Nami Yamamoto’s Fog Catcher in the UC Botanical Garden. Photo: Hannah Long
Nami Yamamoto’s Fog Catcher in the UC Botanical Garden. Photo: Hannah Long

By Hannah Long

Many people would call UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden a work of art, with its stunning landscape of colorful flowers, vibrant greenery and majestic trees. The garden’s recently installed Natural Discourse exhibition, which features a diverse array of visual art, poetry and architecture, has only enhanced the beauty of this setting.

The botanical garden is “both a very serious research collection and a beautiful public garden,” explained Paul Licht, the garden’s director. It is one of the most prestigious research gardens in the world, with over 10,000 plant species, and its 34 acres include a rose garden and redwood grove for tourists, nature lovers, and picnickers.

The Natural Discourse exhibit, a collaboration between artists, poets and scientists, was inspired by specific plants in the garden. “Natural Discourse fits into the theme of the garden,” said Licht. “The installations are site-specific, and each is educational, thought-provoking, and beautiful.” 

Fog Catcher, a piece by Nami Yamamoto, perfectly complements the redwood trees that surround it. The installation features two sheets of woven, waxed linen that are suspended in the garden’s redwood grove. The fabric mimics those used around the world to gather water from fog, in much the same way that redwood trees absorb moisture from the air around them.

Under the Influence, by Gail Wight. Photo: Hannah Long

Another piece in the exhibit combines a scientist’s experiment with the techniques of an artist. Under the Influence, by Gail Wight, features sheets of vellum burned with images of spiders’ webs. Each web, which was created by a spider under the influence of drugs such as LSD, marijuana, or caffeine, is interestingly irregular and jagged.

Sol Grotto, an installation by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, features 1,400 glass tubes that the artists salvaged from Fremont-based Solyndra after the company went bankrupt. Installed in the wall of a dark, contained wooden room over Strawberry Creek, the tubes collect light to form a stunning, radiant design. (See our separate story published today about the brouhaha that this piece has provoked.)

Among the eight other pieces in Natural Discourse are two poetry collections, a mural, and printed silk adornments for the garden’s rose arbor. Each one, says Licht, is worth visiting: “This is a diverse assemblage of art. Each piece enhances the garden in a different way, and we hope that this exhibit will bring people to the garden so they can explore this wonderful setting.”

The Natural Discourse exhibit will run through January 20, 2013 at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. For more information, and a full list of artists and pieces, see the exhibition’s website.

Botanical garden art work attracts right wing attacks [08.23.12]
Berkeley’s downtown BART is all roses as part of cleanup [07.17.12]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

Guest contributor

Freelance writers with story pitches can email