I needed a calm place. Having driven seven hours to New Hampshire, I sought out the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site for a quiet moment or two. But a testy email from a client rattled me. I sought a spot where I could soak in nature and perhaps sketch a bit.
This beautiful, curved bench seemed just right. I sat, got out my sketch pad and drew. Still agitated, I found the process of sinking down into the sketch a retreat.
As I watched other visitors stop and snap cell phone shots of the garden, I thought about how we often use photos as a kind of enjoyment lay-away: tucking the beauty into our cameras to have the fun in reflection, often missing it in the moment.
The first bench reminded me of the need to take time to savor beauty.
The sketch finished, I started roaming the grounds. The annoyance returned. By the time I found this bench along a tree-lined path, I was on the phone with Alison, whose advice helped me put things in perspective.
Artists are often thought of as loners, who pursue their vision in solitude.
But Augustus Saint-Gaudens knew the role others could play in his work. He had assistants to help him create his large sculptures.
Augustus also had his wife, Augusta. (I wonder in what month they married?) And other artists, who saw his idyllic home, came to New Hampshire to live nearby. In fact, his house became the center of the Cornish Art Colony. He frequently had creative people over for dinner and parties.
This bench reminded me that art needs a community.
Saint-Gaudens sought to have viewer interaction, so in this figure of Admiral Farragut, he had his pedestal designer put in two benches to invite onlookers to be a part of the work. I sat down on one, feeling the delicious coolness of the stone against my back. Thankful for his invitation, I felt my participation continued to keep the work alive in a small way.
This last bench challenged me to keep an invitational element in my own work, making it more than just a statement of who I am, but an offer to my viewers (or readers) to come, to share something together with me.
Like the advice of three benches. Wisdom without words.