Friday, September 23, 2005
Visiting the Viselaya Sculpture Exhibit on West Street
If you drive the posted 25 MPH speed limit on West Street, you may have noticed a tremendous wooden portal near the intersection of Log Hill Road. You cannot really see into the heavily wooded property with its natural shield of trees. In August, you might have seen heavy trucks entering and exiting the main gates. In September, you must have been aware of the parked cars and walking traffic entering the property. Now through October 7, you can even schedule a visit to pass through the gates and view the Viselaya Sculpture Exhibit. The show runs on weekends from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and on weekdays, for groups of eight or more. Admission is free, but you must request admission by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 1-978-405-9426.
The West Street property, residence of Pamela and Gregory Bruell, featured the first Viselaya Sculpture Competition in 2003. This second exhibit, open to sculptors internationally, features the 22 garden-scale finalists. Head competition judge, Jonathan Fairbanks, from the Museum of Fine Arts, announced the winners of the top prizes, totaling $5,000, at an Opening Day Artist's Reception on September 10. Advisory jurors Stuart Feldman (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) and Pamela Bruell (Viselaya Foundation) assisted Fairbanks with his choices.
Pamela considers the community support "amazingly" positive: "Last time we actually were surprised that the intensity of visitors to the exhibit actually escalated as the days went on. Our immediate neighbors came to see the exhibit, and then they told all of their friends. Some of our neighbors came to see the exhibit two or three times as they brought different friends and relatives.
"We were a little concerned that all the commotion might irritate some of our neighbors so we tried to make them feel comfortable letting us know if it was bothering them and every time we said that they said, 'Oh, gosh no, we're so thrilled; we're excited; we're so proud to see something like this happening in Carlisle.' So, I have only got positive responses. A lot of our neighbors have volunteered as well."
Pamela and Greg Bruell moved to Carlisle in 1992. The site has three acres of land suitable for garden landscaping.
"We looked at a much nicer house in Concord," Greg recalls, "but it was on a small lot, and I said, 'I can't do that.' I didn't know why. Then we looked at this place and I said, 'This is perfect and I didn't know why.' " The first spring, in 1993, he took a shovel and started digging a pond.
"That's how it started," he continues. "I didn't have a vision for the garden. I just wanted to go out and build a pond." A computer scientist, Bruell found working outside helped him relax. It took him four tries to make the pond six feet in diameter — hold water. He wasn't really interested in gardening in the beginning, he notes: "I didn't know the difference between a moss and a grass." Over the years he began noticing the trees, however. They seemed to "pop up" everywhere. So, several years later, when he decided to try a bigger pond, 20 feet in diameter, it was important to him to incorporate existing trees in the concept. He designed a plan and hired a local company, Salt Box Nurseries in Billerica, to do the work.
Over time, Bruell became a more active gardener. He prefers simplicity and naturalism to the more cultivated and manicured garden. For example, instead of the mulch in many gardens around town you will find moss lining the circular base of trees.
Three years ago Bruell engineered the building of a huge, fenced-in pond, complete with goldfish that live in the pond year round. He recently added turtles to the pond, and today he is considering ducks: "They come in but they don't stay."
Both the Carlisle and Concord garden tours had featured the Bruell property in the late '90s. The couple enjoyed sharing the site with the community. They also realized they could host large numbers of people in the garden.
Pamela Bruell, a scientist and biologist, loves to collect art. Combining her interest with her husband's hobby resulted in the Viselaya Foundation. The organization hosts a competition for figurative sculpture and displays of art. Bruell notes that it is difficult for artists of figurative sculpture (a representation of a human or animal form) to find a setting to display their work outdoors. Figurative pieces can range from nude or clothed figures, portraits, busts or torsos, animals, and even a fountain of a large group of figures.
"The bucolic and peaceful environment we have here in Carlisle and the landscape garden that we have built here gave us a unique asset that we could offer to the arts community," Pamela says. "We could make possible an exhibit that the MFA couldn't do because they're not in a quiet, restful suburb."
It takes more than a year to prepare for an exhibit of this scale. Monica Reinagel, Viselaya publicist and sister of Pamela Bruell, explained that the foundation publicizes the competition through groups that connect artists such as The National Sculpture Society and publications like "Art News" and "Sculpture Review." Reinagel also reaches sculptors through companies that produce their supplies, such as Complete Sculpture in New York. She also communicates with galleries and private collectors that directly sponsor a particular artist.
"It was easier for people to see what we're about," says Reinagel about the effect the 2003 had on the 2005 competition. "People saw the extraordinary level of sculpture that we have here." In 2005, five of the same artists were repeat finalists, but 17 of the finalists are new. According to the rules, no work can be re-entered in a Viselaya competition. However, Phillipe Faruat received the Prize for the Mastery of Medium for the second year in a row for a new piece, "La Fille du Marin" (Fisherman's Daughter). The artist assembled the piece from pre-carved blocks at the Carlisle site.
Reinagel says the foundation tries to keep the judges "as blind as we can make them." She says that the judges are " just looking at the pieces and not looking at them in any kind of context: who's who; who's been where; who's done what." The well-defined process for entering a piece appears on the organ-ization's web site, www.viselaya.org.
The sculpture in the 2005 Viselaya Foundation show includes works of living artists and most are for sale. Prices range from just under $1,000 to over $30,000, according to Reinagel. Most end up in the hands of private collectors rather than museums which usually acquire new pieces from bequests.
You still have a unique opportunity to view high-caliber sculpture in a garden, through the end of the monthan opportunity that will not be repeated in Carlisle or anywhere else in the Boston area for another two years.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito