Call it an avalanche of artistic design – four boulders, installed last May by landscape designer Isabelle Greene, mark the entrance to the University Art Museum as a gateway to a new landscape exhibit.
In her new exhibit titled “Shaping Place in the Landscape,” Greene fuses botany and design to produce an original art motif. In addition to the large boulders, the museum displays images of several of the 500 gardens Greene has created. Her work has been displayed in magazines such as Vogue and Home and Garden.
Greene, a UCSB alumna of the class of 1969, is famous for using local plants and rocks in her artwork. The rocks used in the plaza, for example, are locally acquired limestone pieces. By positioning locally obtained rocks in a natural and interesting way, Greene said the boulders in the plaza are exactly what her work is all about.
“The rocks used are limestone,” said Kurt Helfrich, curator of the Architecture and Design Collection at UCSB’s art museum. “They were pulled by a local, old-time masonry company named Pat Scott Masonry, who brought the rocks to UCSB.”
While the rocks may fit in well with the surrounding landscape of the art museum, which Greene designed in 2000, the display mystified some passers-by.
“When I saw the rocks, I was like, ‘What are they doing here?'” Sure, they look nice, but I wanted to know more,” first-year student Ana Romo said.
Walking past the rocks, one can also notice strange indentations lining the edge of the larger boulder.
“The dashes are leftover marks made by masonry tools that are used to break pieces of rock away,” Helfrich said.
The mystery that surrounds the boulders was, in fact, intentional, Greene said. She said she wanted people to think about her art, asking themselves about its purpose. Greene said she hoped that these questions would encourage people to go and see the rest of the exhibition inside the museum.
“Greene calls her piece in the plaza a ‘calling card,'” Helfrich said. “It is meant to get peoples’ attention and draw them inside the museum to the see the rest of the exhibition.”
The mystery of Greene’s boulders unfolds as people enter the museum, where they will be treated to other pieces of art and information.
Those interested in the artwork can see Greene in conversation with professor David C. Streatfield, University of Washington landscape historian, at the museum on April 26 at 6 p.m.