Burning Man is a unique event that takes place every year in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA. But today we are not in the deserts of Nevada. Instead we are among the green hills of England’s Peak District.
The beautiful Chatsworth House has been the home of the Dukes of Devonshire for centuries. The house, and its stunning gardens, are popular visitor attractions. The latter were designed by Joseph Paxton, while the surrounding parkland bears the unmistakable hallmarks of Capability Brown.
This summer, the park (which is free to visit apart from a car park fee) has been taken over by twelve large sculptures. Four of these were built on site, including three created in the parkland with the help of local schools and community groups over the course of the year. This echoes the build process at Burning Man which sees teams of volunteers gathering in the desert to create new artworks. The remaining eight have travelled here from the festival in Nevada.
I hope Marsha will overlook the £5 we paid to park here and allow me to share my favourites for the Photographing Public Art challenge. We stopped off in Derbyshire on our way home from Yorkshire, staying a night in a pub near Chatsworth specifically to be able to see these works, and were so glad that we had.
NB Some of my text below is taken verbatim from the map of the exhibits on the Chatsworth website.
Wings of Glory, by Adrian Landon
This is a mythical horse and has been sited in front of the former stable block. Unfortunately something was wrong with the mechanics when we visited so the wings, which should move, were still. But it was still an impressive piece, towering above us as we started our explorations.
The Flybrary, by Christina Sporrong
This huge head was visible from the drive as we arrived so we made a bee line for it after photographing Wings of Glory. There are books flying from the top, like a flurry of ideas. The Flybrary is an invitation to let your imagination run free!
Transmutation, by Arturo Gonzales and Maru Izaguirre
This fantasy creature was inspired by Mexican folk art. It is a hybrid of many animals and viewers are invited to see which they can spot. It clearly has the tusks of a walrus and in addition I believe I found horses’ hooves (rear legs), bears’ feet (front legs), deer antlers and a cat’s face. What can you see?
This is one of the collaborative pieces, created with the help of Derbyshire Virtual School which supports young people in care to reach their full potential.
Lodestar, by Randy Polumbo
A flower blooms from the fuselage of a plane. This is a military jet called Lodestar, but the name also describes a guiding principle or inspiring person.
I found this piece slightly disconcerting because of its resemblance to a plane crash. It reminded me of watching the TV series Lost!
This is another of the collaborative pieces and is designed to celebrate the rebellious spirit of dance, music and art. It reminded me of simple houses in Africa, or perhaps a yurt or Navajo hogan.
If you look closely at the strips of wood attached to the lower part of each ‘column’ like shingles, you find that they have been written on. At first I deplored this defacement of a work of art. But on close inspection I came to realise that these messages and occasional drawings are part of it. They document individual responses to the work and its use of found materials.
Le Attrata, by Margaret Long and Orion Fredericks
This was one of my favourite pieces. As the map/guide says, you wouldn’t normally expect to see moths made of such a rigid material as metal. This piece has been inspired by the way moths are attracted to light. At its centre is a reflective steel ball which I assumed represents the light to which these giants have been drawn. It also presented an interesting opportunity for reflection shots.
This was another of my favourites; I liked the way the mermaid has been situated next to a beautiful tree-shaded pool. She was created from glass and scrap metal donated by the Chatsworth estate and the local community. Children from a nearby school made the glass scales and visited the site to work with the artists.
Mum, by Mr and Mrs Ferguson
From a distance this mother bear and cub may look furry but they are anything but! Close inspection reveals that their ‘fur’ is made from hundreds of old coins (I think halfpennies) set into the surface on their sides. The guide notes that it is over 1,000 years since wild bears would have roamed here. Maybe the artists had their disappearance in mind when they elected to use an obsolete coin?
I did photograph all the sculptures (bar one which we couldn’t find) but these are my favourites and/or those which turned out best!
I visited Chatsworth in August 2022