Yard Art: Tacky or Tasteful?

04 Jul 2010

For many people, a garden is a canvas they fill with more than flowers, to the pleasure or dismay of neighbors. Here are some local landscapes that have inspired both awe and ire.

yardart1-gnome When Cheri Bost sees a yard full of interesting decorations, she starts reeling off numbers. A birdbath gets one point, but a broken one still in use scores two. “Classic kitsch,” like a donkey with a flower cart or a Dutch couple kissing, garners three. Then there’s the mysterious garden gnome, earning the top value of four points. Bost, who grew up playing games during road trips across the country—before the advent of take-everywhere electronics—developed “The Yard Art Game” after realizing how much she enjoyed finding yards overflowing with eccentric, whimsical, unusual, kitschy, odd, even tacky, yard art. “I love getting a peek into homeowners’ lives,” she says. “I call them ‘yard artists.’” yardart2-comp The online version of Bost’s clever game is played on her blog. Players submit photos of art-filled yards they’ve discovered, and Bost assigns them points according to the posted rules. “Sometimes, though, players want to negotiate for points,” she says, laughing. “Like, ‘How many will you give me for three geese dressed in hula skirts?’” Cindy Lawrey, with the screen name TufaGirl, plays Bost’s game regularly and often finds herself atop the leaderboard posted on the home page. “I’ve always been a fan of the pink flamingo because it adds such a sense of fun to a yard,” says Lawrey, who works at a Texas nursery that sells recycled metal and handcrafted wooden garden decorations. “So when I play The Yard Art Game, my mission is to help promote yard art in all its glory.” yardart3-cyd-fenceThough no Boulder County “yard artists” have yet been submitted to the online game for scoring, those who look around will find plenty of possible contenders in our area.
The Cluck Factor
Dick and Deanna Heddles’ fondness for unique yard art was born out of a desire to find new uses for old things. “Dick worked in concrete, and when he retired, we saved all his old shovels,” Deanna says. “So I painted them and stuck them upside down in one of our flower beds.” Over the years, their Longmont garden has served as a refuge for myriad repurposed items and other unique decorations tucked in among the beautiful flowers. Deanna seeks out flat rocks and stones and colorfully paints them with ladybugs, flowers and seasonal motifs. Statues, planters, sculptures and whimsical signs, many of them gifts from family and friends, are scattered throughout the front and back yards. yardart4-comp-ironsAn assembly of roosters and chickens— a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Longmont’s recent backyard-chickens ordinance— always gets a laugh, Dick says. The yard also boasts 32 unusual birdhouses, many homemade, and “all had babies in them last summer,” Deanna says. For Len Barron, a longtime resident of Sixth Street in Boulder, the idea for his uniquely decorated yard started at a garage sale. “I picked up something from a neighbor, brought it home, and stuck it in my yard,” he says. “Before I knew  it, the yard was full of river rocks, sculp- tures, paintings, ceramics and things that hang. “I especially like that little kids and grandmas used to look at the garden and smile.” When Barron moved from that home after 14 years, those who admired the “nifty” yard throughout the years were invited to come over and choose a piece for their own yard. “Now there are pieces of my garden all over town and in several states,” Barron says. yardart5-cyd-recordsJim Bloomer of north Boulder says a bike accident more than 20 years ago served as his inspiration for choosing to decorate his yard with unusual handcrafted sculptures. “After I got out of the hospital, I started searching for myself again,” he says. “I was an architect and a carpenter, so I began expressing myself by using scraps of wood and other materials to make things, and I displayed them in my yard.” Bloomer admits his creations are highly abstract: “Just like with all art, you see what you want to see.”
Flat Irons & the Flatirons
Then there’s the central Boulder apartment complex that’s somewhat infamous for its creative sculptures, thanks to yard artist Cydd West. Not confined to just a yard, the art is also found on the roof, in the trees and on the sides of the building. An “escape route” on the roof, fash- ioned with an old playground slide that’s rimmed with 33-rpm albums, is flanked by two rows of cast-off chairs—kitchen chairs, dining chairs, patio chairs, even a few stools. Three silver kitchen colanders stand sentry on the east roofline, inverted atop metal poles and adorned with festive streamers that dance in the breeze. A “shoe totem” against a tree is covered with footwear of all styles and colors, and shiny CDs form a border under the roofline that glistens merrily in the sunshine. West’s well-known “Flat Iron” display features rows and rows of household irons artfully arranged to represent Boulder’s iconic mountains. yardart6-cyd-on-roof “Yard artists create their own view of the world for our entertainment,” Bost says, “and there is honest delight in a fantastic find.” To find yards worthy of her game, Bost says all you have to do is keep your eyes open, because “there’s so much yard art in plain sight.” And if you’re more of a yard artist than a game player, go ahead and express yourself—as long as you don’t break HOA rules, violate city ordinances, or make your neighbors unhappy.
Yard Art Websites
Whether you want to learn everything about garden gnomes or order a pink flamingo, the following websites are devoted to fans of yard art:yardart6-sidebar-gnomes BetterGnomesandGarden.com Documenting “all things garden gnome,” this site is just one of several popular websites and blogs dedicated to gnomes of all sizes and themes. The-artistic-garden.com The blogger at this site believes that “a garden is a place that can be enhanced by adding decorative and interesting items.” Find do-it-yourself garden art projects, tips, tricks and resources. RoadsideAmerica.com When planning your next road trip, search this site for “attractions and oddities” that are not to be missed along the way. One section of the site is dedicated to “Muffler Men”—giant fiberglass humanoids, like the cowboy along Highway 66 between Lyons and Longmont. GetFlocked.com This site is the home of the original plastic pink flamingoes designed by Don Featherstone in 1957. The photo gallery shows the birds on display around the world, including in Iraq. —Lisa Truesdale
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