Brookgreen Gardens is 1900 acres of sensuality. As the first public sculpture garden in America, grand but understated grounds and botanical gardens are home to over 1400 works by 300+ sculptors. The combination of sculpture and botanical art is nothing less than romantic. Entrance through the Live Oak Allee garden takes the breath away and causes one’s voice to lower to a whisper as visitors walk in wonder under 300 year-old live oak trees that were planted in 1700 when Brookgreen was a thriving rice plantation. The reverence felt by experiencing the allee is just the beginning.
I found myself at Brookgreen, again, this weekend. But this time I was there for an art show. Dozens of juried craftsmen were on site and several were practicing their art ‘plein air’. I’m a frequent art show attendee but over the last several years I’ve found nothing new and go home disappointed and empty handed. You can only buy so much pottery and handmade jewelry and I’m pretty picky about the art I hang in my house.
But this time I was lucky. I found an artist local to the low country, a good ol’ boy, really, who has a gift and creates something I had never seen. When I saw the prices on his work I sacheted away but darn it, I was drawn to his booth time and time again like a moth to a porch light. He makes paddles, kayak-type paddles. His method reminded me so very vividly of the woodworking my father did – layering walnut, cedars, mahogony and basswood and then turning and finishing the chunks of wood into beautiful bowls. This artist used the very woods my daddy did. He layers and glues and shapes and carves and polishes until what emerges is the most beautiful strata of varying woods, color and design, all in the shape of an elegant … paddle. The handles alone were exquisite.
Many forces collided and were at work in my brain and my heart as I perused the paddles. My son works for a company that produces outdoor water recreation gear and the product he designs is … paddles. In a few weeks he celebrates a milestone birthday … his 30th. The woods used in the paddles remind me of my daddy … who very recently died.
Of course I walked out of there with a paddle. And I know it was the right thing. The paddle was a work of art. Anytime art makes you cry, you should take it home.