Art in the shade at the UC Botanical Garden

October 3, 2012

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 General visitors must pay garden admission ($10 for adults, with special rates for seniors, children, and students).

About the Author

Dan was editor of Bay Nature from 2004 until 2013, when he left to work for SF-based Stamen Design. He is now executive director of GreenInfo Network, a nonprofit mapmaking organization. A onetime professional cabinetmaker, he considers himself a lifelong maker of things and teller of stories. Dan has been working at the intersection of journalism and technology since, at age 16, he began learning reporting, page layout, and database design. His enduring interest in environmental issues crystallized into a career path in 1998 when he assisted former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass in a cross-disciplinary nature writing and ecology course at UC Berkeley, from which Dan received a Masters in English literature. In 1999, he became Associate Editor of Terrain, the erstwhile quarterly magazine of Berkeley's Ecology Center. In addition to editing and art-directing Bay Nature magazine, he was also Bay Nature’s chief technology strategist, fixer of broken things, and designer of databases and fancy spreadsheets. And he was even known to leave the office and actually hike outdoors.