Photography (c) Anna Wolf, unless otherwise noted
Up until three weeks ago, neither of Sight Unseen’s editors had a green space to call our own. Neither of us has a plot in one of New York’s many community gardens, and between us, our houseplant count hovers around three. So why exactly have we both had a thing for Wilder Quarterly — a magazine about nature and gardening that features lengthy discourse on things like asparagus, outdoor shelters, and slugs — since it launched nearly two years ago? Abbye Churchill, the magazine’s editorial director, explains: “Wilder at its essence is just about encouraging people to go outside — to fall in love with nature and to get their hands dirty. For us, that means taking responsibility for making things on your own, and that can be as diverse as building or cooking or beauty projects.” All of which translates to a magazine that can slot a feature on organic nail polish next to a Mark Borthwick photography portfolio inspired by the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson — as the recently released Spring issue does — and have none of it seem out of context.
Apparently, we’re not alone: “One of the challenges of Wilder is that the readership is so diverse,” says Churchill. “We have a lot of urban professionals who are maybe cultivating some windowsill gardening action, and we also have a huge swath of really stalwart, seasoned veteran gardeners of a bit older demographic. And a lot of people are reading the book just to be inspired. Maybe it’s more about future thinking — what they could do, and what’s possible.” In some ways, Wilder is not unlike Sight Unseen: “The perspective of the magazine is of engagement rather than formal expertise,” says Churchill. “We’re just as excited as the reader about learning.”
Perhaps that’s why Wilder’s team agreed to let us snag an exclusive visual excerpt from the spring issue on one of our favorite “wish we’d finally make the time to go there” places in New York: Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx that overlooks the Hudson River from its majestic perch and just so happens to host six-week artist residencies each winter. The Wilder piece was written by artist Naomi Reis, who spent time there this winter and created a series of mixed media collages on view at TSA New York gallery through this weekend.
Says Reis: “Wave Hill is a psychically inspiring site. Because it exists in a space just outside of the vertically oriented grid of New York City (which has continued to grow just outside of its gates for over a century), it’s a really calming place to be. Working in that quiet bubble, and visiting the conservatories in the dead of winter — going from the cold New York air to the damp earthy smell of a tropical rainforest in an instant — was magical and transporting every time. That experience shifted something in my brain, and I came to feel like one of the plants: an interloper of sorts, taking up residence in a carefully maintained parallel space where the usual rules of competition, survival of the fittest, and temperature swings of the climate were suspended. After the residency, I wanted to reconstruct a version of that psychic space for a solo show called Unnatural Selection, where each of the 9 pieces were inspired by the manufactured environment of Wave Hill and other botanical gardens I visited — one in Brooklyn where I live now, and one near where I grew up in Kyoto. I don’t think I would have been able to enter that headspace without the Wave Hill residency.”
Check out some of the photographs in the story below, and then visit your newsstand to buy the latest issue of Wilder. Painting supplies in artist Naomi Reis’s studio in the Glyndor House at Wave Hill. During the 6-week residency, Reis worked on mixed-media collages of tropical environments found in the conservatory at Wave Hill, and at a botanical garden near where she grew up in Uji, a suburb of Kyoto.
Reis’s collages, on view at TSA. Photo (c) Jason Mandella
Lithopsia, a landscaped world in miniature by the artist Lina Puerta, in a window of her studio at Wave Hill. The piece, made from disparate materials like Polystyrene foam, concrete, fabric and rhinestones, leather, artificial plants and moss, was inspired by the Lithops plants from the conservatory at Wave Hill.
Reference photos from Wave Hill’s conservatory in painter Francisco Donoso’s studio.
Donoso’s view from his studio in the Sun Room looking out to the front lawn of the Glyndor House.
A peek into the Sun Room Project Space at Wave Hill. During the colder months it’s a refuge for wintering plants (and humans); the rest of the year the room is transformed into site-specific installations by New York-area emerging artists, curated by Gabriel de Guzman.