The University of California Botanical Garden in the Berkeley Hills is home to one of the nation’s largest collections of plant life. It houses many rare and endangered plants hard to find anywhere else, and for the month of July, it also houses comics.
Turkish-born artist Ozge Samanci, an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and a pioneer of GPS and location-based comics, has designed and created 20 comics in a collaborative effort between the botanical garden and the UC Berkeley Art Practice Department. Her comics have been etched onto tiles and strategically placed throughout the garden. “It is like a scavenger hunt,” she says with a smile, as we enter the garden in the bright summer sunshine.
“I want this to be a dialogue,” Samanci continues, “I don’t want this to be one-sided.” Which is why, when you enter the garden, you are given a map with the comic placards numbered and labeled, with a place on the back to respond to the exhibit, and to draw a comic of your own.
- Photo by Melanie Jones.
Samanci hopes that with her exhibit will come a unique interaction between the space of the garden and the space of the creative self, and those who go see it will be drawn into both the simple, stark nature of her comics, and the beauty and grandeur of the garden. “That is the story of my comics,” she says
The comics themselves are deceptively childlike, a style popular among her comic peers. But those who dismiss them as simple miss the point. Samanci is an artist who relishes the everyday, the universal simple epiphanies and minor annoyances that make us individual, and she’s not afraid of the truths that these occurrences can offer us.
In one comic, there is a girl, staring up at lemon tree. “500 glasses of lemonade,” the girl thinks to herself. “She has hope, there is possibility,” Samanci says. Others are less optimistic, but set in the garden, they take on a whole new meaning, as the leaf or branch portrayed in the comic mirrors one truly alive right next to it.
The exhibition runs through the end of July and is open to the public in conjunction with botanical garden hours (daily 9-5, except first Tuesday of each month). The exhibit is included in the price of admission into the garden ($9 general, with discounts for seniors, children, students).