Natural Discourse: Light & Image 2014, an epilogue

Ever wonder when our buildings are going to have the photosensitivity and photoreactivity of plants? Dale Clifford, with his focus on biomimetics applied to architecture, is on the case, investigating the possibility of designing a photoreactive brick inspired by the quadrangular, shade-modulating shape of a cactus. Looking for a tidy description of life on earth? Plant biologist Roger Hangarter has one for you: excited electrons powered by the sun. I’m totally borrowing that, Roger.


 photo _MG_3442.jpg

Christian Thornton, Xaquixe Glass Innovation Studio

Questions, questions. Can modern glass kilns reduce their energy footprint?
Certainly, by as much as 30 percent, if recycled glass is used and the kilns are run on vegetable oil discarded by local Oaxacan restaurants.

 photo glassflowers.jpg

Cobaea scandens in the Ware Collection of Glass Plants

And what did 19th century university botany departments do when dried specimens were insufficiently detailed for the rigorous study of plant architecture? Find the finest glass artists in the world, of course, German glass blowers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, to create glass models with precise, scientific accuracy. Harvard’s Ware Collection of Glass Plants transcends its scientific origins and is now regarded as a prized art collection visited by millions every year.

 photo _MG_3304.jpg

Shirley Watts readies the book table sponsored by Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore.
Clarissa Dalloway may have bought the flowers for her party herself, but the large vase on the book table was, I think, provided by Silverlake Farms.

All these questions and more could only have been answered by another installment of Natural Discourse, the peripatetic series of lectures curated by artist and garden designer Shirley Watts that allows artists and scientists to share their unique perspectives and fields of inquiry into our beloved plant world, which was held Saturday, October 18, 2014, at the LA County Arboretum.

 photo _MG_3307.jpg

The auditorium at the LA County Arboretum was the biggest space yet of the three iterations of Natural Discourse, and for that reason I thought it perhaps the most challenging venue thus far.

 photo _MG_3407.jpg

But wherever Natural Discourse is located, whether perched in a conservatory-like glass hall atop the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden, or in a historic landmark hotel designed by Julia Morgan, or at your local arboretum, the effect is consistently hypnotic. The lights go down, the chattering eventually subsides, and Marion Brenner begins to articulate her relationship to light and its role in obtaining her exquisitely timeless landscape photographs seen on the projection screen. And then you begin to scribble furiously as she explains how she now shoots wirelessly to an iPad to live-proof her work.

 photo R0021072web.jpg

Photo found here

Possibly only at Natural Discourse will you meet an artist concerned with how long it will take an agave bloom to grow and thereby destroy the glass necklace he’s designed and placed on its flowering shoot.
(Christian Thornton of Xaquixe Glass Innovation Studio has recorded 8 inches of growth a day.)

 photo _MG_3327.jpg

The welcome being given by Richard Schulhof, Director of the LA Arboretum.

 photo _MG_3472.jpg

Jenny Brown, Collection Manager of the Ware Collection of Glass Plants, playfully engages with the interactive programming wizardry of John Carpenter.

 photo _MG_3462.jpg

Mr. Carpenter’s work asks questions like: Why can’t the fleeting thrill of blowing on a dandelion be prolonged?
(You can view the results of his dandelion inquiry at the link.)
Carpenter’s work may bring to mind the digitally interactive sequences in the movie Minority Report, which he designed.

 photo P1011581.jpg

I want to personally thank Sue Dadd and James Griffith for providing both food and lodging Friday night.
And thanks also to their charming cat Kabuki, who slept at my feet all night.

 photo P1011622.jpg

Very early Saturday morning I crept out in jammies and socks to have a private natural discourse with their stunning garden, this time a ravine adjacent to the Folly Bowl.
Talk about excited electrons!

 photo P1011614.jpg

 photo P1011631.jpg

 photo P1011623.jpg

 photo P1011589.jpg

 photo P1011649.jpg

 photo P1011648.jpg

 photo P1011641.jpg

 photo P1011593.jpg



Photos of Natural Discourse at the LA County Arboretum by MB Maher.

This entry was posted in agaves, woody lilies, artists, Department of Instruction, MB Maher, photography, science, succulents and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Natural Discourse: Light & Image 2014, an epilogue

  1. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Sounds like an amazing event! Thanks for letting us enjoy it vicariously through you. Love your pictures of Sue and James’ garden. Gorgeous!

  2. Denise says:

    Peter, as a fellow glass artist, you would have been in your element. If the Fling ever goes to Boston, we have to see the Ware Collection.

  3. Excellent, lucky you….and lucky me as guess who’s coming to speak to the HPSO in February? Shirley Watts! I am beyond thrilled. Love the garden shots, looks to be my cup of tea.

  4. Lisa says:

    Wow!!! this is soooo interesting! I wish I had talks like this in Madrid 🙂 thanks for sharing! and those garden pictures are beautiful.

  5. Denise says:

    @Loree, Marty was doing the laundry and asking, Where have these socks been? I think we ended up throwing them away. Yes, definitely your cup of tea. So glad Shirley is heading your way!
    @Lisa, there’s really only these talks, and no other like it, that Shirley put together. Someone needs to do that for Madrid!

  6. Pam/Digging says:

    Oh! That purple wall with the variegated agave. It’s making me rethink my plans for rusty red on my new stucco wall. Thanks for sharing the garden and the talk with us.

  7. Denise says:

    Pam, that wall I believe hides the pump for the adjacent pool, the pool they caught a bear drinking out of one night a couple weeks ago — the foothills are serious!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *