–by Arshia Simkin
This May, the three-day 27th Annual Art in the Garden Sculpture Exhibition will kick off in Hillsborough. The exhibition features ten regional and nationally recognized sculptors, and is unique in its focus on the home garden. According to the event website, the sculptures are carefully placed in acres of “intimate garden settings, winding paths and open spaces.” Attendees are encouraged to stroll the grounds, discover unique pieces nestled among the foliage or displayed amidst flowering bushes, and to purchase the sculptures for their own home gardens: all the pieces are for sale.
Local sculptor and founder of the event, Tinka Jordy, was inspired to create this now decade’s long exhibition because she wanted to support artists who made smaller scale works that were suitable for home gardens. In this case, the exhibition takes place at Jordy’s own home garden. Jordy felt that while there were usually many venues for artists of larger outdoor sculptures and those whose work was intended for indoor display, there weren’t many opportunities for artists who made smaller, outdoor works that could easily integrate into a personal garden.
Jordy herself started out as a potter: “When I moved to North Carolina from New Orleans a while go, in 1987, I had this big garden and I started working in the garden and I got very involved with that…Slowly, over time, I started wanting to put my work there.” She, like many of the artists displaying their work at the event, feel a close connection to nature: “For me, my work and my desire, is to connect to the outdoors… one of the reasons I work in clay [is] because it is such a natural medium.” She added: “If [my sculptures] sit and they get moss on them or a vine grows on them, all the better. That’s part of the evolution.”
In addition to clay, the sculptures at the exhibition are made from a variety of materials, including stone, metal, wood, marble, ceramic, and mixed media. In the past, sculptures have featured animal shapes such as birds, goats, or rabbits; insects such as butterflies; totemic or geometric shapes; people; hands; or evoked natural elements, such as mushrooms, wind, or water. The size can vary widely as well: some are as small as a pinecone, while others are at standing height or larger.
The event features a recurring group of artists and part of the fun for Jordy is that she doesn’t know what sculpture each artist will display: it’s an opportunity for all of the artists involved to be surprised by and to admire the work that each has undertaken over the past year. “A lot of the artists will call me and say ‘you know there’s a certain spot in your garden, will you save that for me? Because I have the right piece for it.’” Jordy said.
As with many arts endeavors, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the exhibition: the 2020 exhibition was canceled; instead, Jordy created a newsletter that linked to the various artists’ websites so that members of the public could stay up to date with their projects. The 2021 exhibition was capped at 100 attendees at a time, to ensure compliance with Covid-19 protocols. This year, advanced reservations—which are free—will also be required. Jordy estimates that typically 600 people a day attend and that over the course of the three days, there are roughly 1500 attendees.
Jordy wants attendees to be able to picture art as a part of their everyday lives: “One of the things that is exciting about the show is that people can come and see work in a home garden. Because I think a lot of people see work in a gallery, or they see it in a museum, or they see it in a city hall or something and they can’t image that being a part of their life. So, when you come to my modest dwelling, it just kind of makes it easier for people to imagine art in their lives…When somebody sees it around here, I think it just really changes their perspective on what sculpture is.”
Learn more about the exhibition and the artists at https://garden-art-gallery.com/ Free, pre-registration required. The exhibition will take place on Saturday May 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 .p.m.; Sunday May 8, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday May 14, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.