This week on Cultivating Place we hear the magical story of how two women, separated by time, came together to grow all of our imaginations.
May Sarton was a 20th century writer known for her poetry, novels, and her personal journals illuminating the landscape of the human heart and mind. She was also a life-long and avid gardener. She spent the last 22 years of her life on the coast of Maine in a house and garden called Wild Knoll, now a part of the Surf Point Artist In Residence Program.
Carly Glovinski is an artist working in a wide array of mediums that balance between craft, utility, and art. She joins us today to tell the story of how she helped reimagine May Sarton’s former house site as a garden and to re-establish Sartons’s extant gardens using Sarton’s well-known journal “The House by the Sea” as her guide.
It's an inspiring story of how we all existentially garden with one another in so many ways, entwined across time and space, and how we garden the past, present, and future simultaneously.
Carly's journey to Wild Knoll:
“While artist in residence at Surf Point in York, ME, I came upon a piece of land where a house had recently been taken down, with overgrown gardens and crumbling terraces. Upon further research, I learned that the writer May Sarton had lived and worked in the house on the site for decades. She wrote the book, “The House by the Sea” here and I had the privilege of reading this book while sitting on the site where it was written in 1975. The book was written journal style, and I quickly discovered how in touch with her natural surroundings and gardening the writer was- as I was reading her descriptions of plants, nearly 50 years later, I was looking at the same plants, overgrown and barely there. This experience led me to shift focus from the studio work I was there at the residency to complete and began planning for my first “living work”. -– Carly Glovinski
Beginning in 2021, visual artist Carly Glovinski, in collaboration with author and regenerative farmer, Acadia Tucker, re-established the existing terrace gardens using May Sarton’s book “The House By the Sea” as a guide. They also built a new garden space laid out according to the architectural drawings of the former house on the site. Low garden beds corresponding to the layout of the first floor of the house were constructed out of 2x4s, the same material used to build the walls of a house. Each former room of the house has a different color theme. Plant species for each of the color themed rooms were selected based on hardiness and drought resistance, natural animal resistance, and bloom times.
The restored gardens and new “rooms of flowers” on the old foundation are a place for residents and the public (by request) to enjoy.
Part environmental artwork, part community and historically engaged work, this project is a conversation, a negotiation, an honoring of a particular place- its future, and its history. It is a meditation on human connection to nature, and a commentary on time, care, and persistence for an artist and nature itself....
In 2023, Master Gardener Elizabeth Brown of Foxglove Farmhouse joined the collaboration to assist with tending the garden, ongoing consultation, and the development of a seed collection to accompany the project.
During the first 3 years of the project, Carly and collaborators journal and photograph their observations of the site and experiences tending the garden. This documentation will be be turned into a small book to accompany the project in 2024-2025, nearly 50 years after Sarton’s The House By the Sea was published.
In 2024, Carly will work with Surf Point to enable the of “activation” of the site, where the planted space becomes fertile ground for collaboration with invited writers, artists, and choreographers, providing a “stage” for response across other creative disciplines- highlighting the inseparability of the natural and the social- and the relationship between environment and community. A slate of public programming will be announced soon!
“Making living work that is shaped by its environment and ecosystem, and continually activated and tended by eco-minded creatives is a negotiation, an honoring, and an ever-evolving conversation. It brings in Mother Nature as a direct collaborator and primary maker. Together, we are both shapers of place. This way of working depends on constant tending, collaborative effort, and community in ways that are very different than my established studio practice and has seeded many new tendrils of interest for me. Through collaboration with regenerative farmers, writers, and flower farmers at the early stages of this work, I’ve uncovered a wealth of new knowledge, creative ideas, and a network of people that are very interested in this kind of merger of environmental and artistic fields.” – Carly Glovinski
As of fall 2023, Carly and the Wild Knoll garden team have held several events in the garden, they have hosted their first plant sale for the benefit of and sourced from the Wild Knoll garden, with another scheduled in the spring of 2024.
You can follow the work at Wild Knoll online: www.surfpoint.me/wildknoll; and on Instagram: @surfpoint.me
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JOIN US again next week, when we continue our theme of reimagining when we continue our theme of reimagining and check in on the evolving state of grassland management and education in conversation with Justin Luong, Assistant Professor of Rangeland Resources in the Department of Forestry, Fire, and Rangeland Management at Cal Poly Humboldt in Arcata Ca. That's next week right here, listen in!
Speaking of Plants & Place sprouting back up soon....
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Thinking out loud this week....
I love this theme of reimagining – reimaging what gardens are, should be, can be. Gardens being reimaginings of their own crafted by people in their places – to grow their food, their beauty, their portal between the outside world and their interior worlds – that line on either side of which we retreat from the world, or we enter and engage with the world. It is an entwinement that goes back to the very first of us, a dance between us and the land. Starting in some way from seed, and in another from a seed of thought in our own imaginations.
Speaking of Seeds – in this germinating seed of a new year, I am headed back out on the road and really looking forward to catching up and meeting with some of you! First up, I am in Chicago to help launch the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Super Seed Saturday on Saturday January 20th at 1 pm I will be speaking about my newest Book What We Sow as the kick off event for the annual Seed Swap from 2 – 4 pm in Burnstein Hall and Krehbiel Gallery. Both events are free of charge but you must register for the talk as space is limited. For more information and to register head over to Cultivating Place.com/Events.
And don’t forget to bring seeds to share, and bring a good tote to take home the seeds you fine. Can’t wait to share seed stories with you!
One of the sentences that jumped out at me from this conversation with Carly was from the very beginning when she noted that she came to her place at the Surf Point Residence because another artist could not make it, opening an invitation to her. You know how I feel about the very concept of invitation in our lives – they are all around us, waiting for us to read them and then to commit to saying yes. And Carly epitomizes that when she tells us: “I’ve kind of learned over the years that when things like this happen, you just say yes, and kind of fall forward and go.” Even though you are not sure about anything – your intentions, expectations, final forms or outcomes. I found this stunningly adventurous, bold, and brave to be honest.
I admire this kind of creative openness and optimism.
Not naivete, but confidence that we can be resourceful and artful – that we can and are and will create – and grow - some fantastic results if we put our minds, imaginations, hands, and hearts into it.
That’s what the best gardeners do.
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The CP team includes producer and engineer Matt Fidler, with weekly tech and web support from Angel Huracha, and this summer we're joined by communications intern Sheila Stern. We’re based on the traditional and present homelands of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of the Chico Rancheria. Original theme music is by Ma Muse, accompanied by Joe Craven and Sam Bevan.
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