Blake Garden Artist in Residence
AN EXPLORATION OF NATURE THROUGH COLOR
For this artist residency I celebrate the colors and the plant variety in Blake Garden. Using colors extracted from plants in the garden, I examine the histories and narratives that lie within them. I also use materials to be composted such as plant trimmings and food waste. Hues are extracted under various natural and created conditions. Altering the conditions of how color is extracted, manipulated, and used is a way of questioning our perception of colors of the landscape. This work explores the intersection of perception, color, and untold stories of the garden.
In this project I ask the following questions:
What are some of the ancient ways that colors were made from plant material and food waste?
What sort of colors will emerge from using the plant material in the garden and food waste
What sort of stories are revealed through exploring the colors of the garden?
The ten acre garden is located in Kensington within the Berkeley hills, approximately 5 miles north of the UC Berkeley campus. It is managed by UC Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture Department and is used as a teaching facility. Previously it was owned by the Blake family (1922 - 1962) who transported dozens of plants from their former residence to the garden. Much of the original design has been preserved and is maintained. The spectacular panoramic views, the outstanding plant collection, and the variety of spaces make it an ideal place for teaching, learning, and experimentation.
Since 2015 I have taught the UC Berkeley course LA 1: Drawing a Green Future. The course investigates drawing as a method to learn how to perceive, observe, and represent the environment. The class encourages visual thinking as a formative tool for problem solving that provides a means to envision a sustainable future. The first project of the class is a land art project where I ask students to read literature about landscape perception and reflect on their own view of nature. The students use Blake Garden to reveal invisible qualities of the natural landscape.
There are four main variables that affect the color from plants: plant freshness, time, heat, and ratio of water:plants.
Test spring flowers that are currently in bloom.
Test plants using water with different ph levels. I have worked with a local ecologist to collect brackish water from San Pablo Bay.
Experiment with painting on different types of paper.
Read more on the UC Berkeley Blake Garden website.
The process includes boiling plants using rain water collected from this winter. After boiling I experiment with some additives - such as alum, baking soda, iron, sodium carbonate - and track the color change. In some cases the color is different in the jar and the paper. For example, the mustard plant ‘juncea’ (below). Once boiled it produces a magenta color. When this color is used on paper, it is dries as a blue color.
I have been exploring painting with the colors produced from the plants. The paintings below use a mix of colors from plants in Blake Garden and food waste from my kitchen.