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Lectures, Discussions, and Screenings



Natural Discourse: Flora & Fauna

Saturday, October 17, 2015  9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Natural Discourse has been invited to explore the Natural History Museum! The Museum opens its doors for a day-long conversation about gardens, art, science, and collections.

Natural Discourse is an ongoing series of symposia, publications, and site-specific art installations that explores the connections between art, architecture, and science within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums.

October 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Keynote Lecture by Rosamond Purcell at La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

October 17, 2015 from 9 am - 4 pm
Symposium at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County 





Shirley Alexandra Watts has been creating gardens in the SF Bay Area for over 25 years. She is known for her use of new and salvaged materials, sensitivity to the site, plantsmanship and an ability to bring an element of contemporary culture to her design practice. In 2012, she curated Natural Discourse: Artists, Architects, Scientists & Poets in the Garden an exhibit of 10 site specific art installations that took place at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. Natural Discourse continues as a series of symposia, publications, and site-specific art installations that explore the connections between art, architecture, and science within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums.

JoAnne Northrup is director of Contemporary Art Initiatives at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno. While chief curator at San Jose Museum of Art, she organized the first touring survey exhibitions of artist Jennifer Steinkamp and light sculptor Leo Villareal. She is dedicated to bringing artists who use pioneering techniques and innovative materials into the mainstream conversation about contemporary art and innovation. In 2014, JoAnne curated the exhibition Late Harvest at NMA, which juxtaposed contemporary art made with taxidermy with historically significant wildlife paintings, resulting in intriguing parallels and startling aesthetic contrasts.

Maura C Flannery is Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at St John’s University in New York. She has taught introductory science to non-majors for over 40 years and loves it. Finding ways to make biology more interesting led her to an interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her research is on the visual aspects of biology and the aesthetics of science. She is particularly interested in herbaria, collections of pressed plants and other plant specimens.

Jim Folsom is director of Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library where he has worked since 1984. During his long and varied career at the Huntington, Folsom has presided over a large-scale development of the Conservatory for Botanical Science, the Chinese Garden—The Garden of Flowering Fragrance (Liu Fang Yuan) – and the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden. He was instrumental in the development of the Huntington’s integration of education and science content through experientially focused programs, exhibitions and imaginative evolving garden development. He is a consummate explorer – deeply curious about learning and as such is available and willing to find common cause with varied partnerships and individuals, including arts organizations and artists.

Mia Lehrer, FASLA is the founder of the Los Angeles-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, Mia Lehrer + Associates (ML+A), known for the design and implementation of ambitious public and private-sector projects including complex mixed-use development projects, urban revitalization initiatives, and neighborhood and regional parks.  A native of El Salvador, Ms. Lehrer earned her Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. She has applied landscape and urban design innovation and technical expertise on complex Design/Build infrastructure projects, and continues to play a significant leadership role in project stakeholder outreach and consensus building.

Rosamond Purcell is a photographer ‘who has made a career of diving into natural-history collections and surfacing with unforgettable images...‘   (National Geographic Magazine).  She is the spirit behind the recreation of the seventeenth century museum of Ole Worm (permanent installation in the Natural History Museum, Copenhagen) and her studio holds thousands of found, ruined objects  (as described in OWLS HEAD, On the Nature of Lost Things). Other books include Dice (with Ricky Jay), Egg&Nest (from Western Foundation Vertebrate Zoology) and Finders Keepers, Eight Collectors with the late paleontologist and evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould.

Natania Meeker and Antónia Szabari are associate professors of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. They are working together on a book tentatively entitled The Animated Plant: Vegetal Imaginaries from Early to Late Modernity and have co-written an article on plant horror, published in Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, and two review essays on plants in contemporary literary theory. They recently published an article for the exhibition catalog of Jessica Rath's A Better Nectar (University Art Museum, California State University-Long Beach) and completed an essay on the eighteenth-century botanical illustrator Madeleine Basseporte to be published as part of an edited volume in 2016.

James Griffith has been working as a painter in Los Angeles since 1981. He received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he also taught painting and drawing. His paintings have been shown in many galleries in California and are in collections around the world. In recent years, James has made a shift from working with traditional oil paints to painting with non-traditional materials such as tar from the La Brea Tar Pits, pollen, volcanic dust, human ash, and various chemicals he finds in nature or under the kitchen sink. The subject of his painting has always been humanity’s relationship with nature.

Jason Fahrion is an artist, beekeeper, silk producer, and mead maker. His art focuses on the themes and patterns in nature and life science. His current work involves sericulture, which is the raising of silkworms for silk production. Hatching and raising thousands of silkworms on local mulberry leaves growing in his neighborhood, he then harvests the spun silk cocoons and constructs them in large assembled panels. Biological properties, some natural and some genetically engineered, cause the cocoons to fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Intimate relationships between humans and organisms and the local environment are explored in the process of creating his intricate art pieces. Jason was the featured artist at UCLA’s Art/Sci Center + Lab’s exhibit Seres: The Land of Silk.

Mick Lorusso is a visual artist, curator and exhibition coordinator at the UCLA Art|Sci Center + Lab, as well as a returning instructor for the UCLA Sci|Art Summer Institute. His recent projects blend microbes, animism, dreams, nanoparticles, mythology, ecology, psychology, biophysics, ontology and oncology in cabinets of curiosity and theatrical scenarios. He has participated in urban ecology collaborations in Mexico City and as a resident in various interdisciplinary art programs, including PLAND / ISEA 2012: Machine Wilderness (Taos, NM, USA), Make Art with Purpose 2013 (Dallas, TX, USA), and the Kraftwerk Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, where he harnessed electricity-producing bacteria to illuminate a sculptural village (a hybrid art honorary mention at Ars Electronica 2013).

Fasih Ahsan is a Teaching Assistant and Research Associate at the UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG). As an undergraduate, Fasih was coordinator of the UCLA Synthetic Biology Research Team, developing novel techniques in genome and protein production of synthetic silk products.  Working toward creating materials that bridge the gap between natural design and human needs, Fasih is interested in leveraging the power of synthetic biology and bioengineering to build systems that enhance our understanding of the power of nature's products.

Carol Bornstein is Director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where she oversees the long-term care and development of this 3.5-acre habitat for urban wildlife. For nearly 30 years, she was horticulturist at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Carol co-authored two books, the national award-winning California Native Plants for the Garden and Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs, both of which champion the benefits of designing gardens in harmony with nature. She continues to share her knowledge of plants native to California and other Mediterranean climate regions through her writing and teaching. 

Timothy A. Bovard grew up in Claremont California where father was a chemistry professor at the Claremont Colleges. Mom and son visited the museum on a regular basis to pick up items from the lending service for the elementary school library and view exhibits. Favorite exhibits were the diorama halls. Tim began doing taxidermy at age ten from instructions in books. He started working in a commercial taxidermy studio in high school and completed a State of California apprenticeship program as journeyman taxidermist in 1974. He attended and won awards at Taxidermy Review competitions and seminars, beginning in 1977. He received an A.S. degree from Citrus College, a B.S. degree from University of Idaho, and began working at NHM in 1984.