Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – As Long As You Don’t Live In Wilton

I first met Andy Reiss of Hamilton Landscape about 8 years ago at a local art opening, where he gave me a pink rubber pig wearing overalls that had his business contact information on it. As far as marketing strategies were concerned it worked, I couldn’t personally afford to hire him (or anyone else) but he had my attention, and I started keeping an eye on what he was up to around town. His landscape projects always had a little twist that you could identify as his long before you came upon on the Hamilton logo; some sculptures down on Rt.7 made of reclaimed materials, or a fence made of rough cuts of wood left over from the lumber yard and arranged in a cross hatched pattern that to my eye created a softer, more natural landscape line than the cheap uniform crap you buy at Home Depot.

About three years ago he purchased a house around a mile from me, a fact that wasn’t obvious at first but it’s on the way to the town dump where I go to get all my skulls and local gossip and pretty soon you could see some changes were taking place. What started as a small conservative looking house on a hill began to evolve as large undulating rock walls sprang up, white clapboard siding was replaced with a warm stucco finish, and huge piles of wood and materials started to accumulate. To me it was pretty obvious that he was working on something big, and big things usually take a bit of time, so personally I never thought much of it but his neighbors had other ideas and a two year battle of cease and desist and clean up orders were issued from the town. Signs were posted outside of his house urging local residents to “take a stand” against this terrible visual menace at what was scheduled to be a final appeal at a zoning meeting set for April 19th.

I had no idea any of this had been going on but was lucky enough to stumble into it after my general curiosity about what he was building got the better of me and I went over to his house to reintroduce myself and see what he was working on. I found him in the yard building one of the offending items, the Peace Wall, a fence constructed entirely out of recycled metal and found objects, designed to eventually be taken over by plants to become something of a living wall. I’m no stranger to wanting to block out the neighbors, or of using the materials you have at hand so after all my hey-how-are-ya-whatcha-workin-on stuff questions I was treated to a full tour and an explanation of the thought process behind the work.

After spending a number of hours with him I can tell you there is no paucity of ideas taking place over there. Each project is given very thoughtful consideration with an emphasis on conserving energy through the re-use of discarded items. He spoke of the time and energy spent on the creation and transportation of most common building materials, many of which are discarded when left over from projects and deemed excess or unusable. Taking a walk though his home and yard demonstrates that nearly anything, even things that appear broken and unusable can very often take new life by doing something as simple as flipping them over and looking at them as abstract 3 dimensional objects without the same symbolic meaning of it’s first use. What do these things become when you stop looking at them as what someone told you they are? I like hanging out over at his house because I always go home looking at my own current challenges with fresh ideas, not to mention after looking at everything he’s accomplished in three years I feel like a lazy piece of shit that needs to get her ass in gear. I’ll take my motivation where ever I can find it.

The big appeal has come and gone, and I’ll refer you over to the Wilton Patch to get all the details of the proceedings and results, but I will say for a 3 hour small town zoning meeting it was pretty fascinating. High drama with show and tell demonstrations, discussions of the “what is art?” variety (substitute “fence” for art), accusations of Thanksgiving holiday ruining, and fears of nudity. I started to wonder if I was caught in an absurdest theatrical production and I was happily reminded that small town life is always far more bizarre than what happens in the city. No wonder I love it here.

So have a look for yourself and decide if this is the holiday ruining visual menace that they claim, an inventive use of materials, or somewhere in between. Either way, now that this drama is over it looks like I am going to have to figure out some other reason to go and see what he’s up to because I could seriously go there and never run out of stuff to take photographs of.

Rock Wave Wall

Peace Wall (it stays)

World’s Coolest Cat Bed

Planter made from rubber hosing and wire

Hanging Mobile Planter (ruled against)

Arbor/Pagoda (ruled against)

Rock Wall

Bench of Raw Lumber and Reclaimed Metal

Another One

Oil Tank and Found Wood


8 Responses to “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – As Long As You Don’t Live In Wilton”

  1. ah! lovelovelove this post! what fantastic stuff he makes! and how ridiculously funny are uptight small town folk?

  2. i agree with steph. seeing this stuff reminds me of an old friend of mine, Craig, who loved to do stuff like this. People love their regularity, predictableness etc and i can understand that. predictable = safety. but it’s nice to be reminded of what real beauty is once in awhile. and it’s not always predictable, is it, now? this guys stuff is awesome, and so is this post toni. we need to visit you on our way thru sometime so we can meet this guy!

  3. I don’t get to use this word very often: neato!

    This reminds me of a guy who used to live here, Dave Roberts. He had some kind of permit to “re-cycle” paint for the entire state of Colorado. My guess is no one even tried before him. At one point he started getting more than he could handle, 50,000 gallons a year. Instead of saying “I’m going to the store, do you want me to pick up anything?”, the word “dump” would be in the place of “store”.

  4. Tom Brown Says:

    It’s a bit crazy. Where’s Wilton anyway? CT?

  5. I don’t like haphazard yard decoration. Trees are too random for my taste. You never know where a branch might stick itself. Best to raze everything, flatten out any hills and install identical plots of uniform color grass out there. Track housing is what God intended the world to look like.

  6. […] to get it all under some control – so what do I do once I get it there? I invite my friend Andy to bring it all back, in the form of “art supplies”. He had a little run-in with the […]

  7. andrew reiss Says:

    Never read this before. Would have been nice to see the project completed

  8. NachoMama! Says:

    Like the rock wall & benches….but frikkin LOVE the cat house! The look on the cool cats face says it all. Townfolks just don’t know good art when they see it. 😆

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