Internal Divisions – A Land Use Garden

Internal Divisions was developed for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s “Art to A-Maze” exhibition in 2007. Visitors experienced human impact on land use through a garden visualizing the statistical divisions of use in Carver County, home of the Arboretum and the rapidly growing suburbs of Minneapolis. Paths to into the garden placed visitors in the center, as the human catalyst for the divisions. Plastic routed signs, similar to those used to identify plants in the Arboretum, compared local and national figures for land use and referred visitors to the original information sources.

Plant list: Hybrid Sweet Corn, Hay, Sod, Swamp Milkweed, Pussy Willow, Bluejoint, Tussock Sedge, Marsh Marigold, Red-Stemmed Aster, White Turtlehead, Joe Pye Weed

I applied to “Art to A-Maze” as an exercise in developing a project within someone else’s parameters. I had always felt that this was something I had difficulty with, but also thought that as a “public artist” I would likely often be working under these conditions. Since I had been working on many collaborative projects, it was also important to me to work alone as an artist. Internal Divisions was the first time I worked with a non-arts partner organization (the Arboretum), as well as relying significantly on expert input and in-kind donations (Energyscapes for the native plant landscape design and Out Back Nursery for the plants), and these experiences gave me a lot of insight into working in an institutional context.

While I think the final garden did fulfill the original thought and description, I think it could have been yet larger in size. Standing in the center of the garden in late summer, with the corn and native grasses at full height, one began to have a pleasant sense of being lost, of truly feeling the scale of things. A larger diameter for the circle would have heightened this effect.

I was somewhat disappointed with the rather didactic feel of the project in the end. Maybe the sings in the divisions themselves were too much, and one sign at the entrance or center would have been sufficient. Mostly, though, I missed any sort of interactive or participative aspect to the work, which had been integral to all my other projects up to this point. So while I feel like I was able to accomplish the task I set for myself, I see it as a project that moved my professional practice forward more than my creative practice, and perhaps a bit of an aberration in my body of work.