Lynden Gardens on ice

By - Jan 26th, 2011 04:00 am
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Sculptures stand out in stark contrast against the freshly fallen snow. Photo by Ryan Findley

Skating in a Winter Wonderland
by Ryan Findley

Only people that live in a climate that includes real winter can appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty that is sub-freezing temperatures and snow drifts. It’s lucky for us all that Milwaukee is such a place. Perfect winter days come around; days when the sun is out, the wind is mild and with a warm coat and  hat, an afternoon spent outdoors is a divine idea. On Sunday at Lyden Sculpture Garden, as the sun peered through a thin layer of clouds and a brief smattering of snow sparkled in the light.

Sitting on 40 acres of converted farmland, complete with picturesque barn and farmhouse, the Lynden Garden is the former home of Milwaukee arts patrons Harry and Lynn Bradley. Scattered around the grounds are more than 50 sculptures, many of them sited by the artists at the invitation of Mrs. Bradley. One can imagine that in summer, with green lawns stretching to copses of dense trees, all reflected in the glassy surface of still water, the garden is beautiful. And in autumn, with explosions of natural color clamoring for your attention against some of the more garishly colored pieces in the collection, it must be lovely.

But this is winter. And there is a quiet in winter, a stillness that comes when everything is covered with soft blankets of snow and most living things stay burrowed in for warmth. There is a majestic and awesome power in this season, and it can be stunning. The Lynden Garden is proof positive of that. In an effort to promote the place as a year-round attraction, UWM is running special “winter events” in the garden. This past Sunday, ice skating on the frozen pond was available with admission to the grounds, with hot cider and a tour of the main house’s pop art collection to warm up with after your skate.

The surrounding woods and fields of unbroken white snow are a stark backdrop to the sculptures of the collection. If anything, winter is the time to purely appreciate the pieces themselves, without distraction from the environment. Several of the metallic sculptures reflect light from the sky and the snow simultaneously, creating patterns and depth that you’d be hard-pressed to recreate at any other time of year.

Photo by Claire Ruzicka

A Currier and Ives kind of day
by Judith Ann Moriarty

On Sunday, January 23, my artist friend Tom Kovacich accompanied me to the Lynden Sculpture Garden, the object being not only to avoid the Packer/Bear circus, but rather to view the debut of the ice-skating rink set on the magnificent acres of the former Bradley Sculpture Gardens. It’s been two years since the board of the Bradley Family Foundation decided to open Lynden to the public. It was inspiring to see so many kids and their parents and caretakers arriving to lace up their skates and test the mirror-like surface of frozen fabulous-ness. This was a one-shot debut, the Lynden’s first ever skating soiree, but perhaps it will expand in the future.

You can see from the above photo by Claire Ruzicka, that it was a Currier & Ives kind of day.

The Lynden’s gracious and informed Director of Education, Jeremy Stepien, toured us through the main house, sensitively re-designed to accommodate today’s world. The room where art classes are held is expansive and filled with light, and a full schedule of Summer Art Camps is on the sunny horizon. Pop Prints in the main gallery are up until February 16, and they’ve never looked grander. I recall seeing the Warhol serigraph, Flowers, 1969, at Peg Bradley’s zippy Zita’s before it closed.

Down at the rink, Executive Director Polly Morris was busy with a shovel, but duties done, she skated with the rest of the rosy-cheeked revelers. To the east, a stately willow stood sentinel. Fearing the world of plastic hips and knees, I declined to skate, opting instead of recall my glory days in Iowa when I skated on the river, imagining I was the Queen of Figure Eights…

A schedule of events, along with hours, admission, directions and membership can be found on the garden’s website.

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