The fantastical sculptures of Bruno Torfs, nestled in a temperate rainforest garden setting in South-Eastern Australia, wowed, moved and inspired 1 000's of visitors from all over the world for over a decade, until, in the midst of a devastating national bushfire disaster in February 2009, amidst great loss of lives, homes, unique rainforest habitats and more, this beautiful garden also became a casualty. While it doesn't compare to the loss of life, losing great art is worth mourning in its own way and many of these mythic sculptures were lost forever.
While, at the time, I was concerned with family members there and fire fighting cousins who were battling against the odds (all of whom survived and got to safety) to hear of the loss of the Torfs' gardens affected me very deeply. (I'll explain why shortly.)
The Torfs family, who lived at the unique garden and gallery, managed to get to safety but lost their home, over 300 paintings and sustained great damage to the sculpture garden. Friends and neighbors in nearby Marysville weren't as lucky and lost not only their homes but their lives. The area remained in a state of emergency for quite some time. Miraculously escaping with his family, Bruno made a statement on his website, saying they would be salvaging what they could, with the intent of bringing another fantasy garden to life.
Here is one of the many video tributes showing the beautiful sculptures the garden contained before the fires swept through (The Torfs' website has a slideshow as well):
The slideshow (below) is the bonus extra feature in the new edition of the award~winning 30 minute documentary of Bruno's Art and Sculpture Garden. (You can order the DVD HERE.):
I hadn't heard of Bruno's Art & Sculpture Garden till after I had been working on it for a while and couldn't believe the images I was seeing. It was as if he'd dreamed the same dream then brought it to life in his own way. It seemed uncanny. I nearly cried for joy to see such imaginings had become reality and gladly put aside the project in hopes I would travel to see it before doing any more. When I heard of the tragedy, the loss felt personal, though I had never met Mr. Torfs or his family in person.
A new "Phoenix Edition" of the original coffee table book of Bruno's art and sculptures was expanded and published after the tragedy. It now contains the story of the fires, the rebuilding as well as photos of the many wonderful works that were lost. You can order a copy (and support his work) HERE.
Bruno Torfs grew up in South America (you can see the influence in many of his sculptures), only moving to Australia as an adult but he clearly has a connection with the land and much of his work has the essence of the Australian Dreamtime stories as well. It's no surprise to hear he now calls Australia "home" and we are very glad he does.
Below are some of the restored and newer sculptures now greeting visitors, of which I sincerely hope to be one, one day.
*Perhaps it runs in my blood. My Nanna's aunt - May Gibbs - had the same desire and created the well-known and loved characters of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie.