California Botanic Garden is hosting an onsite and online group exhibition featuring the culminating works of the five contemporary artists of our Summer Artist Residency program. This residency provided artists with uninterrupted access to the botanic garden to create art during these challenging times when access to spaces is limited. The theme of the residency is homing, which refers to the native plants and environments that distinguish the concept of home, forming a living tapestry of California’s natural heritage and distinct identity. Through the onsite and online manifestations of the exhibition, CalBG aims to provide access to audiences in accessible formats. The residency and exhibitions have been generously sponsored by Linda and Paul Des Marais.
The onsite exhibition was held from August 28 - October 1, 2020 and consisted of outdoor installation “stations” throughout the Garden. A one-hour artists' talk moderated by Garden staff was held on September 22 via Zoom. During this webinar, each of the participating artists shared perspectives on the work they generated during the residency, as well as on their larger creative practice.
The virtual exhibition is presented below. The virtual exhibition ends on Tuesday, December 1, 2020.
The Spirit Goes Branching Out, HD Video, 1:41, 2020
A portrait of the artist trying to become a sunflower.
The Sun A Tongue, print, 11” x 17,” 2020
“Like billowing clouds,
Like the incessant gurgle of the brook,
The longing of the spirit can never be stilled.”
― Hildegard von Bingen
The Spirit Goes Branching Out began as a sensational experience of rapture, which came up through the ground as I walked through the Botanic Gardens. I slowly realized that there was a language in the movement of the plants, water and animals that I saw in the garden, and a language in what I felt in my own body as it walked across the ground. I took out a notebook and my camera and began to record. “The Spirit Goes Branching Out” is a distillation of what came through.
“The Spirit Goes Branching Out” is built upon writing and movement practices that I call Panpsychic Poetry. “Panpsychism” refers to a belief that all beings have a psyche and the ability to communicate – a grain of sand, a whale, a rainbow, the dead, a star. Experiences of inter-species communication are arrived at, for me, through combined practices of deep listening, deep stillness, self-induced trance states, and trusting the strange meter of my intuition.
Eliza Swann is an interdisciplinary artist, intuitive, writer, educator, and community organizer based in Los Angeles and New York. Eliza received a BA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, and an MFA from Central St. Martins in London. She has trained in hypnotherapy at the Isis Centre in England. Her artwork has been exhibited internationally, most recently at UC Santa Cruz and the Rosenberg Gallery at NYU. Eliza has published critical writing in BOMB, Arthur, Perfect Wave and Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles - her book “The Anatomy of the Aura” was released by St. Martin’s Press in April 2020. She is currently a professor at Pratt Institute. Eliza is the founder of The Golden Dome School, a curatorial and educational platform that studies intersections of art, metaphysics and ecology.
SoCal Iconography Bandanas, Ink on linen bandanas, 21" x 21", 2020
For the residency, I illustrated, sewed, and installed a series of “SoCal Iconography” bandanas. This project was an expansion of a previous “LA Iconography” bandana I had block printed with images I associate with my own experience of Los Angeles.
Nature and the built environment are not exclusive. This is especially apparent in the fragmented landscape of Los Angeles, the city with a mountain range running through it, built on unceded Tongva and Chumash land, that uses water diverted from all over the region, and is planted with a host of imported plants to represent paradise to the rest of the country.
Home can mean a lot of things. What feels like home to me may not feel like home to you - and yet, we may both call Southern California home. I acknowledge that the limited scope of this project means that the designs on these bandanas are largely informed by my own background and my access to educational resources. When you wear a SoCal Iconography bandana around your neck, you can take home with you wherever you go.
The original design. The Orange bandana design contains a mix of urban and natural imagery that I personally associate with Los Angeles, having grown up in LA with an affinity for native plants and vernacular architecture.
Breezeblocks, furniture found on the street, raging and ever-intensifying fire, poppies, sycamore seed pods.
The Pink bandana design was determined after speaking with several acquaintances about what images they associate with Los Angeles. Everyone I spoke with either is from LA, or currently lives in LA.
Palm trees, sunbursts found on dingbats and other googie architecture, climbing bougainvillea, morning glories, crows perched on power lines and palm trees, expansive freeways.
The Navy bandana design represents the ecology, geology, and natural history of the Los Angeles region.
Toyon / “California Holly”, coast live oak, the Santa Monica Mountains (specifically here, Hollywood Hills), rising smog, ocean rippling out from over the mountains as it did eons ago, sunbathing lizards, ceanothus, datura.
Hannah Michael Flynn was born and raised in Los Angeles and has an interest in the false divide between people and nature. She is currently working towards a Masters of Landscape Architecture and Masters of Urban Planning at USC.
She works under the name Epiphytes to make illustrations and patterns about plants, animals, and people. The Epiphytes name comes from the classification of plants. She picked this name because her patterns are designed to be filled with life on their own, and just happen to be on top of your own, everyday object - just as epiphytes are plants that grow on top of another plant.
John Zane Zappas
Live Light, Laminated prints on plywood panels, 14" x 144", 2020
Over the last few weeks as I walked the gardens, I was inspired by the ways that many of the plants grew in response to obstacles in their environment. I made over 100 drawings as I tried to capture these moments of tenacious and innovative growth – each one a physical record that tells the story of challenges met and adversity overcome. From these drawings I selected 12 and paired them with short verses written from the perspective of the plants themselves. I then compiled them into an unbound book titled Live Light, which is available for free to visitors of the garden. The pages have also been mounted to double sided panels which hang from a row of pegs which visitors are invited to rearrange as they see fit. A downloadable pdf of the book is available here to view remotely or print at home.
"The residency was a wonderful experience to feel re-connected to California, and the familiar sights and smells of the plants of my home state. However, this residency taking place months in to the Coronavirus pandemic and "safer-at-home" definitely was part of what defined my experiences of venturing out. The text is a reflection of musings about being inside vs. outside at this time, and a summer largely missed. This period spent mostly inside brings a rediscovery of home, and a re-thinking about the different scales of what I feel “home” is — house, neighborhood, city, state, country; natural environments, built environments — the parts that bring comfort, and the parts that bring anxiety. I also felt that the heatwave and wildfires that took place during the time of the residency needed to take some part in the text. The first day I visited the Botanical Gardens at the very beginning of August, there was a wildfire east of Claremont, and a plume off in the distance while I took in the gardens — weeks before fires broke out up and down the state, and the loss of homes of two of my friends in Northern California."
Miwa Matreyek is an animator, director, designer, and performer based in Los Angeles. She has been an internationally touring independent artist since 2010.Coming from a background in animation by way of collage, Miwa Matreyek creates live, staged performances where she interacts with her animations as a shadow silhouette, at the cross-section of cinematic and theatrical, fantastical and tangible, illusionistic and physical. Her work exists in a dreamlike visual space that makes invisible worlds visible, often weaving surreal and poetic narratives of conflict between man and nature. Her work exists both at the realm of the hand-made and tech. She travels as a one-woman show, often incorporating artist talks and workshops.
Wildlife of Southern California: A bilingual illustrated guide to some common plants and animals of Southern California’s ecosystems
Ink drawings on textured watercolor paper, 11 x 8.5”, 2020. Original drawings priced at $200. Field guide available for free download here.
"California is a biodiversity hotspot full of unique and wonderful plants, animals, insects, and birds, existing together in interconnected webs of being called ecosystems. This zine-style, 16-page guide is meant to be an introduction to some of the common wildlife of the Los Angeles basin and surrounding areas. Most of the species here can be seen over a wide area of California stretching from northern California into Baja California. By creating this bilingual English-Spanish resource, I hope to bring the joy of discovering California’s natural world to a wide audience.
This guide is just a snapshot of a few common species you might encounter while exploring outdoors in your neighborhood or local parks, and shows the ecological connections between them. It is not organized taxonomically, like most field guides. Instead, organisms are found on a page together when they might also be found in nature together. Two species of hummingbird are depicted with two of their main food-source plants. One spread shows five species that could be found at night in a sandy arroyo. It is meant to mirror the experience of exploring an ecosystem.
Finding the Spanish names for each species was challenging process. Many endemic species don’t have a common name in Spanish. More widespread species may have different names depending on the region. For plants, I relied heavily on names in use in Baja California (referencing the work of John Rebman). I tried to include the most regionally appropriate common names, and in one case (the California fuchsia) used a direct translation of the English name as well as my own alternative suggestion.
Special thanks to Brenda Kyle, Tania Romero, Tonatzin Romero, Josh Cano, Noemi Romo, and Alan Gallagher for their assistance with Spanish names and translation."
Margaret Gallagher is an artist, illustrator, and curator based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Her detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations highlight the intimate beauty of Southern California's native ecosystems. Long, quiet walks in LA's often-overlooked wild spaces - Griffith Park, the LA River, the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountains - provide inspiration for her drawings, which depict the hidden worlds of plants, animals, fungi, and invertebrates that subtly teem in the spaces around us. Scientifically accurate yet full of whimsy, the drawings are full of details that invite the viewer to linger, studying the creatures inhabiting each drawing. Margaret’s artwork invites fellow city-dwellers to recognize themselves as part of these interconnected webs of being. Download the bilingual field guide for free here.
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