Over the summer, the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley installed a remarkable show, Natural Discourse, featuring installation art scattered throughout the garden’s 34 acres, tucked in Strawberry Canyon up the hill from UC Berkeley.
This Sunday, artist Todd Gilens, who also created the Endangered Species bus project with Bay Nature in 2011, will talk from 2:30 to 3:30 about the 100-foot-long mural he created on the side of a shade house where garden plants are propagated. (Details on the talk.)
The mural uses photos Gilens took looking up from the ground through the leaves of a pink flowering currant, from the perspective of a seedling growing in the shade of larger plants, just as the Lath House on which the mural is installed provides shade for plants propagated for the garden.
“The property of shade in the plant world is the protection of young sprouts,” says Gilens.
The project has since drawn Gilens to ponder other ways to relate to shade, and he recently spent time at the California Academy of Sciences closely studying their collection of cradle baskets used by California Indians to protect their infants from the sun and the elements.
Gilens isn’t sure yet what will come of his cradle investigations. “The projects that I do tend to generate more questions, like any good experiment,” he explains. “All of this came out of this question of what is this lath house about and what should I do with it.”
Here’s a slideshow of Gilens’s piece plus a few other highlights:
Note: An earlier version of this post said garden admission is free on Sunday. That was an error. Normal admission fees apply, except that Registered Cal Homecoming guests are free that day and also those who are participating in Bring Back the Natives Fall Sale & Open Garden. Register for the sale, for free, at
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"As a naturalist, educator, and artist, I have found that my journal is the most necessary tool I carry into the field with me; it is even more necessary than my binoculars."
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