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Seeing by Experiencing: The Central Garden at the Getty Center

Articles: Seeing by Experiencing: The Central Garden at the Getty Center

Water cascading over, under, and around the chert boulders of the upper stream provide one of the musical moments in the Central Garden. Author’s photographs
A sculpture in the form of a garden aspiring to be art . . .

Robert Irwin
In March 2007, I began visiting the Central Garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles regularly—one morning a week for six months, as it turned out. I wasn’t exactly sure why. I later learned precisely why, but in March all I knew was that I would try to leave behind the tools of my trade: notebook, pen, writer’s mind, habitual ways of thinking and seeing. I knew if I showed up with a preconceived idea—I will write a story about this garden—my mind would shuffle and organize in a certain predictable way. After four or six visits, and a couple of packed notebooks, I would have said: Enough. I can see the arc of the narrative, the ending. I would be all set—but, with my default setting. How might I rediscover my beginner’s mind?

I had first seen the Central Garden in the full glare of the midday sun on a hot day in May, 1998. I was still living and gardening in Western Massachus...

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