Where is Eden?

“Way to the East, at the source of four rivers” it says in the Bible. But this description doesn’t really help. The Tigris and the Euphrates are two locator rivers for Eden, but they have different sources, and there is no confluence of four rivers nearby. Medieval cartographers placed Eden on the far edge of their maps, beyond Asia, as if in unexplored territory. They often drew a walled garden and a naked little man and woman to mark the location.

Beatus Map, locating Garden of Eden (1109)

Beatus Map, locating Garden of Eden (1109)

For centuries, Eden was considered a real place and it belonged on any map of the world, but no one quite knew exactly where to locate it. When coordinate mapping began in the 15th century, Eden was placed at 0 degrees latitude and 180 degrees longitude — until it became apparent that the coordinates pointed to an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Today, we don’t try to put Eden on the map — but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to find it.

What is Eden, after all, but getting what we want, when we want it? That’s what the Buddha understood 2500 years and built the foundation of his teaching from his understanding that we all suffer because of our desires. When things go our way, we are happy, and when they don’t, we suffer. Eden is that lovely place where every desire is satisfied: the world is our oyster. The Buddha taught that the way out from this suffering was to understand that satisfying our cravings will never bring happiness, because all of life is impermanent. When we think we have it — whatever it is — something shifts — and once again we are looking for the next rosy apple.  

Eden and Paradise are often used synonymously. To the Persians, Paradise meant a walled garden, while to the Hebrews it was an orchard. Indeed, I would agree that an orchard is as close as it comes to Eden. Trees that grow and produce sweet fruit year after year are really quite miraculous. There is so much about fruit trees that is astonishing — even simple apple branches — those irregular shaped, pruned and grafted, sculpted limbs, bewitching with their freedom and artistry.

Thus we have the genesis of the exhibit, After Apple Pruning. Using apple branches pruned from dormant trees and a few grafted roots from young trees that died, and with the help of good friends, Lynn Horsky and Gabrielle White, and my daughter, Ariel Matisse, we have created an Eden of apple orchard related sculpture for The Gallery at Villageworks in Acton, Massachusetts. We populated many of the branches with bronze figures that I first sculpted in wax — Adam and Eve, serpents, people sitting, bending, kneeling, reading, mediating, resting, as well as hanging from trees, tempting a snake, or embracing.

A few days ago, in anticipation of the installation, I became almost hysterical with worry. Two large wall panels took most of one day to figure out how to hang, including three trips to the hardware store and two consultations with my neighbor, a retired engineer (No nails in the walls was a gallery restriction). I didn’t want to rent and drive a 15’ truck and the forecast was solid rain for installation day. Moving so many very delicate branches was frightening, because one never knows when reassembling a piece if it will come together the way it did before. I watched as my mind went into a tail spin. I was struggling outside the garden walls.

The installation was smoother than expected; though one small, but important branch broke and caused a small panic. Blase, my partner, helped enormously. Clearly my prior distress was for naught. Today, we no longer look for Eden on a map, but I would place it for the next three months, a little to the east, in Acton. I simply love to be in the gallery space among all of the art. My Eden has been the pleasure of working with Lynn and Gabi, and seeing my daughter fully engage a challenging project.  Eden is inside the mind, always nearby, no farther than our next thought. 

From One Seed, Linda Hoffman & Gabrielle White

From One Seed, Linda Hoffman & Gabrielle White

Please join us!
Opening Reception for the Artists
Sunday, January 15 from 3-5 pm at 525 Massachusetts Ave, Acton, MA.

Exhibition dates: January 6 – March 30, 2017
Gallery hours: M-F 9-5.

Artist Hours in the Gallery
Fridays, Feb 3, 10, 24; March 10, 24; noon to 2pm

Poetry Reading in the Gallery
Celebrating the publication of "Before We Were Birds"
By Susan Edwards Richmond
Sunday, March 12 at 3pm

Grafting a Life (Left Wall) Linda Hoffman & Ariel Matisse

Grafting a Life (Left Wall) Linda Hoffman & Ariel Matisse