ABOUT 100 sculptures popped up in the Garfield Park Sunken Garden seemingly overnight on Saturday—graceful life-size statues, contemporary animals, fluid abstract objects, all on tree-stump bases. The black-and-white stone carvings dot the lush green lawns between still-flourishing flower beds and planters of mums, inviting guests to step off the brick paths and wander across the grass to see each one up close.
With the help of Indy Parks, artist Dominic Benhura and his colleague Passmore Mupindiko, both from Zimbabwe, installed each piece over a few days last week. Called Confluence, the exhibit will stay up through October 22. Most pieces are in the Sunken Garden, which has free admission, and a few are inside the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Benhura, who has exhibited his works around the world, is a longtime friend of Jayne During, owner of Kuaba Gallery in Carmel. The relationship led the Hamilton County city to install a Benhura piece in the Arts & Design District in May. Confluence offers a chance to see dozens of his pieces (supplemented by works from other African artists) and talk to Benhura, who you’ll see out and about in the gardens throughout the exhibit’s run.
“It’s a beautiful setting,” Benhura says. “I’ve done some exhibits where there are so many trees. But here, the pieces are visible from a distance.”
Gardens such as Garfield Park’s not only provide a scenic backdrop for the museum-quality works, but thematically they bring forth a message about conservation. Benhura points out that conservationists, like artists, look after our culture, not just plants and animals. The wood stumps for his exhibit came from park trees that were ready to be cut down.
Benhura sculpts a lot of animals, but the elephant, fish, and horse in Confluence are the works of colleagues in Zimbabwe. He brought pieces focused on femininity, a theme he explores because he was raised by a single mother and an aunt. Many of those works depict a mother and child together in a playful pose. The faces are blank because the theme is meant to be universal. “I don’t put any facial features so they can just be mothers and children of the world,” Benhura says. “If I go to Asia, America, Australia, or even Africa doing shows, people relate to them because kids play the same games. I like the kids because they give me a lot of room to play with movement, to become whimsical. They make me smile.”
The exhibit runs through October 22, and all pieces are for sale. You can take a self-guided tour during the conservatory’s public hours and attend an artist reception on Friday, October 7, from 5–8 p.m. Combine a visit with one of the park’s free programs, including: Oktoberfest (October 1), the Garfield Park Farmers Market (Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon), the Master Gardeners Tour (October 8 and 22, 11 a.m.), Art in the Park (October 8), Fall Break Scavenger Hunt (October 11–21), and Shakespeare in the Park (October 13, 15, 20, and 22). Indy Jazz Fest also swings through this week (October 1–2), followed by Home Brew Palooza (October 8). For more information, see garfieldgardensconservatory.com.