Slabs of lumber, used to grow succulent plants, lay in the center of the Glendale Community College Art Gallery floor, welcoming visitors to the latest exhibit “Let the Trees Decide.”
The instillation created by Sung Tae Kim, a Los Angeles-based farmer, was inspired by the excess of material left behind during the housing boom, she said.
“I wanted to give them a second life, and ideally the roots will grow into the wood form and continue to grow,” Kim said.
The plant installation is one of 11 pieces that make up the show, but it is the only artwork that is alive and directly links to nature. The exhibit, which will close Saturday, features the work of artists from the Greater Los Angeles area who created their art as a direct inspiration from nature or have allowed the material they use to take on a life of its own and dictate the end result.
“It’s about abandoning decision-making. The work in the show either has to do with nature worship and appreciation of nature or skepticism about human nature and logic,” said Roger Dickes, co-curator and professor of computer animation at GCC.
Kim presented her plants as a sculpture, and her work is an example of how the artist has little control of how the material can choose to grow, he said.
Photographer John Rosewall took a different approach by manipulating the process of photo developing. Using household items such as Pepto-Bismol, sea salt and dryer lint, he made a negative by sandwiching the items between two pieces of plastic — producing bluish-green prints.
“The idea is to exploit the gap between material that is around that we don’t pay too much attention to and then compare it to these images that are psychedelic,” Rosewall said. “It was about the process of experimentation and discovery.”
While some artists were inspired by the process of discovery, Patrick Marcoux was drawn to one specific element — fire.
His contribution was a hanging sculpture of the depiction of a flame. Made of enamel, resin, paper, foam and aluminum, “The release of energy in the form of light” was dedicated to victims of the 2006 Esperanza fire. The fire, which killed five people, was deliberately set.
“Fire is an interesting part of nature that is out of our control,” Marcoux said. “The [arsonist] saw how it can get out of control.”
The exhibit features how nature operates and how humans operate as beings of nature, co-curator Lara Bank said.
“It’s about how art is a part of that natural behavior,” she said. “We didn’t want it to feel like a typical gallery show that is so dedicated to presenting and preserving culture. We wanted to bring the experience of nature as opposed to the cultural experience.”
Exhibiting in the Glendale Community College Art Gallery gave the curators an opportunity to be experimental, Bank said.
Amy Green, a contributing artist, compared her technique of allowing the interplay of acrylic paint and the felt material to create its own design to a scientist working in the lab — discovering rather than having a set plan or agenda.
“It begins with a process and arrives at a sense of the natural,” Green said.