Gardening isn’t Dan Allenspach’s big passion. He just tends a living backdrop for his sculptures.
“I was not at all a gardener,” he says of the whimsical landscape he’s created in tiny Hancock, in western Minnesota. “I come at this as an artist.”
Instead of working with paint or clay, Allenspach frequents farm auctions, hunting for old gears, cow hoists, scrap metal — whatever piece of junk captures his imagination. Then he welds his finds into fanciful creatures and structures in his workshop.
“This came off a plow,” he says, running his hand along a piece of rusted iron. “Is this a wing? Or a rib? It sort of reaches out and grabs you.”
Some of his works are humorous, some profound, reflecting a lifetime of reading about philosophy and spirituality. “It’s an offshoot of my search for the meaning of life,” he said.
In between making art, he “plants stuff. Don’t ask me the names of plants. A garden does what a garden wants to do. I work with it.”
Despite that laissez-faire approach, he’s applied his artist’s eye to making his garden distinctive:
Rooms: Allenspach creates destinations in his garden, including “The Chapel,” filled with church artifacts; “The Buddha Room,” inspired by a joke from his college days; and “The Crow’s Nest,” a platform, accessible by stepladder, where he and his wife, dancer Ferolyn Angell, sip gin and tonics on summer evenings.
Views: Large open circles, carefully placed, frame focal points throughout the garden.
Color: Red is a recurring hue, creating a unifying palette. For Allenspach, it symbolizes vitality, blood and life itself. “It’s the color of the sun, of energy in motion.”