Color My World

Last Monday, I was talking with Clive Piercy about teaching. We both agreed that the most difficult aspect was assuming a student knows something when they don’t. For example, when I talk about PMS, I assume that the class knows I’m talking about ink, not a biological issue. I have learned the hard way this is not the case. I now carefully explain that it is a production issue and I’m not treading on territory where I have no experience. The same is true about certain artists and designers. “You don’t know who Norman Rockwell is? Are you kidding?”

Joan Miro is one of those artists I assume everyone knows. Doesn’t everyone have a parent or intellectual relative who owns a Miro poster? As I’ve recently learned, I might as well have been discussing astronomy to a housecat. Of course, there was a point when I didn’t know Miro either. Once I discovered his work, a new world of shape, scale, color, and spontaneity opened for me.

Here’s Joan Miro in an offensively short description: Joan Miro was a Spanish artist born in 1893. He didn’t align himself with any specific movement, although his work has clear connections to Surrealism and Cubism. He rejected conventional painting and embraced the non-representational. Miro worked in multiple media: printmaking, painting, collage, objects, and sculpture. His bold color usage influenced the development of Color Field painting. His non-objective imagery evolved the Abstract Expressionists. After Miro died in 1983, his work continued to grow in popularity. Today most therapist offices have a Miro poster.

Life without hard edges

Robert Burle Marx, Safra Bank roof garden, Sao Paulo 1982

I love working in the yard. One of my favorite activities is growing indigenous plant species, and working with my cacti. I’ve cleverly planted cacti along one edge of the pool as a special treat for anyone who dares to run at the pool.

Several years ago, I came across Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscape architect. Marx (not one of the famous brothers) was born in 1909 and studied in Germany during the Weimar Republic. He initially considered the Brazilian vegetation as scrub, but evolved to recognize its inherent beauty. His forms clearly are derived from a modernist sensibility, with a touch of the organic. Marx’s landscapes read like a Miro painting or Calder sculpture. The paving at the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro echoes the forms of the waves and creates a wonderful sense of motion.

I was watching one of those design shows on HGTV yesterday. The owners of a new house insisted that the freeform palette shaped pool, clearly based on one of Marx’s forms be taken out and replaced with a rock/waterfall pool. I’m not one to talk back to the television, but I found myself doing that. “No, no, no, for the love of everything sacred, please no,” I found myself begging the hapless homeowners on the screen.

Roberto Burle Marx, Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro 1970

Robert Burle Marx, Cisneros Residence, Caracas 1980

Roberto Burle Marx, New York Botanical Garden

Roberto Burle Marx, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo 1953

Roberto Burle Marx, Safra Bank, Sao Paulo 1982

Roberto Burle Marx, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo 1953