By Plinio Hernandez

As a life long resident of Berkeley, being conscious about the environment and global justice comes as second nature in my daily life. Biking, gardening, beekeeping, or donating to a much needed cause are all part of what I live and breathe in Berkeley. If you want to visually experience art that reflects these issues, three ongoing art exhibits in Berkeley, all varying in medium and style, exemplify ideas of the poetic and the political by exploring concepts of land usage, abstract landscape, and migrant farm workers.

The first and the most conceptual of these exhibits is “Land, Use” at the Hazel Wolf Gallery, located inside the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley. For this exhibition, the Brower Center has commissioned the first collaboration between Amy Franceschini (San Francisco, CA) and Fernando García-Dory (Madrid, Spain). Individual projects by these artists are also on display. The exhibit is made up of documentary-style videos, drawings, photographs, silk-screen posters, remnants of a workshop facilitated at the gallery, and writings that both artists use to bring their social practice methodology into the gallery space.

García-Dory’s thoughtful project, “A World Gathering of Nomadic Peoples,” is based on the first meeting of The World Congress of Nomadic and Transhumant Pastoralists in La Granja- Segovia, Spain in September of 2007.

For this project, García-Dory presents photographs, signed documents and personal items given to him by attendees of the congress as a gesture of open dialogue and exchange of ideas. Franceschini, on the other hand, presents more local projects, like Victory Gardens, temporary gardens at San Francisco City Hall, 2007 where she collaborated with Slow Food Nation and the San Francisco Department of the Environment in creating an edible, organic garden in the summer of 2008.
For this project Franceschini presents viewers with two photographs, one a black and white image of a victory garden photographed during World War II in front of San Francisco City Hall and the other, a color photograph of the victory garden planted in 2008. Paired together theses photographs are reminders of the drastic changes in U.S food consumerism and our relationship to war.

“Land, Use” is up until May 9th at the Hazel Wolf gallery in the David Brower center located at 2150 Allston Way. Gallery Hours are Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 pm.

Moving along and in a similar vein is the highly awarded and recognized photo series by Rick Nihamais, “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers” at the Doug Adams Gallery, located in the Pacific School of Religion. The series documents California farm workers from the spring to winter of 2003. Shot on film and selenium-toned (a print toning process dating back to 1880’s), the photographs are rich, earthy and have a melancholic photo grain, which is seen less and less these days with the increased use of digital cameras.

The series is displayed to tell a story: it follows migrant workers from border towns in Mexico to various agricultural fields throughout California. The photographs seem timeless. Even though they where shot in 2003, they look like they could have been shot more than 40 years ago during the famous boycotts led by United Farm Workers Union. This project is meant to be a teaching tool—each photograph is accompanied by a detailed description as well as a Spanish translation- and I would highly recommend that educators take their classes.

A painting by Jenny Bloomfield, part of her Destination Road Series

“The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers” runs until March 23rd at Doug Adams Gallery at the Badè Museum. It is located at the Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Avenue, on the main level of the Holbrook Building. Hours of operation are T, TH, F 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Finally, “TERRAIN: Exploring the Language of Landscape” at the Berkeley Art center located in Live Oak Park, is a series of abstract process paintings by Jenny Bloomfield, Christel Dillbohner and Danae Mattes.

Danae Mattes’ mixed media painting, Wetlands/Interior, 2011

Although there are three different artists represented in this exhibit, these paintings are cohesive in the delicacy of production, color palette and human hand in seeing and shaping the environment. The etymology of the word Landscape (landscipe or landscaef) is based on a human-manipulated area in the land. This meaning can be applied to the ways in which these three artist are finding ways to not only think about their environment, but to re-imagine it.

Danae Mattes’ mixed media painting, Wetlands/Interior, 2011, resembles an aerial view of a long ago or soon-to-be-dried-up wetland. In the same breath, Jenny Bloomfield’s Destination Road Series, 2010 have a ghostly photographic feel, where one sees horizon lines and recognizable details, that along with the titles, clue us into the visual landscape that these oil paintings are based on.

Christel Dillbohner, Nach der Natur (After Nature), 2005

Christel Dillbohner, Nach der Natur (After Nature), 2005, is a five- panel wax engraving on paper that was completed in seventeen one-hour sessions by writing W.G. Sebald’s prose poem ‘Nach der Natur’ on the panels. In short, the poem introduces a short time period in the lives of three men and their conflict between the human condition and nature.

“TERRAIN: Exploring the Language of Landscape” runs till April 1st at the Berkeley Art Center located at 1275 Walnut Street. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Sunday noon until 5 pm.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Guest contributor

Freelance writers with story pitches can email editors@berkeleyside.com.