Classical Gardens: Artist Statement

Classical Gardens, 1991-98

Gelatin silver prints / chromogenic prints; editions range from 8 x 10 to 20 x 24.

Having conceived or redesigned most of the 17th century royal gardens in the Île-de-France region—including Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles, St-Cloud, Sceaux, Chantilly—André Le Nôtre is known as the father of the classical French garden. Some three hundred years later, these gardens have undergone tremendous changes but the original lines laid by Le Nôtre remain. The surprises contained therein still delight and the play of depth and perspective as the body moves though them, continues to thrill us today.

Photographing in these spaces one cannot help but imagine the events, large and small, personal and political, which must have been played out on these stages of verdure. It is easy to imagine in the periphery of one’s vision, “imaginary spasms” in the play of light and shadow. The artificial kingdom is, after all, composed of a decor steeped in desire, where as Allen S. Weiss has written, “space surrounds the body, is before and behind, past and future, where one is both seer and object seen.”[1]

“Let us promenade in the décor of desires, in this décor full of mental offenses and of imaginary spasms.”
– Louis Aragon,
Le paysan de Paris

[1] Allen S. Weiss, Mirrors of Infinity: The French Formal Garden and 17th Century Metaphysics, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995) 34.

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