Wildflower Works followup

I’ve received a few emails alerting me that I had information wrong in my previous post on Chapman Kelley’s piece, Chicago Wildflower Works.

Here’s a shot from 1992, taken well before the park was altered by the city of Chicago. The image was provided by the artist.
And the shot I used in my previous post was taken after the piece was altered in 2004.
In addition, here’s a watercolor proposal for the piece done in 1984.
And a photo of the park with Frank Gehry’s concert pavilion in the foreground. A curving pedestrian bridge connects that pavilion to the altered garden by Chapman Kelley.

Although I was a bit confused on this originally, seeing all these images has greatly helped me understand Chapman Kelley’s federal appeal that his site-specific installation is original art under the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act. In September 2008, a Chicago Federal District Court said the park piece did not meet the definition of original art, and this spring, Kelley appealed that decision. More than half of the wildflowers were removed and as you can see in the photos, the ovals were altered to a long rectangle with one oval in the middle.

For really good reaction and analysis of this court case, there have been two excellent posts on the Arts and Ecology Blog here and here. Also, there’s a good post from 2007 on the Aesthetic Grounds blog.

As an artist and gardener, my heart is definitely with Chapman Kelley on this appeal. How terrible to see a garden that you designed and helped maintain for decades get ripped up? The main thing seems to be managing expectations—something the city did horribly by not working with the artist when deciding to alter his work.

Some might say this is simply landscaping but somewhere in there (and I guess this is the point of the court issue) there’s the line between art and landscaping, artist rights and the rights of the city or whichever institution manages site-specific art.

If anything, I’m glad some of the wildflower park is still there and maybe a compromise can be reached to expand or do the best to return the Wildflower Works to it’s original proposed format.

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