Have you ever seen a piece of art and imagined it as a garden? I am not a horticulturalist, garden designer or landscape architect. My only design experience comes from moving seventeen times in thirty four years and always having to cram my stuff into a new house and find a way to make it look appealing. But I am an art lover.
I recently returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary where I was able to finally see in person the art that inspires my garden. When my husband was given an offer to stay in the apartment of work colleague in Vienna, we cashed in some frequent flyer miles, packed our bags and headed for Austria. Exhausted from a long flight but determined to stay awake to adjust to a different time zone, we dropped our bags off and hopped the tram to the Belvedere.
The Belvedere Gallery is home to Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, The Kiss and was in the midst of an extended Klimt exhibit. Seeing amazing art can be a physical, visceral experience. A huge square painting, I love the richness of the decorative abstraction, the sunniness of the gold leaf, and the focus on the couple. Although art critics have implied that The Kiss is a prelude to a more passionate ending, I don’t see it that way at all. To me, it is simply a tender, blissful moment between two people in love, which is more powerful and enduring than anything accomplished while naked.
Gustav Klimt was a rebellious painter, determined to do everything his way. The woman in the painting is rumored to be his best friend and lover, Emilie Floge, a wise woman who refused to marry him but endured his tendency to bed his models, fathering over 14 children.
Like the embrace in the painting, my garden is a hug, the edges pulling inward to envelop those in the center. It is a soft place, calm and cheerful. I have been told it isn’t edgy enough, spiky enough, or tropical enough. But my garden is exactly enough of what I need. My garden is my art, a steady embrace that pulls me in and keeps me centered. It is the novel I will never write and the plants quirkier than any character I could imagine. It is the painting and sculpture I have no ability to create. It is my own kiss.