The Olympia garden of artist Kathy Gore-Fuss sprouted a different kind of bloom last week.
A group of 15 artists spent five days working at easels, part of an outdoor painting class.
Even without the painters, Gore-Fuss’s garden is always filled with art.
Stone and water sculptures, some with recycled metal, are by Olympia artist Boucante. A black concrete crow by Tacoma artist Lynn Di Nino hides near some shrubs. A recycled circular tree grate has been infused with tiles made by Tacoma tile artist Claudia Riedener. Sculptures by Gore-Fuss, an artist herself, also grace the garden.
In the morning the students traveled to Priest Point Park and Percival Landing to paint canvases on location. That practice, called plein air painting, yielded representational art.
“There’s always something about plein air that reminds me of going fishing,” said instructor Jordan Wolfson of Louisville, Colo. “You go outside and see what happens. The weather changes, the situation is in flux. There’s a kind of an urgency that gets you in gear and that’s fun – but it can also be frustrating.”
In the afternoon, the students returned to the Gore-Fuss garden and worked on abstract paintings. Though they were inspired by the morning sessions, the compositions were a riot of shapes and colors, some vaguely reminiscent of their original subjects, others highly imaginative.
Gore-Fuss’s garden is only a few years old. Once a vast lawn on a double lot in northeast Olympia it’s now a collection of different but connected spaces. Lush plantings are defined by geometric shapes.
Created by Olympia landscape designer Linda Andrews the garden makes use of native plants, drought-resistant ornamentals, nectar sources and recycled materials.
“We weren’t trying to recreate nature. Just have some fun,” Andrews said.
Concrete pavers lead to a studio, sandstone creates a large circular patio and orange chimney flues hold succulents. The recycled tree grate, set in decomposed granite and backed by six huge boulders, is the high spot of a large berm in the corner of the garden. It offers a birds eye view of the space.
Like an artist’s canvas, the garden makes use of texture, color and shape.
“That’s all part of what I’m attracted to and Linda has a good sense of how to put that together,” Gore-Fuss said.
Garden seating is provided by gabions – wire enclosures that each hold different materials: river rock, glass blocks, sandstone, steel drainpipes and an empty one that can be filled with balloons or other decorations for a party.
A brightly colored beehive, complete with a viewing window, houses a colony. Gore-Fuss does not harvest the honey.
Two University of Puget Sound art professors, Becky Frehse and Elise Richman, were students in the plein air class. The abstract paintings they were working on Wednesday were the same paintings they had started on Monday and will be the same paintings on Friday.
Each day they tackled a new aspect as directed by Wolfson: space, light, color. The final canvases on Friday looked little like the ones they started on Monday.
“It’s definitely pushing your boundaries,” Frehse said. “We’re trying to break out of old habits and expand our repertoire.”
This was the first time Wolfson has taught such a class without an indoor studio session. While a busy painting location can be a distraction in the final stages of painting he was eager to see what the results of the garden setting would bring.
“That can’t help enrich and inspire what we’re doing,” Wolfson said.