area in front of Rosecliff, the Gilded Age mansion that was the venue for the show. “So I knew
I needed something with some vertical scale.
And I thought, ‘What about an outdoor gallery?’ ” Rather than outdoor works of art such
as sculpture or topiary, however, he envisioned
a setting evocative of interior walls hung with
enlarged framed copies of Peckham’s work.
With a team of carpenters, antiques restorers,
between wood. He covered the walls with plant-ings that literally grew out of the structure, but
he left room for 10 pieces of artwork.
“It took me three return visits to the
historical society to decide exactly which
Peckham botanicals to use,” says Gardner,
who went through the carefully preserved
watercolors in the collection to choose 16
candidates. He then cross-checked them
against Lisa Gould’s Vascular Flora of Rhode
Island and ended up with 10 that were both
native plants (the theme of his display) and
blue (a requirement of flower show organizers, who had invited landscape designers to
re-create a famed 1930s “Blue Garden” from
a Newport estate).
With permission from the historical society, Gardner then had reproductions of the 10
paintings printed on outdoor canvas embedded with ultraviolet protection, framed the
works in mahogany that was painted and distressed in tones of blue, and hung them on
the living walls. “The walls contained the outdoor space, and the frames created an interior
dimension,” says Gardner, who ended up winning three awards for the display.
But the most satisfying aspect of the outdoor gallery may well have been simply the
joy of having art and nature stroll hand in
hand — with Edward Lewis Peckham’s much-loved subjects en plein air.
Photo : Eric Scott
The Rhode Island Historical Society, which
owns the 500 original watercolors in Edward
Lewis Peckham’s “Collection of Watercolors,
Illustrating Plants and Wildflowers in and
Around Rhode Island,” sells prints of the artwork
for a fee based on the intended use of the print.
For information, contact RIHS, 121 Hope Street,
Providence, RI 02906; 401-335-8575;