Conversation with a curator – Rebecca Louise Law

British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law uses dried and fresh plant material to create site-specific installations that dazzle the senses. In Rebecca Louise Law: The Womb, new work by the artist will be presented in an immersive installation in the Balk Gallery. Law’s use of natural materials, mainly floral, encourage the viewer to experience the relationship between humanity and nature. Our Curator of Sculpture and Sculpture Exhibitions Jochen Wierich spoke with Rebecca about her process:

RLL The Womb - Photo by Chuck Heiney (3)

Jochen Wierich: In art school, at the University of Newcastle, you studied painting, but then you switched from painting on canvas to using flowers as a sculptural material. I am curious about your impulse to make the transition from one medium to another. What motivated you?

Rebecca Louise Law: During my time at University, I had the opportunity explore new mediums. My tutors were painters, sculptors and installation artists. I was settled in painting and printmaking but felt challenged by the possibilities of pushing the boundaries of my own practice. Our weekly ‘crits’ asked the question ‘why?’ and I began to research my own motivation for creating art. Nature and colour played center stage and experiences of the natural world from my childhood began to reveal themselves, with art and gardens influencing much of my life from a young age. When I was painting a flower it was never large enough. I wanted my viewer to be drawn into the flower and completely enveloped. I studied colour field painters and loved the way they could draw the viewer in. I began to go large scale with my paintings. It was never large enough, I spent a couple of years trying to break free from the canvas. I wanted to paint in the air, I used food, fabric, plastic and natural materials. I entwined flowers into the work, with mad collective installations and started to see the incredible possibilities of using flowers alone. The preserved flower became my material, I swapped my paints for flowers in 2003.

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Jochen: Working with natural material, you are constantly enlarging your collection of flowers and continue to gather from different locations. What have you learned from coming to Grand Rapids and working with the staff and volunteers at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park?

Rebecca: The horticulture and sculpture departments have come together to create an incredible supportive team. Together they have brought many volunteers and staff members to help wire flowers into my installation. The natural produce from the grounds is abundant and everyone is passionate about including it in my ongoing collection of flora.

Jochen: In this exhibition, you have begun to explore the subject of the womb in other media such as painting, glass, and clay. How did this work come about, and how does it grow out of the dried flower installations?

Rebecca: Every installation explores the relationship we have with nature. Behind the large scale works are smaller studies. This installation, The Womb, looks specifically at the sensation of being cocooned in nature. I looked at the womb as a vessel and studied its science and form through paintings and sculptures.

Jochen: You are encouraging visitors that enter the installation to refrain from using their mobile devices. Would you share with me your motivation for this request?

Rebecca: When considering this artwork, it was important to consider the best viewer experience. I have allowed a space for using the phone and taking photographs. But once you enter the artwork, the focus needs to be on a personal experience with nature without distraction. It is important that this artwork has tranquility and peacefulness. I want the viewer to feel cocooned.

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Jochen: Your work aligns perfectly with our mission to promote the enjoyment of art and horticulture. What does it mean for you personally to be exhibiting your work in this environment?

Rebecca: It has been inspiring to be surrounded by art and horticulture. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has a beautiful collection entwined within abundant gardens. I’m extremely happy that this exhibition has been made possible here and I’m extremely thankful for the freedom to explore the wonder and beauty of The Womb.

 

For more information about Rebecca Louise Law: The Wombvisit our website

Traditional snow protection in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden

Dave Rettig, Horticulture Lead

As the snow blooms across the branches of the pines in Michigan, the winter beauty is matched by the threatening weight placed on the branches. This winter, we built our first Yukitsuri in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. The purpose of the Yukitsuri or “snow protection” is to hold up the branches of aesthetically pruned pines to prevent cracking and breaking under snow load.

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A Yukitsuri protecting the delicate branches of one of the pine trees in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden.

In order to pay homage to the tradition, and create the marriage between form and  function, we reached out for some expert advice from Naoaki Donuma of Yoshoen Corporation in Niigata, Japan. We first met during the 2016 NAJGA conference at the Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum. After spending the day touring the art museums and gardens of the area, we became fast friends and have been able to have an exchange on winter techniques in the Japanese garden. This project grew into a
culmination of the international and the local.

The bamboo pole was locally harvested at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park from the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory during the winter of 2018 and then dried for one year. Intricate and ornate ropework binds the bamboo to the pine. Together, the rope and bamboo function to protect the branches through the winter season and add a graceful signifier to the season of the garden. The respect paid to the natural materials of the Yukitsuri express not just a reverence for the materials used, but also a reverence for the nature and cycle of the season of the garden.

New and Expanded Parking Lots

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In December of 2018 the first portion (approximately one-third) of our new parking lot and urban gardens opened to the public. If you have visited recently, this is the parking lot being built in front of the Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater.

As you prepare your visit for this year’s Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition, please take a minute to become familiar with our temporary parking lot situation.

The below diagram illustrates the new parking layout. The second third of the new parking lot is scheduled to be ready June 1, 2019. Until then, we deeply appreciate your patience and cooperation. When you arrive for your visit, please follow posted signage and be prepared for about a five minute walk along our temporary entrance. Wheelchairs are available near the amphitheater parking lot (pictured below).

The expansion and redesign of our parking lot and urban gardens will double the number of parking spaces located within a one-to-two minute walk of our new Welcome Center entrance. This new configuration will offer additional accessible parking spaces near the entrance, increase the number of parking spaces overall, and add new urban and rain gardens to control water runoff—honoring our commitment to be good stewards of our environment.

We are exceedingly fortunate to be expanding with new and better facilities as part of our Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love campaign.

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The community impact of Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming

The annual Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition at Meijer Gardens is the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition in the nation. Tropical butterflies from around the world fly freely in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory every March and April.

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Butterflies Are Blooming is the busiest time of the year for school field trips. More than 8,000 area students from 210 schools will visit this exhibition! Students experience the exciting environment of the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory while learning about butterfly life cycles and the unique adaptations that allow butterflies to survive and thrive. We offer a selection of self-guided activity sheets that teachers and chaperones can use to engage students in learning as they walk through the exhibition. Our 45-minute classroom activities, held within the new Covenant Learning Center, are a popular option, allowing students to delve deeper into understanding butterflies through hands-on activities. Educators interested in bringing their students to Meijer Gardens can explore all of our year-round options for school groups on our website.

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The Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, photo by Dean VanDis

In addition to offering educational experiences to our visitors, Butterflies Are Blooming also contributes to the economic growth of our West Michigan community. According to a recent Economic Impact Study conducted by Grand Valley State University, people who visit Meijer Gardens contribute to $75.2 million economic output annually. Visitors from outside Kent county directly spend $19.6 million at businesses around Kent County annually. The study also found 86% of the visitor spending is the result spending by individuals that do not live in Kent County, and those nonresidents spent an average of $129 per group at other businesses in Kent County during their visit to Meijer Gardens.

 

This exhibition is possible thanks to the tremendous support of our partners:

Howard Miller Company
Foremost Graphics Group
The Meijer Foundation
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation
Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs / Art Works / National Endowment for the Arts

Media Partners:
Star 105.7
Blue Lake Public Radio

Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition explores light and shadow

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Photo by William J Hebert

Whether frolicking in the sun or feeding in the shade, the butterflies of spring’s most anticipated exhibition put on a remarkable show as they play in the light and shadows of our tropical paradise.

Soon, thousands of butterflies will spread their wings to soar and delight as they take over the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. This year marks our 24th annual butterfly exhibition, and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s in store. Butterflies from Africa, Asia, Central and South America will soon call our tropical paradise home, with more than 60 species of butterflies inhabiting our five-story tall glass peaks, abloom with tropical bromeliads, orchids, orange plume flower, pentas and flowering vines like queen’s wreath and bleeding heart.

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New this year: our Observation Station

As you stroll, watch the interplay of light and shadow on the forest floor. Observe butterflies as they glide or rest in the shadows and fly busily through patches of sunlight. Notice a rich carpet of foliage punctuated by bright red, orange, and chartreuse plantings, creating an irresistible backdrop of color for observing the butterflies. Find the beguiling longwings, great mormon swallowtails, giant charaxes and translucent paper kites as they swoop and sip on savory nectar plants. See how the light catches the iridescent wings of the common morpho, emerald swallowtail and blue wing.

Be sure to stop by the sleek, all new Observation Station where nearly 1,000
butterflies emerge weekly from their delicate chrysalids to take their first flight with us.
Because we receive a variety of species each week, the exhibition continually changes, so
visit often and at different times of the day. Don’t forget to check for monarch caterpillars as they munch on milkweed in the Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse.

Visitors of all ages will enjoy the beauty of the tropical butterflies, and will learn all about the life cycle of a butterfly, from caterpillar to the butterfly’s first flight. More than 8,000 area students from 210 schools will experience this exhibition!

When you plan your visit, consider including must-see events like Tuesday Night
Lights, Night of the Butterflies member parties and outdoor children’s activities in the
Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. Stop by the Information Desk for exact dates and times.
We look forward to exploring with you.

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Photo by Tara Fletcher

This exhibition is possible thanks to the tremendous support of our partners:

Howard Miller Company
Foremost Graphics Group
The Meijer Foundation
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation
Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs / Art Works / National Endowment for the Arts

Media Partners:
Star 105.7
Blue Lake Public Radio

January 18, Expansion Update

As we settle into the cold, here is a recap of what has been accomplished this third week of 2019! Re-bar work, footings and walls have continued in the courtyard level of the Welcome Center. The walls of the Garden Pavilion continue upward with re-bar and wall forms. The Concessions upper level is getting prepped for interior stud work and electrical rough ins. The north planter of the Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater Plaza has been formed, and the granite facade work has also made progress. Prep of the west walls for the Meijer-Shedleski Picnic Pavilion have started. Excavation of former lot B continues with storm piping and electrical moving along.

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Parking lots – excavation of former parking lot B

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Meijer-Shedleski Picnic Pavilion – West wall forms

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Amphitheater plaza planters, concessions granite facade hanging

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Welcome Center – re-bar and form work for upper level walls

January 4, 2019 Expansion Update

As we set changes and challenges for ourselves in this new year, there are lots of changes happening this first week of January at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park! Here is a look at what happened in our Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love expansion project:

  • The concrete floor in the Garden Pavilion was poured on Thursday, January 3, using nearly 60,000 yards of concrete.
  • The structural steel for the roof has arrived for the Concessions building and installation is underway.
  • Prep work has also started for the granite facade of the Concessions building.
  • The entry to the Padnos Rooftop Sculpture Garden continues as we wait for the installation of the terrazzo flooring
  • Footings and walls continue for the Picnic Pavilion
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Welcome Center – Re-bar work for lower level walls and new concrete floor

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Concessions Building – Upper level steel work and prep for granite facade

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Padnos Rooftop Sculpture Garden – entry and terrazzo floor supplies

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Picnic Pavilion – Footings and walls for the Picnic Pavilion and duct bank progress