Human Flower Project
Every Garden Needs a Nose
A proboscis and lips have been lurking at La Fontaine des Médicis.
Water Mobile Venus by Lotta Hannerz
at La Fontaine des Médicis, Sept. 2006
Le Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Photo: Julie Ardery
The Parisians, so confidant in their taste, enjoy dolloping old monuments with new ones—the boldest example being I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre.
We came upon another piece of art a la mode last month at the Medici Fountain inside Le Jardin du Luxembourg. In the green pool, a woman’s gorgeous nose, lips and chin rose up like an island. We heard a few titters but for the most part, visitors, like the mallards, just took it all comfortably in—a cool, amusing retreat from la vie quotidienne.
The piece, we have since learned, is called Water Mobile Venus, a work by Lotta Hannerz of Stockholm, Sweden. Hannerz installed the garden features herself in May, a treat for Luco visitors throughout the summer.
The Medici Fountain, deeply shaded by plane trees, is beautiful in a rather gloomy way. Its permanent sculpture, a 19th century work by Ottin, depicts the giant Polyphemus sneaking up on lovers Acis and Galatea. Ovid tells us that the jealous giant will soon drive the lovely Galatea into the sea and crush her sweetheart to death with a boulder. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may….”
Hannerz’s sculpture brings welcome light and humor to this spot, her “water mobile” exhaling many sorts of suggestions: of the intrusive Polyphemus, of classical relics (and other Venus parts scattered about the city), of oraficial nature, and the garden’s fragrances. In all seasons, gardens wake up a sleepy nose with narcissus, grass clippings, lavender and fallen leaves.
“There is something compelling about the sound of a fountain in a deserted place. It murmurs about what things do when no one watches them. It is the hearing of an unheard sound.” So wrote Iris Murdoch in Under the Net, a novel where a young man goes looking for a lost love in Paris, principally at this very fountain. The same compelling aspect is true of scent when you come upon it in a garden—a reminder of immensity and richness beyond one’s own capacity for experience.
If you missed the experience of Hannerz’s sculpture at La Fontaine des Médicis (it was removed, we think, September 24) you can still see an exhibition of her new work at Galerie Claudine Papillon through October 14.