Category Archives: Monticello

planting cycles

I love vegetables — I love to eat them, I love to grow them, I love to draw them. When I first saw the vegetable garden at Monticello, first designed by Thomas Jefferson in the late 18th century, restored under Peter Hatch at Monticello in the 1980s, I was mesmerized by its beauty and its long, ribbon-like proportions. At about 80 fet wide by a thousand feet long, it seemed like a giant, patterned textile just unfurled from the loom. So I set about making a series of tapestries trying to describe the scope of the garden, from seed-sprouting and seed saving, through a woven catalogue of dozens of vegetables planted there.

the vegetable garden at Monticello

detail, “Harvest, 1992”. 1993, hand woven. copyright Laura Foster Nicholson

This last piece, “Harvest 1992” (1992 was the planting year I referenced, it was woven in 1993) became a lexicon for me of woven form which I have referred to over and over again ever since. Long after the tapestries had been exhibited and sold, I designed a ribbon with some of the vegetables which we still produce’ Crate & barrel licensed that design for kitchen towels for several seasons too. And most recently I was contacted by The Battery Park Conservancy, who have now licensed the design for use in fund raising efforts for their Urban Garden, due to open this spring.

From their website,
“The Battery Conservancy presents the first Urban Farm at the Battery since the Dutch planted their cottage gardens in New Amsterdam in 1625.
This innovative project began with a request from students of Millennium
High School’s Environmental Club to plant a vegetable garden in the park.
Saying YES launched a farming initiative that now includes EIGHT schools with over 450 students (K-12).
The Battery Conservancy is expanding the program to include community groups, residents, and the neighboring workforce who long to give their hands and hearts to cultivating and harvesting home-grown food.” How cool is that ?

ps: going digital

I am probably not the first person to complain about the transition from slides to digital. On the one hand, fantastic! No more slide duplicating! No more boxes & drawers full of the slippery things that I always mis-filed and had to flip through to find the ones to send out to every person requesting information. Come to think of that, talk about freedom of information! Now you can send images free over the internet — remember sending out slide sheets valued at approx. $20 apiece into the world, unsolicited, destined for trashbins? This is less painful.

But the downside is accessing images older than your digital history. I am an old person now — really. Got my MFA (high slide era) in 1982 for heaven’s sake. So when I want to put up a picture of a piece I no longer own, which I took a slide of in 1985 (like in the previous post) it’s a bit dodgy. I took a bunch of slides into Gamma, a big Chicago photo place, a number of years ago, and paid something like $1-$2 each to digitally scan them. Ouch. I have made, let’s say, a real LOT of work over the years, and it was hard enough to pay the photographer the first time around to document them.

And then I move to a small town of 850 people, and still don’t have a photographer (but at least I finally found a good doctor — today.) Hard to stay current. Which is the long way around of explaining the questionable qualtiy of the images you find here. But the Dr. seems to think I will live, so that is a start.

(you always want a picture. So here is a picture that started out the usual way, in a film camera, and may have found its way into my computer as a scan from a magazine article. The image is a detail of the Thousand Foot Garden: Harvest 1992, a set of 68 6″ square tapestry panels depicting some of the plants growing in Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticello, restored, in 1992)