Susan Herrington has developed two distinct worlds that emerge out of an exploration of contrasts inspired by playing with words – white and black, contemplation and participation, contrived and spontaneous, airy and delicate.
Hip Hop takes its cues from Surrealist pursuits that engage the subconscious through a play on the contradictions of language. Gardens are designed, maintained, and consumed through a highly metaphoric language. Their rhetorical nature is rich in delightful and mysterious provocations such as common names of plants like “lamb’s ears,” which use analogy as a descriptor; double entendres like “bulbs,” which can refer to the glass enclosing a source of light or buds enclosed by layers of overlapping membranes; idioms like “led down the garden path,” and homonyms like a “mowed” lawn or a “mode” of action. This garden language not only heightens the inherent ambiguities of the written and spoken word, but plays on the uncertainty of the realms of nature and culture embodied by the garden itself.
Hip Hop is composed of two visually and experientially very different gardens – a black side and a white side – achieved through plantings and ground coverings that appeal to all five senses, but in very different ways.
On the white side stalks of hops wind up tall poles, and grasses impart a feathery sensuality while stepping stones invite the visitor to hop through this delicate garden. In contrast the black side is stark and theatrical, like a stage set. The black ground and the strange moveable Métis muses dressed in long formal gowns and black flax invite the spectator to play, and to participate in the scene.
In 2000, 2004, and 2005, Herrington was invited to build experimental sites at Les Jardins de Métis International Garden Festival in Quebec.