CMA Stories

A look inside The Secret Garden by Ian Berry

Imagine stepping into a blooming garden, with trellises of flowers hanging from the ceiling, and small curious animals peering at you along the path. The flowers brush against your shoulder as you make your way to an alcove where you find an assortment of potted cactuses. Upon closer inspection, the cactuses are soft, their pointy spines are instead fuzzy fringes. In The Secret Garden, everything around you, all the flowers, plants, and animals, is made of denim.

British artist Ian Berry created The Secret Garden to be a place for wonder and imagination. Each detail is created from layers of denim. The fabric’s distinctive grain adds texture and depth to the deep blue and shining whites. Rather than burning, bleaching, or painting directly onto the sturdy fabric, Ian opts to reshape the material with scissors and adhere layers on top of one another with glue.



On the immersive aspects of the garden, CMA Curator Jil Weinstock says:

I think one of the special qualities about Ian Berry’s installation is that while totally engaging for families, the contemplative nature and subtle details slows down the viewers to really look, investigate and share their discoveries. The Bridge Projects at CMA was developed to create immersive installations for museum visitors to be able to experience art in a different way and inspire creativity and conversation. Ian’s Secret Garden appeals to all the senses. You can touch the delicate flowers, look for all the refined details, smell the denim, listen to the crumpling of leaves as you gently walk through the indigo garden and imagine how the flowers and plants might taste. 

The denim used in the installation is from the last role of denim made by the last major denim manufacturer in the US. The role is from Cone Mills’ White Oak Plant which closed at the end of 2017 after more than 100 years of denim manufacturing. Ian installed the show over the course of a week, and many of the details were cut individually from the fabric by hand, while other parts were done with a laser machine. The Secret Garden accompanies Ellen Harvey: Ornaments and Other Refrigerator Magnets,” an exhibition of new and recent works by Ellen Harvey that explore the use of ornamentation in scenes of both urban life and in nature.


Don’t miss out on experiencing the wonder of the garden yourself! The installation is on view through April 29, 2018.

The garden is always on view from the entrance. For a walk-through tour, check out the tour dates here.

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