Hidden beauty in the city. Reflective Art Brings Light, Color To Historic Spaces…and our imaginations.

Birthing ‘Cloud Terrace’ In D.C.

In the U.S., Dumbarton Oaks — a historic, 10-acre garden in Washington, D.C. — is also ablaze with colors. It has roses, azaleas, lilies and a new, temporary installation by Cao and Perrot. The pair arranged tree-high poles into an oval shape and on top of those poles they perched a configuration that pairs luxury with something very basic.

“It’s a wire mesh cloud made of two different gauges of chicken wire,” says John Beardsley, head of the garden and landscape studies department of the Harvard research institute based at Dumbarton Oaks. “It’s just plain old chicken wire… folded into elaborate shapes that evoke a big bank of cumulous clouds. And then it’s hung with 10,000 Swarovski crystals.”

… in tough times, art is more important … keeping the spirits up and the soul alive in difficult economic circumstances is terribly important.

– John Beardsley

Like those at Beauvais, the crystals at Dumbarton Oaks are on loan from the Austrian company. All 10,000 have been hand-tied to the chicken wire cloud, where they cast prisms everywhere. On a cloudy day, they glimmer like raindrops.

“And then it’s all reflected in an oval pool that the designers created to reflect it in,” Beardsley says.

Between sculpting the wire mesh and threading and tying each of the cut crystals, it took the landscape artists and some volunteers a month to make Cloud Terrace, which is open to the public through November. Until the actual installation, Beardsley had only seen drawings of the piece. He says he was relieved when it was finally in place.

“It’s a birthing experience,” he says, laughing. “We gave birth to 10,000 crystals and a wire mesh cloud.”

But in the midst of all the oohs and aahs, you have to ask how — in these rough economic times, with daily doses of joblessness, hopelessness and anxiety — you can justify the luxurious sparkle of artworks like this? Well, Beardsley says, the crystals are on loan, and chicken wire doesn’t cost much. He says the real investments were time and aesthetics. And then, there’s something else:

“There’s also the saying that, in tough times, art is more important,” he says, “that keeping the spirits up and the soul alive in difficult economic circumstances is terribly important.”

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