The 16-foot-tall bamboo arch doesn't so much sit on Evergreen's garden lawn, it erupts. Spiked like a porcupine with blunted quills, the sculpture has a texture that begs to be explored.
Some 30 yards away, set off in the woods, stand a number of Ailanthus trees wrapped in yellow beads, multicolored cloth ribbons and labels of green-tea bottles. The splash of bright colors beckons the observer into an otherwise gray patch of "trash trees" for a closer inspection. In whichever direction you look, something strange or beautiful can be found as, from now to the end of the summer, the flowers of imagination are in full bloom at Evergreen House.
The two pieces are part of Sculpture at Evergreen, an outdoor exhibition of site-responsive, large-scale works by 10 contemporary artists. The exhibition, which opens June 6 and will run through Sept. 30, is a unique assemblage of sculptures that are both inspired by and created specifically for the historic estate's house and grounds.
The bamboo arch, created by young artist Laura Amussen, is meant to represent the arch found in the house's private theater, right down to the same dimensions. Amussen, an award-winning sculptor who is a student at Towson University, says she prefers to use organic materials in her works, to explore the relationships between life and nature. Her choice of material for the arch was inspired by Evergreen's plentiful groves of bamboo trees.
Originally titled An Outdoor Theater for Alice in reference to former Evergreen homeowner Alice Warder Garrett, the piece is now simply Verve.
"It reflects the personality of Mrs. Garrett, I think," says Amussen of a woman who was known as a tireless supporter of the arts. "And I just like the name better. It really fits the piece."
Cindy Kelly, director of the university's historic houses, says by whatever name, the work is a perfect example of the types of creations she hoped would result from the biennial event, first held in the summer of 2000.
Roughly 15,000 people saw the inaugural exhibit, Kelly says, and she hopes for even greater numbers this year.
"The word on us is certainly starting to get out," she says. "My hope is that in the future people will be able to say, If it's the summer and it's an even year, there must be sculpture at Evergreen."
Kelly, curator of the exhibition, says that like the first year, all the artists were given the freedom to design whatever they wished, using whatever material they wanted--the only stipulation was that the artist come to Evergreen first and be inspired by the landscape or the history of the estate.
"The important thing is that these artists were given the support and opportunity to practice in place," Kelly says. "The opportunity here is to make a work of art that you otherwise wouldn't be able to make."
Each artist is provided with $3,000 for fabrication and $1,000 for installation.
"Usually that sort of money won't cover the expenses of making a work on this scale," she says. "But it hopefully will encourage the artists to make a work that they were hoping to make, or saving for. Every little bit helps."
The artists, both acclaimed and relatively unknown, are Manuel Acevedeo, Doina Adam, Amussen, Roberley Bell, David Hess, Brece V. Honeycutt, Steve Reber, Joyce J. Scott, Mara Adamitz Scrupe and Foon Sham.
The 10 were selected by Mary Jane Jacob, the visual arts curator for the 2002 Spoleto Festival USA and a faculty member in the Department of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Graduate Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.
Other works in the exhibition include David Hess' Inertia Study--an immense steel apparatus attached to mature trees that emphasizes a cast iron wheel poised precariously on the edge of a platform--and Doina Adam's Silent Sky's Blueprint on Earth, a series of 72 dome-shaped acrylic mirrors that cover a hillside on the western side of the house.
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 Evergreen museum shop and around the grounds. 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, the T. Rowe Price Associates Foundation, Stanley Mazaroff and Nancy Dorman, and the Evergreen House Foundation.
On July 25, from 5 to 8 p.m., Evergreen will host an open studio featuring the works of current artist-in-residence Maggie Thomas, a gallery exhibit by 2001 artist-in-residence Randy Bolton and a dance performance in the garden around Amussen's Verve. A lecture and panel discussion with several of the exhibiting artists, led by Mary Jane Jacob, will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 in the Evergreen House Theatre.
For more information, contact 410-516-0341.