The Crafty Gardener
Art makes a Chadds Ford garden bloom with the totally unexpected.
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Art is one of those things we simply must do so that our spirit may continue to grow.” So reads the inscription on a sculpture by Jeffrey Manpearl at the entrance of Grayce and Sid Hess’ home in Chadds Ford.
As both an art collector and a gardener, Grayce Hess takes this message to heart—inside and outside her home. The exterior of her cedar and stone rambler explodes with contemporary art.
Original art isn’t inexpensive, which is why some homeowners would gasp at the thought of leaving pricey pieces vulnerable to the elements. Hess thrives on it. A beautifully manicured landscape, to her, isn’t something to be admired. It’s something to be decorated.
Hess and Mother Nature have been partners in crime since Hess visited Nelson Rockefeller’s sculpture garden in New York in the 1980s. She couldn’t buy the big-ticket items then, but she could afford to support the work of emerging artists, many of them from the Delaware Valley.
Artist Pat Staby of Lewes believes “it says something about a person who is willing to support local artists.” Not only is that person buying a one-of-a-kind piece, “she is also helping us make a living here.”
Art adds dimension to any landscape, whether lush and large or tiny and sparse. And mixing art with nature is good for the soul, says Hess, whose sense of humor is evident the moment you turn into her driveway, when your eye is drawn to The General.
The General is from Xi’an in central China. While visiting there in 2000, the Hesses discovered the underground Army of Terracotta Warriors of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. Hess saw four duplicates at a nearby museum and, after being told the 800-pound general could handle the weather, she bought it, had it crated, then shipped it to Philadelphia. As it turned out, The General wore only a thin coat of ceramic over plaster of Paris.
The General is disintegrating, but he’s still a gripping prelude to this botanical play. At his feet is cherry laurel, a low spreading shrub. Horticulturists claim the broadleaved evergreen is not delicious to deer, “except that the deer have eaten most of them,” says Hess.
At The General’s side is a sail by David Ti of Oregon. In spring, Ti’s feathers, accented with blues and pinks, are tied to branches. In winter, Hess exchanges them for reds and purples to add drama to bare branches. The General’s sail remains vibrantly pink, green, blue and red all year.
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