“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of a hill. Belonging to it.”—Frank Lloyd Wright
I watch a yellow butterfly wave me into her forest hamlet, with a upward sweep of her black-striped wing.
She eyes me sitting on the rough-hewn wooden bench.
“Come over to my world,” she seems to say.
I pull out my iPhone eager to take a photo of her sitting on a stray stone or overturned log growing moss.
“No,” she tells me. “Put down your phone and look around you.”
She is a ballerina performing a pirouette on pointed wing.
My mind spins like her delicate wings.
The butterfly lures me across the two-plank bridge to stand on the pebble path straddling the creek. It snakes downstream.
Twirling to follow the butterfly’s acrobatics, I put down my iPhone and record a video in my mind of her aerial dance routine—up up in the air, down to touch a blade of grass, off to the left to follow the creek’s path.
My eyes gaze down the path to the bright yellow plastic tape emblazoned with the words CAUTION in black cap letters. I marvel at how the universe can take a construction sign and turn it into a three-word poem.
Slow. Down. Linger.
I take a leaf in my hand and pull it to my nose. I smell musty dirt and wild herbs. Mold. I look around me. I have entered a Monet painting. Random shades of greens are haphazardly splashed on a canvas—blurring, blending, swirling like the leaves twisting on a branch. I listen to a forest symphony. The burbling creek reminds me of a flute that rises one fluid note at a time. The limpid water strikes a rock, rolls over pebbles and slips under a stick.
Then I begin my tour of my AirBnb host’s Jewel Vinsota* Sculpture Park. This “art garden” is the brainchild of craftsman/artist David Gibney. On the back of his property in Smithsburg, Maryland, he has placed outdoor sculptures crafted from ordinary items, such as boulders, wood, glass, stones and metal. It takes a minimum of 30 minutes for me to walk through the park and observe each item. I stare at the sculpture items from different angles, particularly when it intersects with a tree limb or the creek.
To my left across from the plank bridge Is a silver octagonal item, floating above the creek. It disrupts this rural space. It is so modern. I feel like someone is turning on a light in an outdoor space. Then I look downstream.
The hanging metal sculpture is framed by a cobalt blue totem pole in the background. Again the blue shocks me in this muted green and brown natural landscape. Two oversized concrete balls are poised in the dirt. The incongruity of these three dissimilar items—metal, wood and stone—makes me stop to ponder for a long time.
I think David (and his wife Sarah) can probably see all these (personal) talismans from looking out the window of their Craftsman-style house. It too is reminiscent of an art museum with its stain glass windows.
But I marvel at what I will discover when I turn right to follow the path. David’s sculptures lead me into a fairyland. I see elfin people stare at me. Yet they are only simple rocks placed on slabs, staring into space. He groups them often together in close vicinity. I wonder if they talk together when the lights dim at night. They are scattered around the creek, near the trees and on the forest path.
His most dramatic sculptures are life-sized, such as the 7-foot rectangular frame comprised of metal and mesh. It reminds of a stain glass window gone awry, as if a hurricane had pounded out panes of glass and sheered away panels.
But his most incredible sculptures cleave to tree limbs. Glass is blowtorched to create a glittering quilt. It sparkles like the mid morning sun that creeps through the canopy of trees. I am amazed how David recycles found objects—glass, deflated tires, hubcaps and corrugated metal—as well as natural objects—such as stones and tree trunks—to create art in nature (assemblage collage).
The Jewel Vinsota Sculpture Park is not on the forest grounds. It is part of it. Like Frank Lloyd Wright’s admonishment that hill and house should live happily together, so Gibney’s art belongs in these woods on Washington County, Maryland.
* His house is named after his mother’s nickname (Jewel) and Vinsota (which is the combination of his father’s name (Vincent) with the state of Minnesota (where the family spent many vacations).