TOLEDO MAGAZINE

Sculptures are evergreen art

Art delights visitors year-round at Toledo Botanical Garden

6/23/2013
BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A sculpture of a young woman in the Toledo Botanical Garden.
A sculpture of a young woman in the Toledo Botanical Garden.

The following correction was published on June 25, 2013: A story Sunday on page B6 incorrectly identified the source of funding for Empathy, a sculpture in the rose garden at Toledo Botanical Garden. It was purchased by the five children of Elise and Jim Brower as a tribute to their parents.

The grande dame of the city’s largest garden is a stout, long-coated figure from another time, perhaps a storybook.

Boxy, topped with a beat-up wide-brimmed hat, and entertaining three birds, Woman with the Birds (1974, bronze) stands sentinel between the Conference Center and the expansive herb plantings at Toledo Botanical Garden. She couldn’t be more different from her sculptor, the late Joe Ann Cousino, who was tall, slender, and stylish.

PHOTO GALLERY: Sculptures at the Toledo Botanical Garden

It’s the stunning vegetation and serene vistas that pull us to these verdant 64 acres in West Toledo, open during daylight hours year round and free, except for special events. Planted throughout this gently rolling landscape are objects d’art, sturdy creations of metal, wood, concrete, stone, and glass.

Near the bird woman but often overlooked is another Cousino sculpture: Light Source is black, three-feet-tall, and urn-like.

A sculpture of a mother and child stands in the Rose Garden in the Toledo Botanical Garden.
A sculpture of a mother and child stands in the Rose Garden in the Toledo Botanical Garden.

Monument to a Tree (1994, by Carl Floyd) deserves a sit-on-the-grass ponder on the knoll above Crosby Lake. One of its two pieces is a frame outlining the tree’s puzzle-like shape. The other piece, about 10 feet away, is the tree with cut-out branches through which leaves from real trees can be seen from one vantage, and from the other view, sky. Locating a curly-tailed squirrel in the tree requires a slow gaze. The rusty-brown piece was cut from a 20-foot slab of steel recycled from lake freighters, truck trailers, and a nuclear power plant.

Nearby is the room-like Small Park with Arches (1984, Alice Adams), a favorite spot for portraits and wedding photographs. Ms. Adams crafted it from wooden beams and laminated arches. After years of weathering, its minders, the Arts Commission and TBG staff, gave it real staying power. Sculptor Ken Thompson, of Blissfield, Mich., clad it in gleaming stainless steel brushed with a swirling pattern that suggests a holographic look when seen close-up and straight-on.

There’s a dance in the rose garden. The swirling skirts of a woman and child, arms clasped, were sculpted in bronze by Emmanuel Enriquez. It was purchased by the five children of Elise and Jim Brower as a tribute to their parents. Several others were paid for by Toledo’s One Percent for Art program, which has set aside a penny for each buck the city spends on construction since 1977, and are maintained by the Arts Commission.

'Ruth' (1962) by Lavern E.
'Ruth' (1962) by Lavern E. "Ernie" Moll. in the Toledo Botanical Garden.

Others, such as Phoenix Cairn, are cared for by TBG staff. This eight-foot-tall conical hut of hundreds of feet of coiled clay wrapped in a circle (it was fired on the spot), rests on grass near the shade garden. Irresistible to children who hide in the dark cone and peek out its tiny holes, it was fashioned in 1989 by Oklahoman Laurie Spencer and is so popular that she’s been invited back to create similar pieces at the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg (2012), and the University of Toledo’s Center for Sculptural Studies (2009).

Don’t miss the joyful Ruth (1962, Lavern E. "Ernie" Moll.), and near her a brushy caterpillar, a delightful fairy garden, and huge glass flowers. In the perennial garden, there’s an elegant concrete goddess and cherubs, the vegetable garden is overseen by a happy tin woodsman.

Arborus Nine (1976, Harry Wheeler), nine carved wooden poles rising up to 27 feet at the Elmer Drive entrance, may be moved to a location where people can walk through them, said Nathan Mattimoe, coordinator of art in public places at the Arts Commission. And a trio of yellow floaters, Watching for the Wind (1989, Roy Wilson), are to be reinstalled in Crosby Lake this summer.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.