Cindy Kelly, director of the university's historic houses and university collections, walks up to a secluded and overgrown patch of the Evergreen House grounds. She points to a recently completed sculpture, a sort of fencelike design made of sticks and vines that snakes between two tulip poplars. The structure is woven seamlessly into the environment, so much so that from afar it appears merely to be part of the natural vegetation. Nature, not a solid cement block, is this sculpture's pedestal.
"Do you see how it vanishes into nothing?" Kelly says, gesturing to one end of the work. "You think many of those sticks are just naturally occurring there, and then you realize, no, it is part of the piece. It just comes and goes, ebbs and flows. It is such a beautiful poetry. I am absolutely struck by it."
The piece, created by young artist Beth Ann Morrison, is part of "Sculpture at Evergreen," an outdoor exhibition of site-responsive, large-scale works by 10 contemporary artists. The exhibition, which opened yesterday and will run through Oct. 31, is a unique assemblage of sculptures that are both inspired by and created specifically for the historic estate's house and grounds.
Morrison, for example, used tree limbs, sticks and vines found on the property to assemble her sculpture, which was tailored for that particular site. Kelly, curator of the exhibition, said all the artists were given the freedom to design whatever they wished, using whatever material they wanted. The only limitations, Kelly said, were time and the artists' imaginations.
The creation and placement of the individual works--from bicycle-part wolves to a glass-bottle construction--took into account such factors as the slope of the terrain, the nearby foliage and even the angle at which sunlight reflects off them.
"For all these works, it is about helping the viewer look at his environment in a different way, or to see it again for the first time," Kelly says. "I also was hoping the artists would choose areas that would invite people to explore parts of the grounds that they never had explored before."
Kelly says some of the works, people will discover, do not neatly fit the definition of sculpture. "It is just a way of dealing with the space environmentally."
The artists, both acclaimed and relatively unknown, include Derek Arnold, Brent Crothers, Maren Hassinger, Gale Jamieson, Timothy Lonergan, Morrison, Wayne Nield, Jann Rosen-Queralt, John Ruppert and Leonard Streckfus.
The 10 were selected by Michael Brenson, a writer, curator, educator and former art critic for The New York Times. Kelly said she wanted a "premiere and nationally known critic" to be exposed to works both he and the public might otherwise not have seen.
In selecting the artists, Kelly said Brenson took into account how each one chooses and responds to the materials he uses.
"For him, the choice of materials says a lot about the artist's curiosity, the artist's ability and his or her intellect," Kelly says.
Brenson, who received his doctorate from the Art History Department in the School of Arts and Sciences, will return on Sept. 21 to moderate a panel discussion between several of the artists.
Hours of the exhibition, which is free and open to the public, are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; walking maps are available in the museum shop. A collection of black and white photographs documenting the installations will be on display in the gallery space at Evergreen, and a catalog is available for purchase.
"Sculpture at Evergreen" was funded by the France-Merrick Foundation, the Rouse Company Foundation, the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City, the Hecht-Levi Foundation and the Evergreen House Foundation.
Programs planned in conjunction with the exhibition, expected to become a biennial event, include lectures and panel discussions by the exhibiting artists and a series of tours in the Wurtzburger and Levi sculpture gardens at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Gallery, the Maryland Institute College of Art's Rinehart studios and in four city neighborhoods. For more information call 410-516-0341.