Rarely does the sculptural elements of inner-city, suburban front gardens rise above the found object, the cast concrete, or an art student’s effort. I have been looking for examples for many years. After over a decade of looking, I have found a fantastic domestic garden sculpture. (I know nothing about the people who live at this house and I am trying not to intrude on their privacy while commenting on their front garden.)
Like their near relatives, the corporate sculptures in front of office blocks, domestic front garden sculptures are a kind of public sculpture. For while they are privately owned, they are on public display. And like all outdoor sculpture, they must survive the weather which limits the choice of media.
Most garden sculptures are either the corny or kitsch. The kitsch: represented by garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments, commercial sculptures cast in concrete or welded metal creations. And the corny represented by swans made from car tires, ‘spoonvilles’ and recycled things turned into flower pots. There are also pseudo-sculptural elements of industrial readymade objects, railway sleepers are popular at the moment in Melbourne. Occasionally you will see the relics of what looks like a fine arts student’s sculpture, or that of a brave amateur, retired to the garden; however, these are rarely substantial enough to fill the space.
The importance of sculpture for suburbanites is dubious, for as it is not structural but aesthetic, it is not worthy of investment. Unlike the corporate version, privately owned sculpture on public display has no practical use for a sculpture in a suburban garden, place-making, way-finding, or even seating. Being only decorative is demanding a lot from a sculpture.
Then there is the big metaphysical birdcage in a front garden of an ordinary house in the inner-city suburb. Like a Magritte painting come to life in a suburban garden, the giant birdcage is different from other domestic garden sculpture. It transforms anyone who sits inside the cage (which has a lockable door), into part of the art. The surreal, infinite regression of birdcages comments on the whole birdcage of suburban existence and existential angst.
It is a remarkable garden sculpture because it provides a private experience that wouldn’t work in a public garden. And, unlike other garden sculptures, the birdcage is almost too large for the small garden space.
January 11th, 2021 at 10:05 AM
I have seen a few ‘real’ sculptures in peoples gardens. Admittedly rare.
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January 11th, 2021 at 10:06 AM
Rare, but good to see.
January 11th, 2021 at 10:15 AM
I know this house. It has long been a favourite. It has a neat side profile with a terrific chimney and some nice brickwork details. When I moved to Lygon St in 1988, this house had a replica of itself as its letterbox. I wonder if the same people live there all these decades later b/c the small birdcage within the large birdcage mirrors the small house [letterbox] in front of the big house. The letterbox sadly disappeared decades ago. I liked that letterbox a lot.
January 11th, 2021 at 11:16 AM
It would be even stranger if it was different people living there. Thanks for your memories and the additional details.
January 11th, 2021 at 8:21 PM
Fantastic! Thanks for the post Mark.
January 11th, 2021 at 9:14 PM
You are welcome. I’m glad, so many people have liked and commented on it.
January 12th, 2021 at 3:42 PM
That is a garden sculpture that makes you stop and think! I like the little table and chairs in the bird cage within the bird cage, it must go on for infinity…
January 12th, 2021 at 6:12 PM
I wonder if they use the cage for tea in the garden?