Leslie Fry’s Sculpture Garden Party
The directions to 48 Elm St. were perfect and kept me out of the Winooski rotary. It was raining—one of those early June showers that cause thickening dark green leaves to defy gravity and reach even higher. Leslie told me to look for a huge hedge and there was no missing it. Cedars, after 25 years, create a sizable wall. I parked, found my way to the back stairs and climbed up to her apartment. The space was full of art. It is run by her cat (Henry Fry IV), but Leslie is the one who showed me around. I noticed she sleeps next to a large window that overlooks her sculpture garden. Of course I noticed. I was envious.
A Sculptor in Winooski
Leslie Fry is a Vermont artist with notable success in public art. She may be best known locally for her sphinx sculptures in Pomerleau Park on the Shelburne Road in South Burlington. She has also been commissioned to create sculptures placed at the International Sculpture Park in Songchu Art Valley, South Korea; Tufts University; and in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Seminole Florida. She does a great deal of casting, largely working with bronze and concrete, and industrial china during a recent residency at Kohler. She works in 2D and 3D. In her artist statement, she describes the art as integrating “the human body with architecture, flora and fauna, melding fragments from each into moments of wholeness.” This shows up in her own garden. Two concrete sphinxes on columns cast their gaze over a bronze acorn head and other sculptures. Did I mention I was envious?
“This property is the largest sculpture I’ve ever made,” she says, and makes it clear the work is still in progress. She has been on Elm Street for 25 years. She bought the house partly because it was a duplex–which made the mortgage more affordable–but also because it had a barn for storage, a big yard, and a garage she could make into a studio. The space Leslie occupies has gone from teeny apartment to larger apartment and from single garage turned studio to double-sized studio. Over time, she has squeezed out every inch of garden space possible on the lot. Perennials mix with edibles, vines climb fences and columns. Mulch surrounds sculptures and plaster casts. She shows me how everything has been strategically placed to sculpt the space. “I like my neighbors. I really do. But not the satellite dish. This tree should grow to cover that up.”
Fitting the Space
Leslie considers it her specialty to fit art to a space. “I like to make sculptures that are for places.” When she made “MountainHead” in South Korea, she brought the memory of Mt. Mansfield with her. “Growing up in Stowe, seeing the mountain face everyday, skiing or climbing the chin and the nose—all of that formed me as a sculptor. The overall shape of the mountain-sculpture is a head, which is then made up of smaller heads, and within those heads are other landscapes made from cast flowers.”
Photos of an installation in Seminole, Florida also make her point. The images she showed me were from a Pecha Kucha talk she was making later in the week. During the talk, she’ll invite everyone to the upcoming garden party. In addition to presentations like this, she is active on social media, has invested in a new website with a blog, still sends printed postcards to promote her work, and makes art. I asked her how she balances her time. “I often say that I need four of me—one in every space. I could have one of me working on the garden, one in the new studio making sculpture, one in the old studio drawing and printing, and one in there [motions to the apartment] doing all that social media and mailing stuff.” She admits to binging rather than dividing her time carefully and evenly. She goes straight out on one thing at a time.
Leslie would be happy to show you her garden and her art. On June 21, she is having a sculpture garden party and open studio. You can view the sculpture garden and two-dimensional works in her studio from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
But, be careful! You might find yourself envious.