In French Chaumont literally means ‘hot mountain’. No doubt an appropriate location for a highly unusual, interesting and beautiful art garden exhibit about the Seven Deadly Sins for the 2014 International Garden Festival. (April 25-November 30) The flowers and manicured paths are amazing. Strolling the grounds raises one up to visions of Eden with the fragrant floral aromas and visual color enchantment.
The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices is a classification of vices that has been used since early times to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity’s tendency to sin. In the currently recognized version, the sins are usually given as wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony. Each one is a form of idolatry of the self.
You can get a sense of the exhibit here. Strange. Beautiful. Conceptually interesting. I have to admit my educational art background didn’t help me see the sin. In fact most of it went either completely over my head or under my imagination. Tom Wolfe wrote a book in 1975 about art called The Painted Word which has resonated with me for years . Some reviewers dismissed Wolfe as someone simply too ignorant of art to write about it. One review in The New Republic called Wolfe a fascist and compared him to the brainwashed assassin in the film The Manchurian Candidate. Of course, you can guess that I loved it. I agreed with his criticism of modern art and the rise of art theory. Wolfe said something like, ‘I don’t want to look at art that requires me to read to understand or enjoy it’. This is exactly how I felt when I visited the installations representing seven deadly sins. HELP!!?? I wanted to look a plants but trying to figure the connection gave me a headache. I had to read the text accompanying each exhibit to make any sense of what I was looking at. Beautiful exotic plants intermingled with rubber tires, see-saws for children, yurts, mirrors, ponds and other oddly constructed spaces left me scratching my head. I made some photographs of a few of the exhibits labeled “A Deadly Sin”. See if you can figure out what sin. Don’t ask me because I don’t know.
However what I did admire and applaud above all else is the fact that they did it. Whatever one believes art is, it should not be bound by preconceived notions of boundaries. To me that is anti-art. They got a lot of financial assistance from the French government. Can you imagine the National Endowment for the Arts paying to pull this exhibition together? In my view, a beautiful but cryptic art installation. Amazing, I was in awe. France is the only country I know of that one can list “philosopher” as one’s occupation and be taken seriously.
What I did enjoy more that I thought would were the grounds and the château itself. Simply amazing. We were able to tour the castle in some of the old parts which had been filled with interpretative art from various artists from around the world. I didn’t “get” a lot of it either. Sigh…