by germinatrix | December 7th, 2010
I know a genius.
He’s an artist, and an old friend. We met when my husband was writing an essay about Jorge for a catalog for one of his many many MANY shows, and we hit it off like gangbusters. I think it’s cultural – we both have the hot blood of the Caribbean flowing through our veins, and we are both fire signs (he’s an Aries, I’m a Sagittarius – you really shouldn’t even TRY to get a word in edgewise when we’re around). Jorge’s work is pretty controversial. I’ll try not to over-simplify it – his work balances on a sharp edge between art and design, something that alot of people have a big problem with. Some people think it’s too easy. Well, check out his work.
Jorge is really well known for his lamps. What is it about a lamp that qualifies it as art? … Jorge Pardo made them and gave them a big dose of complexity.
Jorge built a house when I first met him, and some of the money came from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art – in return the house was an exhibit space before he officially moved in. (People in LA got their panties in SUCH a wad over this – the rumor is STILL that Jorge hoodwinked the museum into paying for his house. Not true, but whatever – it makes for a great legend). When I first toured the empty house, it was an enigmatic horseshoe with no streetside fenestration at all, but when you walked into the interior courtyard there were floor to ceiling windows surrounding what was obviously the perfect space for a jewel-box of a garden. I remember being totally jealous of whoever it was that was going to get to create that garden.
Hahaha – yes, Jorge asked ME to design the garden, and this is the garden that changed my life.
As Jorge and I talked about what the garden would be, as we discussed plants, architecture and abandoned places, as I walked the site, explored the house and learned more about my new friend’s process I realized that I was feeling something very different than the regular old excitement of a fun project. There was something else happening. Problems were something to embrace and exploit rather than something to “solve”. This project was about more than making a “pretty” landscape that could set the house off to its best advantage – it was about making something complicated and interesting. The old way of doing things clearly didn’t apply. This man was reckless (in the best sense of the word – in fact, he was possibly a little bit of a MANIAC!). His thinking was so expansive, and there was no fear to try things; I wanted this space to reflect that spirit. It couldn’t hold back – it had to throw itself at you in a big, all encompassing way. The garden had to be bad. It had to risk not working. It had to teeter on the edge of being a hodge-podge of epic proportions. Gardeners are supposed to follow rules, and here I was, chomping at the bit to make a completely rule breaking garden. We wanted too many plants for the space. AWESOME – let’s DO IT! We wanted plants that were too big for the space – WHATEVER – they’re PLANTS! Let’s PLAY! We wanted a prehistoric monster of a garden – agaves and Floss Silks trees and bananas with red splotches on the leaves! Yuccas and opunitas and roses! We wanted plants that made no sense together to mash up happily. I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. The result is a space that literally engulfs you with plant madness – it takes your breath away.
The architecture of the house was the template for the garden spaces. Every room has its corresponding outdoor doppelganger. But the plants carry the day; they practically assault you when you walk into the garden. (And I mean literally! Jorge ripped out an aloe when it attacked him one day as he got out of his car. Well, he ASKED for a monster garden!) They stop you in your tracks and demand attention. A branch of a Euphorbia ingens went rogue, crested, and decided to aggressively insert itself right in front of the kitchen door. You literally had to acknowledge it, check out the strange formation, and then step around it to get inside. Most clients would have chopped off such a demanding plant, but Jorge loved it, bragged about it, and made people bend and twist around it to enter his home. The complication of it was central to his enjoyment of it.
Not everybody can have a garden like this, and I do realize that. But since working on this project, my ideas about plants, design and designing with plants has changed. Every garden I do has a little bit of Jorge’s garden in it. I bring a bit of recklessness into my process, while trying to balance the needs of the space and the demands of the plants. I try and get my clients as eager to play garden design with me as Jorge was…
…and is! I’m currently working on a HUGE garden with him in the Yucatan – you can see some of the pre-planted site here and here. And yes, this artist and friend really IS a genius. Certified. Jorge was one of the recipients of the 2010 MacArthur Genius Grants.
I told him I’m going to start stitching everything he says on pillows. I think it’s a BRILLIANT idea. He’ll probably use it. So if you all see a big mountain of pillows at the next Pardo show with outrageous Jorge-isms embroidered on them, remember that you read about it here first.
How do my colleagues get inspired? What have they to say about “Inspiration”? Whatever it is, you KNOW it’s good! Kick back and get ready to learn something as you follow the links that make up this month’s Garden Designers Roundtable.
XOXO Your Germinatrix
Now go get some MORE inspiration from my fellow Roundtablers! You can start your trip around the country by following these links: