Fine art in a fine garden: a unique sensory overload

Freeland-based glass artist Dale Reiger ensures one of his recognizable glass house pieces is spick and span before the 2016 Froggwell Biennale.

Art lovers can’t always imagine what a piece might look like on their walls, but an exhibition hosted in an idyllic private residence will have aficionados envisioning the pieces in their own homes.

The Froggwell Biennale, a show held every two years at the Froggwell Gardens in Freeland, returns this weekend with its diverse and picturesque show. Fine art is displayed both inside Ralph Hastings’ private home and outside in his fairytale garden, and provides a unique natural setting for an exhibition. The show spans the entire weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Friday to Sunday and people are able to peruse the garden and home for free, whether or not they are in the market for art to purchase. Froggwell Gardens is located at 5508 Double Bluff Road.

Volunteers will be available to assist with parking, which is limited. Visitors are encouraged to carpool.

Fourteen artists’ work lines nearly every wall in Hastings’ home and is abundantly spread throughout the terraced and wooded garden among the vibrating colors of surrounding flowers and shrubbery. The displayed art covers a diverse range of art forms and styles from painting, sculpting, glasswork, printmaking and mixed media pieces. Everything on display is for sale.

“The garden is well known but private, and that alone is worth going to see it,” organizer and featured print artist Anne Belov said. “There’s this sort of magic synergy that happens with the gardens when sculptures are in it.”

Many of the featured artists’ works are well known across the South End. Dale Reiger’s kiln-formed glass houses are highly recognizable since one of them towers over Second Street in Langley. Sue Taves’ nature-themed abstract stone sculptures are distinct to the eye, while organizer Anne Belov and Linnane Armstrong’s prints both have distinct styles.

“It’s a really diverse show, there is no one stylistic theme,” Belov said. “It’s not all realism or abstract. Even in print making, many don’t realize there are so many different techniques and materials being used in the process.”

The garden has made a name for itself with a couple of appearances in gardening magazines, on HGTV and even in one of internationally known English garden designer Rosemary Verey’s books. Hastings built the home and garden in 1981 with his late partner Holly Turner. Hastings, being a building contractor, was able to envision a wooden house that wouldn’t look out of place with Turner’s garden; he described her as a dedicated and skilled gardener and gives her all the credit.

“The garden adds to the whole character of the exhibition,” Taves said. “When people start walking down the path to the garden, it seems like a fairy tale between the garden setting and the house, and I think that sets the whole atmosphere about the show.”

Over the years, Belov has enlisted around 10 artists who regularly participate in the biennial exhibition and always leaves two to four spaces open for guest artists either from elsewhere or who are new to the island to be added to the bill. She has made it a point for Froggwell to be a show where the featured artists are able to fully demonstrate what their body of work is like, so all artists have 10 or more pieces on display. Belov has also pushed for artists to explain their creative process, and this year she and fellow print maker Linnane Armstrong will bring plates to discuss their process with prospective buyers.

There is also a room in Hastings’ house that has stacks of unframed artworks for visitors to sift through. Belov isn’t concerned about art selling out before Sunday.

“This is Anne’s brainchild, she has just done a fabulous job keeping this going and gathering a group of artists that make high quality art throughout the year,” Taves said.

Belov says this is a unique art show given the setting and atmosphere that is created with the surroundings. Not only is the juxtaposition of sculptures with greenery easy on the eye, it gives prospective buyers an idea of what the featured artworks would look in their own home and garden. Froggwell gives visitors a personal experience with the artists; Belov says they hang around in the garden throughout the day chatting, showing people their work and sipping wine when the chance arises.

“The garden needs to be seen,” Hastings said. “It’s an attraction for many people who come to the show, and I like exposing the property and the art.”