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

David Hartt: A Colored Garden is the first artist-designed garden to activate the 49-acre historic site. Hartt’s work explores histories lying dormant in the landscape with speculative narratives that provide a playful, exuberant, and vibrant counterpoint to the surrounding grounds.

Located in the southern meadow just below the Glass House, Hartt’s circular garden spans forty feet and comprise an array of flowers — including peonies, chrysanthemums, zinnias, and phlox — that bloom sequentially, creating a variation of height, texture, and color. The selection of flowers correspond to the plant varieties found in the paintings of Charles Ethan Porter (1847 – 1923), an African American artist whose poetic still lifes, landscapes, and portraits were celebrated by well-known contemporaries such as Frederic Church, Edmonia Lewis, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Mark Twain. Although Porter studied in New York and worked for a time in Paris, his work is firmly rooted in and inspired by Connecticut where he spent most of his life. 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.

When designing the garden, Hartt took inspiration from David Whitney’s contributions to the Glass House site. As a well-known curator and Philip Johnson’s partner for over forty years, Whitney exerted considerable influence on the evolution of the landscape, including the creation of colorful gardens, many of which are no longer extant. The circular shape of the garden also echoes Johnson-designed elements within the site as well as Donald Judd’s site-specific concrete sculpture.

A bronze mask designed by Hartt holds cuttings from the garden and sit on top of the dining table in the Glass House. Additionally, an online exhibition  features works by Porter and Hartt alongside an evolving selection of materials documenting the project.

Hartt is a visual artist whose research-based practice investigates the interplay between culture, the built environment, and the communities that shape and are shaped by these concepts. As part of a year-long residency, he will begin work on a related film that reflects on the Arcadian ideals represented in the site’s landscape as well as The Burial of Phocion, a painting attributed to Nicolas Poussin that stands inside the Glass House. The film will follow a group of chamber musicians as they perform new music by composer Tomeka Reid. The roving camera will capture the performance, the structure of the building, and the pastoral context.

Curated by Cole Akers