Madoo Conservatory in Sagaponack has its own sense of time. An enchanting garden with “English bones and American flesh,” the space is designed to broaden ingenuity and recollect emotions. It’s why no exact dates are reflected in the artwork of former resident Robert Dash, a painter and writer who lived there for 46 years.
“Bob set out to highlight the everyday experience of life in the Hamptons,” said Alejandro Saralegui, director of The Madoo Conservancy. “Whether it was someone playing tennis or picking strawberries, he used ambiguous color combinations that don’t really exist, but still make you feel like it is late summer on the East End.”
Vacationers can see what the Hamptons meant to Dash in a display of six lithographs comprised of his drawings of the garden and studio, paired with clips from poet and friend James Schuyler’s diary through Sept. 5. Dash found many of the lines fitting for his expressionist take on landscape design.
“[The works] evoke a sense of place so simply. Rather than using three-dimensional space, these lithographs evoke the sensation of being at Madoo in 2-D.”
After taking in the exhibit, guests are encouraged to walk the two-acre garden, where Dash used beautiful plants and sculptures to illustrate the different comedies and tragedies that exist among reality. The areas with heavily congregated trees represent darkness and mystery, while spots with big leaves and crawling vines exude a tropical vacation vibe.
Dash once said ‘I paint with a trowel and I garden with a brush.’ Like his artwork, his gardening required harmonious creativity. Take the Gingko Grove, perhaps Dash’s greatest contribution to 20th century design that has been around for almost 40 years. The 11 prehistoric trees grow like flagpoles with box balls planted underneath and are situated in the middle of a winding pathway.
“It is a wonderful sculptural composition that uses plant material, and despite being so sculptural, it changes with the seasons.”
And that Grove didn’t grow overnight, but Dash liked it that way. He understood plants need to mature and continue to evolve for progress to take place, something the staff at Madoo is now trying to do for Dash’s memory.
“He was very clear that he didn’t want the garden preserved in amber or frozen in time. Obviously there are things that you would never really change like the Gingko Grove, but he wants his legacy to live on and keep transforming.”