Inflatable medallion by landscape architect Ken Smith deters evil spirits from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
An unmissable flower-power medallion on a gold chain now fronts the otherwise plain-though-historic facade of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum facing the Boston Fens. Featuring a whorl of psychedelic colors spiraling dizzyingly, the pop art–style inflatable installation riffs on the museum’s large wheel window, which forms a transect line between the museum and the installation. The work of internationally acclaimed landscape architect and designer Ken Smith, the piece is allegedly rife with symbolic meaning of deities as protectors of the physical and spiritual realm, inspired by the intermingling of East and West. The artist’s Asian forays and visits to Buddhist temples formed the artwork’s muse. Its symbolic/iconographic gestalt purportedly protects the museum from evil spirits and promotes environmental renewal, health and happiness. “What I really like about the Gardner collection is the eclectic mix of East and West in the selection of art. It’s that mixing of East and West that is at the heart of what the deity is about,” Smith said in a statement. “The deity is an Eastern idea that we are using in a Western way.” Smith’s installation is part of a larger landscaping scheme on the museum’s part to rejuvenate underutilized or overlooked venues within its grounds. “Ken Smith’s Fenway Deity promises to reanimate discussion of museum’s relationship to the public realm of the Back Bay Fens by installing a work of conceptual public art from the Gardner Museum’s historic facade,” said Charles Wadheim, the Garder Museum’s Ruettger Curator of Landscape.