Read more about ceramicist Kim Dickey in “Still Garden.”
When the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver commissioned ceramicist and CU professor Kim Dickey to create a work for its upstairs cafe, Dickey set about making nine plant-like sculptures. She hoped her abstract terracotta plants would bridge the gap between the museum’s collections and the cafe garden, while also encouraging visitors to rethink the lines between the real and the artificial. She shares her sculptures, officially part of the Museum as Theater as Garden exhibit, and artistic impressions in this revealing slideshow.
Museum as Theater as Garden “East Window”
Dickey created her terracotta sculptures, referencing different decorative and art history traditions, to reflect the “eclecticism” of a garden, where a plant may represent a specific place or culture, or even a culinary or pharmaceutical use.
Both untouched and manipulated nature, like genetic modification, come into play in this piece. Additionally, the geometrical form of “Hybrid,” says Dickey, calls to mind modern minimalism, while the flowers play with the patterns and surfaces important to the decorative arts.
In choosing “Weed” as the title of this work, Dickey draws attention to the culturally loaded words we use to categorize the natural world. This asymmetrical piece explores the struggle between nature and culture, as well as chaos and order.
Museum as Theater as Garden “West Window”
Surrounded by mirrors and windows, Dickey’s works hover in a glass environment so that they draw attention to the link between inside and outside worlds.
Dickey was highly conscious of a concept she calls “inbetweenness” while creating her cafe installation. Just as a garden represents ideas about “here” and “elsewhere,” her garden sculptures reflect both site and object, character and setting, and theater and prop.
Dickey says her sculptures exaggerate certain forms of decorative art styling. Here, using an axiom from Goethe, “all is leaf.”
With all her works, but especially this one, Dickey pokes fun at minimalist notions of pure form and monumentality. Here, she abandons structural shapes for leaves that look like dripping tongues and a sculpture that resembles the human body.
Dickey emphasizes that the materials of her sculptures—clay, specifically—reflect nature, but by firing them, she turns them into cultural artifacts, just as a garden turns imprecise nature into a crafted space.