It’s National Art Day, and a perfect showcase for the bizarre Un-Natural Garden at Descanso Gardens near Los Angeles. This interactive exhibit by artist Adam Schwerner, provokes laughter, exploration, curiosity, and invokes all of the senses. As you walk throughout the landscape of the outdoor gardens to the indoor Sturt Haaga galleries and Body House, you are invited to contribute, collaborate and interact with most (not all) of the installations. The art is serene, some purposely uncomfortable, but all definitely spark the imagination.
Touch The Art at The Un-Natural Garden
First, follow the red arrows throughout Descanso and walk through the archways of recycled and found materials. The colorful rainbow sculptures are like rainbows in the gardens. Listen closely, and I can hear their hum. Visitors are encouraged to add their own found objects.
All The Bells
My favorite room is the Bell Room. I walked among hanging bells. As I brushed past the bells, their ringing echoed through the room. Lights within the bells swung, illuminating the darkened space.
The (Most Bizarre) Uncomfy Room
The most bizarre room of Un-Natural Gardens at Descanso is labeled The Uncomfy Room. I step into a space covered in pink, fuzzy fur carpet. There are wigs randomly sewn into the walls. I feel disconcerted. Also, I am a little creeped out by the hanging nylon stuffed objects dangling from the ceiling. I navigate through the weirdly lit room, and there are nooks and curves that should be invitingly cozy, but it just makes me more uncomfortable. Turn the corner, and the passages are tighter, with more of the pink things (reminds me of intestines) hang in my face. Part of me wants to stay and figure out what this is, and part of me wants to get out of there as fast as I can. It’s funny, and bizarre, and definitely thought provoking.
The Odd Manor Un-Library
Enter the Manor library…but the books are all shrink wrapped. Giant worms block the way, and one giant worm eats the furniture. Please move stuff around, but don’t read the books! Pillars are in front of the books so they are no longer accessible. As I entered the room, I thought of a Dr. Seuss book or the set of Beetlejuice.
Are the books shrink wrapped to protect them from the worms because no one reads anymore? Books are just decor and art now, and serve no other purpose? Books are just antiques to be be collected. Are the worms representing technology and paper books are a thing of the past? Do the worms represent COVID, and how it disrupted lives? Is the eaten couch a statement about how we were locked up?
The Boa Room
After the Uncomfy Room and the Library, I am almost afraid of what the Boa Room is all about. To my delight, it is walking through a room of colorful feather boas hanging ceiling to floor. Every adult turns into a child playing with the whimsically tickling feathers.
While The Boa Room is light and airy, the Zeppelin Mass is dark and heavy. The stones crunch under my feet. The textured walls beg to be touched. In the center of the room, the illusion of a red Zeppelin changes with every step.
Agora Dining Room
I finish in the Agora room. The table is set with art of the bizarre, un-natural garden of golf balls, melted birthday candles, shaving creme and silverware that looks more like weapons.
The Un-Natural Garden Performances at Descanso
Descanso Gardens often has events and performances. My favorite event of the year is the Enchanted Forest interactive display held in December. For opening day of the Un-Natural Gardens, Descanso invited choirs, musicians, dancers to help celebrate. It may be un-natural to faintly hear sounds of the Tibetan Bowls and flutes, harps, and choir singing, mixed with the birds as we strolled through the Japanese Gardens and cherry blossoms, but it enhanced the beauty of the gardens themselves.
Descanso Gardens is located in Flintridge, California near the towns of La Canada and Montrose. The bizarre Un-Natural Garden exhibit is running April 16, 2022 until January 8, 2023. The hours are 10 am- 6 pm weekdays and 10 am – 4 pm weekends, but always check the website for the most updated information. Advance ticket purchase is required for non-members. Ticket prices range from $5 for children, $11 for students, $15 for adults and seniors (age 65+) $11.