(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 28, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
A planned visit to the Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden was put aside when I took my first look at the giant sculptures by noted artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002). She was a self-taught artist, using many different mediums including paint shot from guns, sculptures, wire and fabrics. Her death from emphysema is thought to have been caused by breathing polyester fibers she used in her early works. Her final, playful works are enjoyed around the world.
Using "polyurethane foam, resin, steel armature, mille fiori glass, glass pebbles, tumbled stones, and stained and mirrored glass"(1), Niki has created garden people, creatures and structures that blow the lid off garden art. Centered in and around the Children's Garden, the art is attracting visitors of every age. The thumbnail picture is of a newborn elephant, perhaps the only small statue in the display. For added color and fun, the gardens were planted with extra bright colored flowers. Here is a peek at some of the sculptures that I particularly enjoyed; I hope you don't mind my silly commentary:
This is one BIG Buddha. Should someone this big sit in that position for too long?
"New Man is Coming"
This is a new man, bright and shiny on the outside, but nothing between the ears. Whoops, there aren't any ears! Do men ever listen anyway?
The position of this statue surprised me as the surroundings were distracting. Hmmm, maybe the artist had a reason?
"Adam and Eve"
I laughed out loud when I saw this one back in the trees, and I will probably giggle in church the next time our Pastor mentions Adam and Eve.
Visiting children were encouraged to climb on some of the sculptures. This was a favorite picture spot for them and their parents. Luckily, no one took a picture when I climbed inside.
I'm sure the artist used me as the inspiration for this sculpture, see how my lovely figure is caught for all to see? Where do you suppose I could get a spandex outfit with all those stars?
This reminds me of a trip to the beach I took with several of my girlfriends who are also larger than life. Do you want to join the game?
The Missouri Botanical Garden, also known as Shaw's garden by long-time residents of St. Louis, is the nation's oldest botanical garden, founded in 1859. Henry Shaw had his home here before donating the land and his gardens. Now a National Historic Landmark, it features a Japanese garden, children's gardens, a neat home flower and vegetable gardening center, collections of rare orchids, plus research and education classes. I make frequent visits for the seasonal displays, and my husband keeps me far, far away when they hold the plant sales. With seventy nine acres, there is something here for everyone. NIKI will continue through the end of October, 2008. Make sure you put this on your list of things to do if you are visiting the St. Louis area.
All pictures are by the author, with the permission of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Visit their website at www.mobot.org for more information about this and other scheduled displays.