Post details: Home for Gnome?

04/14/05

Permalink 08:09:52 am, Categories: Articles, 224 words   English (US)

Home for Gnome?


Kitsch is defined by several dictionaries as relating to poor quality or gaudy art objects that appeal to “low-brow” taste. But in the garden, kitsch categorizes folksy or commercial art that’s viewed condescendingly by some, and with irony by others. It’s this irony (this stuff is so bad it’s good) that has made items such as pink flamingos and garden gnomes more widely popular in recent years.

Garden gnomes have long been popular in Europe, especially in the middle European countries of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. In fact, the city of Usti nad Labem in the Czech Republic has declared 2004 to be the Year of the Gnome.

Worldwide popularity of these dwarvish creatures was given a boost after the release of the French film Amelie in 2001. The title character in that movie, frustrated by her father’s refusal to travel in his retirement, abducts his garden gnome and sends it around the world with a flight attendant friend.

But from where did these garden creatures spring? The word “gnome” comes from the same root word as the verb “to know.”

It is thought that gnomes were named by Paracelsus, a 16th century physician and alchemist. Paracelsus authored a theory of the elements that included the belief that gnomes had occult knowledge of the earth.

Debbie Rodgers

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