Artists and Their Gardens

My Garden with wildflowers

There is nothing quite so pleasurable as lounging in a beautiful garden on a summer’s evening. The colors of the flowers are vibrant again after the heat of the day. The scents are alive and intoxicating and the birds seem to catch their breath and chant in renewed and festive song. My garden has become a space that holds my imagination. A place of rest in which I can contemplate. It is a place of creative reverie where my imagination can impose its place in my world.

When I reflect on the gardens and intimate places created by artists for themselves, I can see how the care of their gardens becomes analogous to the cultivation of the imaginal place that exists within themselves- the energy and source of their work. Gardens need care and cultivation. One must plant and weed and nurture one’s garden spaces. One makes plans for a certain type of garden, formal or cottage style, but in all cases one must allow for the spontaneous to enter in upon one’s plans and cultivate that as well. This adds an element of surprise and query and calls one to be attentive to this new creature.

If I reflect on the most famous of artists’ gardens, Monet’s Giverny,  I see how Monet, the observer of the landscape his whole life, comes to understand that what exists without also finds its place within. Monet’s garden becomes a mirror of his own understanding of the greater world. It also manifests the power and scope of his imagination. Late in life, Monet no longer felt the need to seek out his images in the greater landscape, but painted mostly within his own garden. Monet’s life contains a unity of experience that few of us will come to know. All that had lain hidden in his inner world becomes manifest in a way for all to see through his garden. His vision, late in life, is one of an entirely unified experience of the world. There is no demarcation between his inner life and outward experience. His unique vision is one of wholeness. Monet’s garden is his vision of himself and of the world- beautiful, joyful, full of life and vitality. Monet ‘wandered’ (and wondered) in this space. It became a place of profound reverie freeing him to experience the unity of the imaginal world without division.

Artists’ gardens act as a bridge to a place that calls forth images and ideas that are seeking form. These imaginal reveries cannot find us in the noise and chaos of our daily activity. They can only approach one by an obtuse path in quiet and solitude. If the artist is attentive he will recognize these elusive figures and images. The more he resides in such a space the more receptive he will become to the call of the imagination.

“But at the heart of everything is the imagination and I think that we cannot free the soul from fear or learn to open ourselves to the world in all its glory, complexity and beauty unless we free ourselves for the imagination. It is the heart, after all, that is the “organ” of the imagination. And it is that pulsing, hot and muscular star within us that creation and discovery merge. It is in the heart that the inner and the outer become one.” [Tom Cheetham, Imaginal Love, The Meaning of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman, p.137]

Peonies, Lamb’s Ear and Wildflowers