Outdoor sculpture adds dimension, visual interest, surprise, color and movement to both interior and exterior spaces. Ask any of our collectors if their outdoor environment was greatly altered by the presence of a sculpture and their answer would be a resounding YES. With so much at stake, deciding where to place art within a courtyard, garden, or expansive outdoor space should be thoughtful and precise, so that both the space and the art are tethered by a symbiotic connection.
Over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to see our sculptures placed in some wonderful gardens. We’ve become experts at some key principles of choosing the best location or analyzing a site for integrating sculpture.
Below are some important points to consider when integrating sculpture into the landscape:
Scale and background
Gardens offer up different rewards. Some provide utility and sustenance through edibles and fruiting trees. Other gardens provide vitality and excitement through color and form. Many landscapes offer peacefulness and sanctuary through reflective surfaces and patterns. Some are left natural while others are highly planned and manicured. Determining what type of overall design and function your garden provides is the first step to deciding where a piece of landscape sculpture should go.
Background should always be considered in placement, especially with a sculpture that has a “see through” quality like Sisters or Embrace. The height and stature of the outdoor sculpture should be in scale with the background to support an expansive view, and provide a place to rest the eye as a focal point.
We often “scale up” the size of our sculpture for clients with a more expansive or spacious site like a 10 foot Kismet sculpture we created for a collector in the San Francisco Bay Area (above). But you don’t need a grand sweep of space to support a piece of art. As long as the piece is proportional to the space, it can complement the garden or courtyard. Using texture and color to support a piece’s placement is another way to determine a proper site.
A Louisiana client installed a 7 ft. tall Curvas in their front courtyard (above). The weathered steel of the sculpture connects to the brick on the home and the curved of the pavers and stones lead the eye vertically from bottom to top. The jutting waves of the sculpture provide a sensual but stark contrast to the straight lines of the client’s traditional home.
Every lead actor needs a good supporting cast. Similarly, a bold piece of landscape art needs the support of a well-grounded garden. Some pieces do well with a simple garden with subtle lines and minimal color. Other pieces work well in gardens with sculptural plantings and natural elements in harmony with the sculpture’s shape.
We love how our Taffy sculpture is integrated as a focal point into this modern garden in Pacific Palisades, California (above). The rust-hued foliage of the plants are so interesting alongside the weathered steel sculpture. The billowy curves of the grasses mimic the curves of Taffy’s curled form, while other spiky grasses offer a wonderful contrast.
Saturated colors and bold shapes of our Closer and Leap sculptures are extremely impactful jutting out of the naturalized meadow plantings of this summer garden in Arkansas (above).
Impact creates emotion. When you connect with a piece of art, it should stir something inside of you. It’s the reason you commissioned or purchased that piece and that feeling should emerge every time your eye glances at the sculpture. Everyone is drawn to different characteristics of art. Things like color, form, texture, and scale have the ability to elicit a response. The key is to acknowledge that response by placing the sculpture in a landscape that will maximize the reaction.
Create an element of surprise in the garden with the sculpture placement. Coming upon an interesting sculpture while walking on a meandering pathway is a magical and interesting way to integrate sculpture – and to further enjoy the wonders of the garden.
It may take a few trials to determine the best spot for an emotional reaction to take place. Remember that sculpture can also be moved and experienced from places in the landscape during the years. When the spot is right, you will know it.
What happens when you visit a public or private sculpture garden or an expanse of land that has art on view in an outdoor setting? Does the visitor have to work harder to enjoy or experience the art when the setting is natural? Does the sculpture interact with the surrounding natural environment to create a new, transformative experience?
For some, public landscape art provides a quiet and contemplative respite from noisy urban areas. For others, a public sculpture garden is an extension of an indoor space or gallery like a museum, where larger substantial pieces of art can be viewed without the typical constraints of walls and crowds. Across the U.S. there are extraordinary outdoor environments to experience landscape sculpture including the Storm King Art Center, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum , the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
There is no doubt a great love and appreciation for outdoor sculpture in Washington D.C. As artists, we are fortunate to have many sculpture commissions and installations in the Washington D.C. area in both private and public settings. As we have thought about how our pieces interact with the environs of our clients’ settings, we can’t help but also wonder how the public interacts with art in an outdoor public space.
One of our favorite places to experience outdoor sculpture is the The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington DC. The outdoor gallery resides on 6 acres adjacent to the National Mall and contains 18 pieces of original art. The garden was designed by Philadelphia-based landscape architectural firm OLIN in 1999 after the property’s jurisdiction was transferred from the National Parks Service to the National Gallery in 1991.
When we visit the garden, we appreciate the garden’s structural bones, the soft grass berms, the well-placed understory shade trees, and the benches that provide perfect vantage points from which to enjoy these oversized marvels like Spider by Louise Bourgeois.
The variety of art that the sculpture garden supports is wide and is made up of post-WWII pieces. Installations include Ellsworth Kelly’s Stele II, Claes Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, Joan Miró’s Personnage Gothique, Oiseau-Eclair, and Roy Lichtenstein’s House I. Lead architect Laurie Olin created each room to provide a comfortable enclave for visitors to rest and reflect, using American trees and shrubs to define the space.
Whether experienced in a walled gallery or in the open space of a sculpture garden, the power of art is it’s ability to manifest an idea, emotion, or a concept. The expression of an outdoor sculpture can be comforting or disturbing, revelatory or transformative. The presence of a sculpture in the landscape is undeniably impactful.
Being a California-based sculpture and design studio we are constantly surrounded by mid century modernism and its influences. Many of our sculptures are placed in treasured buildings from this nostalgic era—where connecting the indoor space to the outdoor environment creates a certain harmony throughout the home. When we received an inquiry for a commission of our three-ringed, stainless steel modernist sculpture Sisters, we had no idea that it would be placed in this stunning minimalist garden, the centerpiece of an extraordinary mid century modern home in Newport Beach, California.
California architecture, art and design was forever changed thanks to Midcentury Modernism. More than 50 years after this style benchmark we are still impacted by its design ethos, which plays heavily on what most would define as the California lifestyle. Expansive multi-room living spaces, clean-lined clerestory windows, and seamless indoor/outdoor transitions typify some of the founding elements.
Much of the architectural landscape in California changed when Joseph Eichler and A. Quincy Jones descended on middle-income enclaves, bridging the gap between Northern California architecture and Southern California architecture and blurring the lines between private and public spaces. John Lautner, a Frank Lloyd Wright prodigy, also designed residences that capitalized on vistas and expansive views.
Our client’s 1966 Newport Beach home was designed by Arthur Erickson (1924-2009), one of Canada’s most celebrated modern architects. The homeowner Mark Weber wanted to surprise his wife Laura for their anniversary with the gift of sculpture. Mark asked us if we could create Sisters and have it ready to surprise Laura within a week.
Erickson was a proponent of concrete, metal, and expansive use of glass utilizing the surrounding nature often with water views. We were thrilled to have the sculpture reside within view of the home’s interior. We love how it alters the space with its expressive 6-foot abstract form, juxtaposing the home’s classic angular lines with the softness of the rings. We also love how the shapes of the smaller succulents mimic the spherical shapes of the sculpture.
To learn more about mid century modern architecture, we recommend a beautiful documentary Coast Modern. The film showcases the pioneers of West Coast Modernist Architecture, including Erickson, who designed spaces with a “sense of place, light and a deep connection to the earth.” This stunning and captivating film, directed by Mike Bernard and Gavin Frome, is screening at film festivals around the country and is also available on Itunes and Amazon.
About Sisters sculpture:
Artist Jennifer Gilbert Asher was born the middle child in a family of three sisters. When she conceptualized Sisters sculpture she reflected on how she fits in to her own family unit. The rings suggest the supportive and interdependent relationship between the women in her family. Each sphere facing a different direction, yet still strengthening and supporting one another. There’s no doubt that nostalgia played a role in her design, just as fans of the Midcentury Modern design movement continue to flock to the era’s nostalgic homes, furniture and works of art.
On any given day in our studio, you might find us designing, shearing, bending or welding our limited edition modern abstract steel sculpture or sculptural trellises for TerraTrellis. We are often asked by private collectors, landscape architects and interior designers to create large scale versions of our limited edition sculpture or sometimes we are asked to use a different type of metal. Below are some studio and site photos of commissioned sculptures not seen on our website. And some behind-the-scenes of us at work, as we imagine and craft our modern abstract sculpture for public and private spaces.
Seattle’s award-winning landscape design firm Sublime Garden Design called our studio about a year ago, inquiring if we would create a commissioned sculpture as a focal point for a garden they were developing for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. This is the second largest garden show in the U.S. with 60,000 visitors and six acres of display gardens. (Luminary garden experts and best-selling authors Amy Stewart, Debra Prinzing, Billy Goodnick and Nan Sterman also drew crowds this year.)
As soon as we saw the stunning garden concept by designer/owner Heidi Skievaski we said yes. Heidi and her team created a lush, modern garden, complete with a star-gazing deck and telescope, naming it “Living Amongst the Stars.” The finished space proved extraordinary. Blooming Narcissus, Angel’s Trumpet, Abutilon, Helleborus and a towering Monkey Puzzle Tree (all an amazing feat in the middle of a cold, wet Seattle winter) created a dramatic, layered backdrop for the twining metallic Kismet.
The sculpture was so impactful, we decided to offer a special, limited edition of Kismet (created with twisted solid steel bars and a special clear/silvery powdercoat finish) through TerraSculpture.com. The original larger-scaled Seattle Kismet never made it back to L.A. A Seattle collector purchased it right from the exhibit floor and the sculpture is now sited in a private garden on the shores of Lake Washington.
“Living Amongst the Stars” also won a well-deserved gold medal. To learn more about the behind-the-scenes of this spectacular installation, read Sublime Garden Design’s blog.
Fine Gardening Magazine was also a big fan.
We are often asked by clients, designers, architects and art consultants to create large scale versions of our limited edition sculpture for commercial and private projects. We recently collaborated with talented landscape architect Steve Kikuchi of Kikuchi and Associates to create a 10 foot commission of our sculpture Kismet for his clients near Palo Alto, California. The large scale of this sculpture was challenging to create, but the results are thrilling and the clients (well-versed and highly appreciative of art) very pleased. The setting of this commission is one of the most dramatic we’ve seen. Photos by Ali Altri.
TerraSculpture, Kismet, steel and bronze powdercoat (10 ft. commission)
TerraSculpture, Kismet, steel and bronze powdercoat (10 ft. commission)
We also recently created 10 foot commission of our sculpture Embrace for a client in the Hollywood Hills. The sculpture was sited in a reflecting pool in an ultra-modern residence which was recently acquired by the Winklevoss brothers of Facebook fame.
TerraSculpture, Embrace, stainless steel and marble (10 ft. commission, Hollywood Hills, CA)
This October’s issue of C Magazine is as beautiful to look at as it is intriguing to read. The entire issue is devoted to innovative California-based artists and designers, so we were thrilled when they chose to feature our studio (“A Bright Idea” pg. 86) in the mix. A shout out to photographer Lauren Devon for her beautiful photography of our trellises. p.s. notice the exquisite monarch butterfly seen below our story–a true specimen of living sculpture!
TerraSculpture studio is very proud to announce the debut of a brand new product line (in addition to our limited edition sculpture collection):
Terra Sculpture is honored to have been selected by the Arts Commission of the city of Richland, Washington to create three large-scale versions of our Sisters sculpture for a public space/pedestrian walk along the Columbia River. This marks a significant milestone for us: our first public art installation. We couldn’t have chosen a more lovely city or site (in truth, earlier this year they chose us which was a welcome surprise.)
The commissioned work is a trio of Sisters, different sizes, grouped together to form a dynamic figure in the open space. The Arts Commission of Richland photoshopped this concept into the site which is seen in the photo above. Our tools and hands are ready….and so the work begins.
We often design a one-of-a-kind aspect to our limited edition pieces. For a very appreciative (and hip) Portland couple we created an enameled apple green metal cube to elevate their version of Sisters. Whether in a public or private space, Sisters takes on a different character, altering the viewer’s experience. Thank you to our wonderful clients who are open to new ideas and share our vision to innovate.
Last November Australian landscape designer and HGTV host Jamie Durie brought cameras and clients to visit our Los Angeles sculpture garden for an episode of his new hit show The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie which aired July 9th.
Jamie Durie and clients Nick and Anna debate which sculpture they envision for their landscape from Terra Sculpture’s garden gallery.
Jamie’s muse for Miles and Ana’s garden was the artfully inspired and eco-friendly city of San Francisco. Jamie found particular influences from the California Academy of Sciences (so brilliantly designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano), Flora Grubb Gardens and public sculpture gardens. In only three days, Jamie and his crew completely transformed Nick and Anna’s Eagle Rock residence into a stunning, modern, artful environment. Jamie is one extremely talented visionary and a fabulous landscape designer. It was a g’day indeed!