Last fall the City of Albuquerque put out a call to artists to submit design proposals for a permanent public art installation in a new Rose Garden in the Albuquerque BioPark. Loving roses, both for their beauty and their symbolic meaning, I decided to give it a try. In addition, through my experience as lead artist for the International District Community Art Garden, I had learned that I do not have to know everything to bring a project to completion. I had learned how to collaborate with others who have different areas of expertise from my own.
The call was for art which would reflect the importance of roses in the Southwest landscape. Researching roses, I discovered that antique roses which precede the modern hybrid tea roses date back to the Roman days. These antique roses are hardy, tolerate cold, and flourish well in a dry environment. Working off of the idea of the ancient, I gravitated to the use of the Gothic Rose Window as the form for the art. These windows, found in Gothic Cathedrals across Europe, are called rose windows because the panes of stained glass radiate outward just like the petals of a rose.
In addition, the symbolism of the Gothic Rose Windows fits well with what one might hope to experience in a beautiful rose garden. These rose windows are seen as mandalas, which are spiritual expressions of the desire for wholeness and harmony. The rose window serves us on many levels – spiritual, mental, and emotional.
The call was for the art to be incorporated into a fence to be constructed on the west side of the garden. The concept of a window type installation seemed appropriate for such a location.
My design called for three large Gothic type Rose Window shaped sculptural pieces. The design would be realized with a combination of metal with appropriately colored patina, glass mosaic, and fused glass. The North Rose Window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Chartres, France (seen in the first photo here) was the inspiration for the central piece of my three proposed art pieces. Of course the Rose Window built into the stone walls in the Chartres Cathedral is massive. I used a segment of the Sacred Geometry of the Chartres Rose Window for the design, as my piece would be only 10 feet high.
The two “Rose Windows” that go on each side of the center Rose, though placed in the same outward form of a Gothic window, depart from the geometry of the rose window designs. They display a stylized tree within each window form. The tree, a symbol of life throughout the world, unites heaven and earth, digging into the earth with its roots and reaching to the sky with its branches. Placed appropriately on either side of the “Rose Window” central piece, they create a frame for the Rose Window which lends a feeling of enduring strength and protection to the more fleeting feelings of love, beauty and inner secretes associated with the rose.
Finally, to bring New Mexico into the feeling of the design I planned the placement of these metal and mosaic pieces in a structure built to look like the skyline of the multi-storied residential complex you can find in places like Taos Pueblo. This architectural element is repeated many places in New Mexico and has become an iconic symbol of New Mexico.
I worked very hard to meet the deadline, which was October 31, 2014, knowing full well that another artist team might win the commission. The Rose Garden opened to the public last month but without any art. Unfortunately the City of Albuquerque decided in December, 2014 that they were not yet ready to move forward with art for the Rose Garden – sort of disappointing when you consider all the work that all the different artist teams put into their design proposals. Perhaps I can find another home for this concept?