La Grande Allée

Patterson Webster in collaboration with John Hay
La Grande Allée   2018–ongoing
Crabapple trees, cast-iron lamppost, paint, tin
Collection of the artist

In this vast installation, 100 white crabapple trees are arranged in two parallel lines, flanking an 800-foot-long path that bisects a farm field. At each end of the allée, 12 pink crabapple trees form a square, adding a flourish to emphasize the entry and exit. The work’s arrow-straight lines are a departure from the soft curves traditionally used in country gardens; instead they pay homage to the formality and grandeur of historic French garden design. This connection is further reinforced by the installation’s title, displayed at the entrance to the field in the form of a street sign: La Grande Allée, an explicit link to Quebec City’s main boulevard and to the province’s French roots.

Traditionally, a statue or similarly valuable artwork is placed at the end of a path, highlighting the piece while also attracting the eye and encouraging movement along the path. Yet here the artist has chosen a simple child-sized chair for the allée’s position of prominence, continuing to play with conventions. Elevated some four feet above the ground, the chair is visible from afar but inaccessible, negating its primary function. The contradictory positioning raises the question of why this object was chosen as the focal point. A possible explanation is suggested by a nearby sign spelling out the word “Perspective,” which points to an oversized version of the same style of chair in the distance.