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Trash or Treasure?

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What is art? A Rodin sculpture? Sure. What about the tail end of a Cadillac, sunk into the hillock of a Humboldt Boulevard yard? It’s definitely debatable, but no matter what your take, there is quite a lot of stuff in this latter category gracing our Riverwest properties. For the sake of calling it something, let’s say it’s ‘yard art.’ ArtWalk happens but once a year. On any given day, however, you can cut your own path through the neighborhood and find some strange, beautiful, and amusing things trussed up on a lawn, glued to the facade of a home, or stuck to a porch rail. Sure, you won’t find anything to rival Nebuchadnezzar’s hanging gardens of Babylon, but this yard art’s got merit nonetheless. Each is a public display, a small version of that fabled garden, and an effort to bring beauty into the day of the perceptive passer-by. Besides, since the impetus behind our ‘yard art’ doesn’t need to be near so lofty, we’ve got a lot of variation. It all depends on the bent of the particular artist. Patriotism and spirituality seem to be very popular themes. Eagles, Buddhas and flags are but a few of the objects on parade, and you need only to stroll around a single block to find these. A little harder to locate are the artists who seem to be inspired by the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” axiom. Such is the case with ‘Beth’, who simply says, “I just wanted to find different stuff to plant in.” Looking around her yard, she adds, “And I was definitely in a weird mood this year.” That’s evident (see mannequin and leg planters). And don’t forget about the lawn of cars, because although they’re a Riverwest landmark by now, it’s still good to stop and appreciate the occasional oddity. The cars bring us to the next stage of yard art, “Yard Art Extreme,” if you will. The best example in this neighborhood is the big-blue-thing house. Unfortunately, no one was around said house for comment, which is unfortunate because the explanation of inspiration on this would have to interesting. If you can find it, draw your own conclusions. Don’t worry about walking by and missing it, either, as the yard is full of statuary and totems, and seriously, on the facade of the house there is a big, blue thing. Not that yard art has to be that large to get its proper recognition, though. This neighborhood is obviously home to some unsung yard artists working on a smaller scale as well. Even the not-so-unusual decorations contribute to the atmosphere. Instead of manicured lawns, we’ve got rock gardens, or patios with potted plants. Flags and symbols adorn porches, peace signs light up windows, and roaming bands of pink plastic flamingos wander in the summer sun. (Although they’ve since left town with the cold weather pending.) So, if you’re feeling a little starved for art, if gallery night is too far away and ArtWalk is over, check out what your neighbors might be doing with their yards and homes. Better yet, see what you can do. Even if you just plant some flowers, or stick a garden gnome in the front yard, it lends a certain something to the neighborhood. Maybe next year we can have a Riverwest ‘Yard Art’ walk. Big-blue-thing house has a very strong lead in stealing the show, so if you’re inspired, you better start making your art now. (Hint: take a walk on Dousman Street to find this rival.)
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