surrounded by ideas. Craige started the garden in 1995, on 22 acres of woodland near Giovanni d’Asso, Tuscany. The garden is part riff on the Italian green gardens of the 17th and 18th century, as well as a homage to those garden makers, who are conceptual artists playing with plants.
Craige asks a lot of his visitors. He is thinking out loud or rather he is carving words or phrases into stone: questioning himself and the visitor. What Do I Know? Most of the time I feel like, I know nothing, but I don’t usually have this experience in the garden.
Italian gardens are comfortable. They are three dimensional realities of gardens, I have seen in paintings my entire life. Craige’s garden takes me out of my comfort zone. As I walked through the garden, I wondered what I was doing in my garden and in the gardens I make.
You feel the artist at work. Experimenting with different kinds of plants and trees. There were no other visitors when I visited the garden. There is no shop. No entry fee. You wander around. Down steps, up paths, dead ending, descending in darkness and surprisingly open to large clearing. You are on your own.
I guessed which part of the garden came first. I rationalized it was the part of the garden that had something to do with plants. After that came the sculptural parterres made of bricks and perhaps after that came the “tweets” mixed in with the geometry.
I hadn’t realized how much time I would need in the garden. It began to get dark. One of the very last inscriptions was the one I liked the best.
I’ll stick with the last one. And keep on DOING.