Segue now from Monet's Garden yesterday to the Atlanta Botanical Garden where Niki de Saint Phalle's sculpures are on exhibition through October: the world's largest exhibition of her outdoor sculptures ever presented, traveling here from Switzerland, Germany, France and California!
We first heard of Niki (1930 - 2002) last year in Hannover, Germany, where 3 of her Nanas (scroll down in this link to see 2 of them) are permanently displayed on the bank of the Leine River, along with her grotto at the Herrenhäuser Royal Gardens and her exhibition at the Sprengel Museum there.
But NEVER in all my born days did I expect to find her HERE in Atlanta, my own back yard. It's like we brought Hannover back home with us!
Atlanta's exhibition is divided into 4 categories, as follows:
NANAS: Niki is best known for these "chicks" or "babes" (French) that are larger-than-life personifications of feminine power . Totally uninhibited and voluptuous, she calls them "heralds of a new matriarchal age."
HEROES: When Niki reflected on her own upbringing, she realized she lacked heroines as a child. Later, she wished for heroes for her great-grandson, and started sculpting a "Black Heroes" series that would give him people to look up to: Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and several sports' figures (see my album's basketball, baseball and golf pics).
TOTEMS: In 1993 Niki was inspired by Native American traditions (no wonder I love her!) and began researching and designing totems. Before finalizing her designs, she sought out the advice and approval of representatives from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. That's how much she respected the spiritual concepts of their culture!
ANIMALS: Niki loved fantastical animals and loved seeing children climb on and through them. In her auto- biography, Traces, she said, "Nature, dragons, monsters and animals have kept me in touch with the feelings I had about these things as a child. I feel that the part of me that stayed a child is the artist in me." This particular one she calls the "Nikigator!"
My photo album also contains some miscellaneous pieces that don't fit into these 4 categories but are there nonetheless, masterpieces of her incredible, prolific, creative spirit. Donica had a co-worker from Hannover in training here last week, and because Elke knew about Niki already, we did a fast, one-hour run-through of the gardens after a torrential downpour. Because it was a Thursday evening, when the garden is having "Niki Nights" throughout the exhibition, we were able to see some of the sculptures in a before-and-after sunset light, as the album shows.
Niki "was a citizen of the world: she was born near Paris, raised in New York, traveled in Europe and later worked in Switzerland, France, Israel, Italy, and finally California."
There is Soulful and there is SOULFUL. I told Donica that while working on this album I was in a SOULFUL "eternalized moment" that cannot be described or explained. She is definitely one of The Five People [I] Meet in Heaven some day, I hope! And we will definitely go back to see her again when we can take more time!