Rebecca Allan–Wave Hill House
Wave Hill House
Cultivating Eden presents Rebecca Allan’s recent paintings referencing the labor of gardeners and their spaces. By focusing on their working process—both visible and unnoticed—her series praises the devoted care that the gardeners provide on a daily basis. As a professional garden designer herself, the artist considers Wave Hill as a special place where art and horticulture are intertwined. Both practices require tenacity, refined skill and historical curiosity.
As the artist/gardener explains, her work is driven by “a desire to nurture the world by envisioning and then enacting spaces where beauty is revealed.” Since moving to nearby Spuyten Duyvil from Seattle almost 20 years ago, Allan has become a frequent visitor to Wave Hill and has cultivated a relationship with the garden and the people who maintain it. In 2009, her work was included in the exhibition Arbores venerabilis, in Glyndor Gallery. She sees Wave Hill's landscape as a cosmos, like the worlds encapsulated in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 16th-century paintings. Allan draws inspiration from Bruegel’s Dutch landscapes and genre paintings, that depict views of daily life and labors. In a painting that she created for the ceiling in the Wave Hill House foyer, Allan also references 18th-century Venetian painter Giovanni Batista Tiepolo’s oval, ceiling murals with floating figures among billowing clouds.
For Allan, the elemental forces and seasonal cycles of growth and decay are evidence of the resilience of nature, which, at Wave Hill, is cultivated by the nurturing hands of the gardeners. Her painterly depictions range from panoramic to intimate. Grand canvases provide sweeping views of Wave Hill’s gardens, terraced landscapes and open horizons, while smaller works show the Alpine House behind the scenes, the workspaces and sheds, tools and bins underneath the benches and the courtyard where the staff keeps their equipment and vehicles. For this exhibition, Allan also created a series of individual portraits of the gardeners involved in their work. She captures candid moments of pruning, raking, watering, weeding and going about everyday tasks. In this way, Allan honors the seemingly mundane yet sophisticated knowledge of the horticulture staff by recognizing its value, as subject matter for art, and seeing the artistry in their handiwork.
Rebecca Allan is a Bronx-based artist, horticulturist and writer whose work is informed by her longstanding interest in botany and land conservation. Exhibiting in the United States and abroad for more than 25 years, she has been awarded residencies at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France; Hermitage Artists Retreat, Sarasota County, FL; Monson Arts, Monson, ME; Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Amherst, VA; Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, Temecula, CA; and Centrum Foundation, Port Townsend, WA. In 2018, she established her design firm Painterly Gardens. Dedicated to the dialogue between the arts and environmental stewardship, Allan is a Board Member of the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust. She earned an MFA in painting from Kent State University and is certified in sustainable garden design by the New York Botanical Garden.
Learn more about the artist at www.rebeccaallan.com.
Artist portrait: Ellen McDermott.