Wood, metal, and acrylic paint
Meredith James’ sculpture is an optical illusion called an Ames room - a three-walled trapezoidal room built with a false perspective. What seems a believable space becomes implausible when a person walking from one side of the room to the other appears to grow or shrink. The logic of James’ sculptures and installations depend on the viewer’s interaction; it is only through an active process of looking - through peephole, camera, or door - that a piece becomes complete. In this artwork, both viewer and participant become part of the larger installation and the sculpture itself becomes a kind of stage for their actions.
To the naked eye, the sculpture looks like an off-kilter garden but when viewed from the viewfinder a few feet in front of the piece, the perfectly symmetrical garden frames the radically disproportional people within. Between walking around in the room and taking photographs through the peephole, visitors can experience a gap between what they perceive and what another sees. James has created a park within a park, placing her sculpture so that the Boston sky completes the illusion, merging sculpture with reality.
The garden imagery and sculpture title reference Alain Resnais’ 1961 film, Last Year at Marienbad. In the film, a woman’s fantasies and memories weave together opulent interiors and gardens into a seamless architectural labyrinth. The garden featured in both the film and this sculpture is the Nyphenburg Palace garden outside of Munich, Germany. James was drawn to shapes in symmetry and uses this as a geometrical tool to aid the illusion in her Ames room.
Wrapping the walls of the Ames room is a vertical plant installation, commonly referred to as a greenwall. This collaboration between the Horticulture staff of The Greenway and the artist, Meredith James, softens the connection between the park lawns and the sculpture, and provides an exciting opportunity to explore greenwall concepts. Metal trellises are planted with tender hop vines and annual beans combined with pleached dogwoods in a manner that compliments the symmetry of the topiary garden painted within the Ames Room. The opposite panel of constructed shelving is filled with tender annuals, many of which will be replanted in the autumn to permanent homes in Greenway gardens.