In 2010 Sotheby’s, a multinational corporation revered worldwide as an art and jewelry broker, began a successful collaboration of outdoor selling exhibitions with historic, medieval Sudeley Castle in southwestern England’s picturesque Cotswolds. With the textures of its 15th century walls, its historic associations with England’s tempestuous Tudor period, and the storied beauty of its grounds, Sudeley Castle serves as a spectacular setting for Sotheby’s attention-getting exhibitions.
Nevertheless, the sense of history imparts joy rather than tragedy, for beautiful Catherine Parr (1512 – September 5, 1548), the last queen of England’s controversial, enigmatic king, Henry VIII (June 28, 1491 – January 28, 1547), is buried in the Castle’s chapel. A three-day feast to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada (August 8, 1588) was held in 1592 at Sudeley Castle and attended by Queen Elizabeth I (September 7, 1533 – March 24, 1603). Scars and ruins attest to cannonading in 1649 by Cromwell’s army during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) which pitted Roundheads (supporters of Parliament) against Cavaliers (royalist supporters of King Charles I [November 19, 1600 – January 30, 1649]) in a challenge to the divine right theory of kingship. Also, reports of gentle haunting add an intriguing, but not frightening, note of mystery to the building and its grounds: the Lady in Green, thought to be Catherine Parr, has been seen standing at a window or walking in the Queen’s garden.
The second year’s exhibition, entitled Material Worlds, featured innovative sculptures by eleven leading artists and designers. Of two artworks specifically commissioned for the 2011 exhibition, one, entitled “Form of Intrigue”, was designed and created by Laura Ellen Bacon (born 1976), whose medium tends to be organic materials, usually woven wood. Based in Derbyshire, in central England, Laura often creates onsite sculptures for cityscape, interior, and landscape settings.
Laura’s inspiration derives from nature’s artistic cocoons and nestings created by animals, birds, and insects. Her fascination with the creative expression of nature’s ways through wood is grounded in a childhood of glorious revels on her family’s fruit farm in which her preferred pastime was building tree houses and dens. The vibrancy of Laura’s wooden materials elegantly conveys calm and organic growth, concepts which seem crucial to the sculptress’s artistry.
From a chaos of twigs, Laura weaves a structure which creates a quiet space, usually in conjunction with a host structure, such as stone walls or trees. Often the interior of the sculpture may be glimpsed. Sometimes, however, Laura weaves from the inside to the outside and then seals the opening, so that the interior landscape remains her secret space. Such was her design of “Forms of Growth”, woven from bamboo, oak, and “Flanders Red” willow, at stately Chatsworth in England’s East Midlands region.
“Form of Intrigue” was valued at £6,000 ($9,660) in 2011. Unaided by assistants and perched on scaffolding for inaccessible areas, Laura painstakingly wove her creation within just over a week’s time. The intricate weaving features ash twigs. Influential arts curator Janice Blackburn (born 1949) compared the effect of the sculpture, draped around an enormous, gaping, shelled window of Sudeley Castle’s ruins, to the cascade of Rapunzel’s gorgeous hair down the forbidding walls of the tower in which she is hidden.
Hunt, Jeremy E. “Material Worlds: Sotheby’s at Sudeley Castle. 28 July – 30 September 2011.” AAJ Press, July 27, 2011.
“Nesting Instinct.” Crafts, July/August 2011: 35-38.
“The Sculptural Work of Laura Ellen Bacon.” The Contemporist, March 20, 2013.
Weigman, Matthew. “Sotheby’s at Sudeley Castle: Material Worlds, A Selling Exhibition.” Sudeley Press Release, June 2011.