Page 37

Tips: Click on articles from page
Page 37 417 views, 0 comment Write your comment | Print | Download

Kate Lambeth had been hanging John Newman’s nature photos at Inter_Section Gallery, the art space she owns on Trade Street, on a recent Thursday afternoon as she prepared for a new installation before the First Friday Gallery Hop.

She laid a level along the top to get a read. She asked Newman whether there should be anything hanging from the columns between the photos. And then she stripped down to an undershirt. “Is it cocktail hour yet?” she asked.

“Just give me a beer drip,” Newman responded. The gallery had the look of a landscaping job site, which it was in a way. John Long, who works with Newman, had laid a serpentine retaining wall from natural fi eldstone that contained a dwarf white pine in the window display case. On the other side, Ian Byers was putting the fi nishing touches on a mosaic installation. Newman has worked as a landscaper for about 25 years, but this is his second or third career.

He studied church music in college, and then went to law school. Throughout the 10 years Newman practiced law he gardened as a hobby, and eventually he decided to make it his vocation. Newman’s work can be seen by the public outside the William G. White Jr. Family YMCA at Hanes Park, where his waterfall mimics a mountainside stream fl anked by hemlock rhododendron and mountain laurel. Now his work can also be appreciated in a gallery setting.

To complete the connection between nature and art, the exhibit, which is entitled Yadkin Refl ections, showcases Newman and Long’s landscaping work with Byers, whose water-themed stone mosaics also grace the Y, fountain-maker Ethan Smith and photographer Christine Rucker. The Yadkin River is a subject of much of Rucker’s work. “The whole theme of the show is about how the natural scenery of northwest North Carolina inspires our work,” Newman said.

Newman pointed to a photo he took of a hemlock tree with a tenacious purchase on an outcropping at Hanging Rock. The photo rested on the fl oor, ready to be hung. In front of it rested an oversized pot containing a dwarf hemlock and rocks.

Translating the grandeur of Hanging Rock into the contained space of someone’s backyard is a matter of “using the same fundamental elements of stones and sculpted trees and the allusion to water” through the arrangements of pebbles, Newman said. His passion for landscaping began with collecting plants. His sense of style grew out of tackling a practical challenge of presenting the greatest variety of plants possible while still maintaining a sense of natural continuity.

“How do you present things in a way that presents them to the best advantage?” Newman said. “This is what bonsai is all about. What’s the difference between a nursery plant and bonsai? It’s all about how it’s presented and what it’s presented in juxtaposition with or in context with.”

He uses triangular designs — for example, a pine tree, a stone and an azalea — to create a sense of relationship. “It’s very much about creating an emotional response,” Newman said, commenting on the connection between nature and art. “And typically it’s a calming response.” Newman paused to catch his breath.

“It seemed like it was going to be so easy to set up this installation,” he said. “We thought, ‘Hey, it’s March, we won’t have much going on.’ And then it turns out we get this beautiful weather.”

See also