David Hartt A Colored Garden
The Glass House,  April 2021 - Ongoing

A Colored Garden encompasses a circular, forty-foot-wide garden designed by David Hartt and an exhibition of nine paintings by Charles Ethan Porter (1847–1923).  Reflecting on The Glass House’s transformation from a storied private home to a publicly accessible institution, the project considers the site’s potential to foreground new possibilities for social, political, and cultural engagement.

The selection of flowers in the garden corresponds to the floral paintings of Porter, a Connecticut-based artist who was among the first Black Americans to exhibit his work nationally and the only such artist that has been recorded to specialize in still lifes at the turn of the century.

In an 1883 letter to Mark Twain, Porter wrote, “I am aware that there are a goodly number of my [Connecticut] friends and others who are anxious to see how the colored artist will make out, but this is not the motive which impresses me. There is something of more importance, the colored people—my people—as a race I am interested in, and my success will only add to others who have already shown wherein they are capable, the same as other men.”

Hartt selected the title for this work—A Colored Garden—as a provocation that signals Porter’s identification as a “colored artist” as well as the garden’s capacity to function as a metaphor for race within the landscape.

Et in Arcadia Ego is a related film that that reflects on the Arcadian ideals represented in the site’s landscape. The film centers on a performance of new music by cellist and composer Tomeka Reid. In the film, she wears a mask designed by Hartt that is reminiscent of a work by Oskar Schlemmer, a polymath associated with the Bauhaus whose work Philip Johnson collected and donated to The Museum of Modern Art. The mask also functions as a vessel that occasionally holds cuttings from the garden on top of the dining table in the Glass House.

Curated by Cole Akers

Selected Press
Connecticut Post
New York Review of Architecture

Commisioned Texts
Breath of Life: The Art of Charles Ethan Porter
by Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Gardens of David Whitney
by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, Independent curator and author of The Philip Johnson Glass House: An Architect in the Garden