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Up on the Roof

Right smack dab in the middle of town, I’ve found a Paradise…Up on the Roof!”  – Signed, A. Bird (apologies to Carole King)

Want to create a paradise for your feathered friends? The IMA Greenhouse has an exciting new product for you…a Green Roof Birdhouse. You can actually plant a living garden in the rooftop tray of this cedar home for birds.

In order to create this home for your feathered friends, simply follow these step-by-step instructions:

First soak the wood with water, as well as the potting soil you’re going to use.

Add soil to the roof tray until it comes to within ½” of the top.


Take cuttings from a plant, hydrate the roots, and “stick” the cutting in the soil.

Add cuttings as desired.

Choose a contrasting plant, prepare a hole for the roots and plant. Continue adding plant material that pleases you. Remember to choose plants that have similar cultural requirements.

And know when to stop!

Spritz well with water to clean the soil from the leaves and water the plant roots thoroughly.


When your masterpiece is finished spritz well daily, or when the soil is dry to the touch, gently soak the plants. When planted, a Green Roof Birdhouse is so beautiful, you may want to display it indoors as a living object d’art! But if your birdhouse is really “for the birds,” it comes with two heavy-duty brass screws for fastening to a wall, fence or tree trunk. There is a side panel that swings open for easy cleaning.

When Rachel Carson wrote her iconic book Silent Spring (1962) some say she launched the entire American environmental movement. Others say it began with Henry David Thoreau’s Maine Woods published in the late 1800’s. But whenever the movement started, we can all agree…GREEN is here to stay!

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Greenhouse, IMA Staff


So, What If It Doesn’t Fit?

You customize, of course.

Material World, the latest exhibition in the Paul Textile and Fashion Arts Galleries, is comprised of tantalizing objects from around the world, each with its own set of installation needs. From court dresses to Imperial robes to ceremonial dance ensembles, the size and weight of the objects, vulnerability of materials, and the support needed vary from object to object. Some pieces demand heads for accompanying headdresses, while others require specific stances, or modified mounts.

Custom mount for woman’s belt.

Installed, the ring supports the belt allowing long fringe to hang freely.

In some instances, dresses slipped on mannequins with little adjustment, but in other cases the silhouette of the garment or weight and texture of the fabric prohibited the use of conventional dress forms. One example is a Chinese Palace Guard uniform worn by a sentinel in the Imperial army during the Qing Dynasty. The ensemble consists of eight pieces: an oversized coat, over-trousers split in the center covered with an embroidered panel, two shoulder ornaments made of heavy gilt bronze, and patches buttoning onto the jacket. The striking ensemble is made of heavy brocaded satin cloth with gold metallic threads enhanced by the addition of hundreds of bronze studs covering the surface of the fabric. Due to the weight of the fabric and size of the coat, the piece could not be exhibited on a mannequin in a pose with arms at the side. In addition, we had to account for the heavy epaulets on either shoulder, to ensure that each are supported without placing any strain on the fabric. Therefore, we enlisted the help of the IMA’s mount maker, Brose Partington. Brose removed the mannequin’s arms and created customized armatures that lock on.

The result is impressive. Not only does the pose alleviate strain on the fabric (had the arms been used, the sleeves would have bunched and crushed under the arms on either side) but the domineering uniform can now be viewed in its entirety.

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Filed under: Art, Textile & Fashion, The Collection



Well, here I am in Atlanta at the Perennial Plant Symposium, on the bus waiting to start today’s tours of gardens, growers, and retail establishments. It’s actually been hotter in Indianapolis. The Hort folks left behind have been working like firemen to keep the plants alive.

It’s been a good week. Lots of good lectures. Lots of good gardens.  Lots of good plants. Lots of good people. I will be reporting on some of that later. I ran out of time to do it properly today.

I will mention the world of Echinaceas continues to expand – more sizes, more colors, more trials. These will continue to improve.  Amazing plants are on the way.

The new “it” perennial is probably going to be Kniphofia, the red hot pokers. More colors coming, longer blooming, shorter (not too short please!!!).

A bit of personal news, yours truly is the new Great Lakes Regional Director for the Perennial Plant Association. It was an honor just being nominated. I will try my best.

That’s it for now. Here’s hoping for cooler temps and some rain.

Filed under: Horticulture, Travel


Rediscovering America

Our guest blogger today is Morgan Hayes, graduate summer intern in the IMA’s Paintings Conservation Department from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Morgan joined Linda Witkowski, IMA Senior Conservator of Paintings and project manager, and Christina Milton O’Connell, IMA Associate Conservator of Paintings, for the summer to complete the treatment of "America" by Leon Reni-Mel at the National Headquarters for the American Legion.

The National Headquarters for the American Legion lies deep in the heart of the Midwest, right here in Indianapolis.  Not exactly the first place I would expect to find an early 20th century painting by the French artist, Léon Reni-Mel.  Not knowing what to expect inside the formidable, austere building, I was somewhat surprised to find a quiet office space full of friendly staff, a small museum of military artifacts, and a grand meeting hall with a desk for each state’s representatives; the latter being home to the America painting, which has hung on the wall of the main stage for the past 90 years or so.  My daily walk to our workspace includes a trip down a long hallway flanked by countless photographs of past National Commanders and officials from as early as 1919, the legion’s inaugural year.  It is a daily reminder of the deep history and singular culture that this organization and its members have lived through.

Walk to work at the American Legion National Headquarters.

Another amazing glimpse into the history of this project was through the incredible collection of letters and archival material that has been preserved since the early 1900’s.  I was privy to primary source materials written directly by Reni-Mel and various officials of the legion, including rare footage of the artist painting America in his studio in France.

Now onto the project:  The painting, America, was created in 1918 by the French Ministry of War Painter, Léon Reni-Mel, and given to the American Legion for the United States’ assistance to France during the Great World War.  The canvas is 12’ x 7’ and depicts two allegorical soldiers, one stalwart American raising his hand to halt the enemy while assisting the other, a wounded Frenchman about to collapse.  The soldiers stand on a bank of highly textured mud with smoke and flames rising around them in the distance, blending slowly into the swirling colors of the sky.  At the bottom of the canvas, Reni-Mel gave the work its own caption, AMERICA, flanked by the signatures of two honorary National Commanders, General John Pershing of the United States Army and Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the French Minister of War.  Reni-Mel’s signature and the date of completion were also added at the lower left and right.  The painting has very high impasto, giving the work incredible texture and depth, but making the cleaning process even more challenging!

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Filed under: Art, Conservation


A Visit to the Kröller-Müller

On the last day of my two-month experiment in Dutch living, I squeezed in a visit to the vaunted Kröller-Müller Museum and Sculpture Garden near Otterlo, the Netherlands. It had always been on my to-see list because of Claes Oldenburg’s Trowel I (1971-76)—one of his earliest large-scale projects—but I was also curious to think about the sculpture garden in relation to our very own 100 Acres.

The Kröller-Müller is located on about 60 acres, set within De Hoge Veluwe National Park, and visitors can either park their cars nearby and take a brief walk to the museum, or leave their cars in several locations along the park border and pick up a free bike to cycle to the museum. Taking the latter option, I started to think about the art-viewing pilgrimage—whether it’s climbing the steps of a neoclassical art temple, riding in a van across the New Mexico countryside to reach The Lightning Field, or wending your way through the IMA’s formal gardens and crossing the canal into 100 Acres.  Before the art viewing, there is the preparing for the art viewing.  Not a walk for the sake of a walk, but a palate cleanser in anticipation of a specific, intentional sensory experience.

Along this same vein, I recently enjoyed encountering several empty galleries at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. As part of its temporary program during the construction of its new wing, the Stedelijk has reopened its renovated original building with a changing installation of works from their permanent collection. Interspersed between galleries that for the most part contain single artworks, are unlit vacant spaces that are at first curious, and, upon further consideration, revelatory. These spaces were designed in part as a creative solution to the fact that the museum is still under construction—insufficient climate control, the need for light blocks for new media works—but they also provide a fascinating pause between artworks: a breath in the often-overwhelming bam-bam-bam of artworks presented in quick succession. The rooms draw your attention to the building itself—its architecture, its history, its key role in the framing of each work on display.


Dan Graham, "Two Adjacent Pavilions," first version 1978, second version 2001.

Most important about the darkened rooms is that they do a fine job of affirming one’s place in the world/city/building/room, urging you to consider your presence as a body in space (phenomenology, if you will). Also very successful at accomplishing this is Dan Graham’s Two Adjacent Pavilions (first version 1978, second version 2001), which is sited near the entrance of the Kröller-Müller Museum. Made of glass and steel, Two Adjacent Pavilions is part architecture, part sculpture, and its reflective surfaces frame and mirror the lush grounds, the more traditional sculpture nearby (Mark Di Suvero’s K-piece, 1972), and also your own encounter with the structure.  Entering the glass cubes (the doors were propped open), I was immediately hurtled into an unstable ground between experiencing the work and being the work. The subject/object relationship was upended marvelously, and I was made acutely aware of my own presence, the proximity of others, and Graham’s expert insistence upon his art’s integration with its context. His art is the context.

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Filed under: Art, Art and Nature Park, Contemporary, IMA Staff, Travel


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