Pittsburgh Botanic Garden displays artwork and handmade creations by artists and artisans in the Pittsburgh area and beyond. All exhibitions are included with the price of regular daily admission.
My stage is a piece of wood, the top of an old tool chest, 14 inches wide, 35 inches long, and just an inch high. It sits on a pedestal close to a window that gets filtered light. Rocks, pigs, flowers, binder clips, an occasional grape tomato, and other miscellaneous things collected through the years, recently ordered on Ebay, or found on the street, are my actors. They’re also my friends. I bond less with the perfectly manufactured binder clips, but the other creatures have spirits I respond to. Many are endearing – I love the dog with half a tail; I still feel sorry for the bunny that is missing a leg; and for whatever reason, I coo to the pigs. They are my perfect, imperfect collaborators that I direct to create stories of innocence, joy, impending doom, hope, as well as other human conditions that I see and partake in.
I started this series shortly before the COVID pandemic and I haven’t been bored, yet. As the world continues to be shaken by wars and natural disasters, (interrupted by glimmering good things, too, such as love), I go up to the studio on the third floor of my home, and with my “little friends” try to make sense of it.
John Charles ‘Charlie’ Brown is a 52-year resident of Collier Township, PA. Retired in 2003, he has been a lifelong woodworker and gardener and began wood turning 10 years ago. He has contributed countless hours to the Garden and created wondrous works of art in wood.
“When work began on Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, I volunteered regularly. First pulling weeds then building fences, gates, cubbies, bat houses, swift house, ferry houses, and shelving. Later, I created Items for both the farmstead and wedding reception area.”
“Working here gave me ample opportunity to procure logs in order to practice turning with a lathe. The creations were then donated to the Garden’s [Forage & Finds] Gift Shop for fundraising. I would not have been able to raise my skill level without the encouragement and support of the staff.”
“I am frequently asked “How long did that take?” Not easy to answer. Some live edge bowls can take a day from log to first coat of finish while others may take a week. Projects which are longer consist of shorter time segments that include making and assembling the parts before the turning begins. Regardless of the style or time element, I enjoy the process.”
Carbon Cycle: An Earth Art Exhibit connects the serpentine line and the circle — two of the most powerful symbols throughout human culture — to tell a story of transformation and rebirth, symbolizing the healing and evolution of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden’s site from coal mine to garden. This large-scale installation is designed by W. Gary Smith, an internationally known environmental artist.
W. Gary Smith has a simple mission: creating meaningful encounters between people, plants and the natural world. Gary has exhibited works in botanic gardens across North America, including exhibitions in Toronto, Montreal, California, Arkansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and more. Gary is the author of From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design and lectures frequently on art and nature.
Carbon Cycle: An Earth Art Exhibit opened on October 1, 2021 in the 5-acre Exhibit Garden. For more information about the work of W. Gary Smith, please visit wgarysmith.com.