Denver Botanic Gardens Showcases Southwestern Sculptures & Spirit

A warrior sculpture in bronze by Allan Houser at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

If you haven’t seen the Denver Botanic Gardens’ exhibit, called Native Roots/ Modern Form: Plants, Peoples and the Art of Allan Houser, hurry over. The exhibit is on for just one more month, until November 13, 2011.

Houser’s exquisite bronze sculptures are wonderfully set among Southwestern plants at the Gardens and show the artist’s connection to the land and his pride in his native ancestry. An American modernist, Allan Houser (1914-1994) was a tribal member of the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, and he’s famous for his depiction of native themes and visages.

This exhibit celebrates bonds between people and also presents American Indian uses for plants indigenous to the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest.

The Botanic Gardens has once again melded sculptures and botanicals into something unique to behold.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Navajo shepherd by Allan Houser. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

Photos © Laurel Kallenbach

Art Al Fresco: Four Seasons of Henry Moore Sculptures at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Henry Moore’s "Mother and Child" heralds spring at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo: Laurel Kallenbach

I’ve had the privilege to see the exquisite sculptures by 20th-century British sculptor Henry Moore (1898–1986) at the Denver Botanic Gardens in spring, summer and winter. (I missed fall because I was traveling elsewhere.)

Moore’s iconic, modernist masterpieces have been incorporated into the lovely garden settings since last March.

But hurry: the Moores leave Denver after January 31, 2011, and they shouldn’t be missed.

Evergreen Art

The beauty of viewing art al fresco is that the sculptures reflect moment by moment what’s happening in the landscape. (And Moore, who was heavily influenced by the natural world, surely meant for his bronzes to be enjoyed outdoors.)

Moore’s smooth surfaces and organic lines transform by the hour as the light shifts. The sculptures transmogrify by the season as the foliage around them blooms or withers.

“Mother and Child” during December’s Blossoms of Light display. Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin

Compare the outdoor experience to seeing a piece of art in an indoor museum, where the artificial light is static and the surrounding walls do not change shape or color.

And, even though they’re abstract, Moore’s sculptures feel very human and tactile. The smooth surfaces, although bronze, have a skin-like quality.

Green in the Gardens

“Oval with Points” with April crabapple blossoms. Photo: Laurel Kallenbach

You should visit the Denver Botanic Gardens to enjoy its plants, flowers, fountains, pools and outdoor art—but here’s another benefit: the nonprofit organization is also committed to sustainability.

  • In July 2009, the Gardens started installing solar panels to generate renewable electricity from the sun. The solar array currently in place produces 10,000 watts, one third of the Gardens’ planned total array of 30,000 watts, which will be enough to completely power six Denver homes.
  • Denver Botanic Gardens’ research staff collaborates with organizations and agencies to protect and conserve many of Colorado’s rarest plant species.

    “Large Reclining Figure, 1984” in summer. Photo: Laurel Kallenbach

  • The research staff also works to control and eradicate invasive plants, considered second only to habitat destruction in causing species extinctions. The staff conducts research on the impacts of invasive species such as tamarisk, saltcedar, Russian olive, and cheatgrass.
  • The Gardens are an invaluable resource for gardeners who want to learn more about low-water, high-altitude growing.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

“Large Reclining Figure” in winter.      Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin