Descanso Gardens, a botanical garden that is a 15-minute drive from Occidental, is hosting “Your (Un)natural Garden,” an exhibit that invites visitor to “please touch the art,” according to their website.
The artist behind the exhibit is Adam Schwerner, a New Yorker and self-proclaimed museum lover. According to Schwerner, the intent behind the exhibit was to make it as accessible as possible.
“I want people to come to the exhibition how they are,” Schwerner said.
He said he does not want people to feel unwelcome, or like they need any special knowledge to appreciate the art. Instead, he said he aimed to create an exhibition that anyone could get something out of and add to themselves.
Large structures made out of a hodgepodge of multicolored pieces of wood, baseball bats, ladders and other recycled materials point guests from the gardens toward the gallery, where the majority of Schwerner’s work is on display. Scraps of red ribbons, sticks, feathers and other found objects have been added to these guideposts.
Director of Membership and Guest Experience at Descanso Gardens Cristeen Martinez said visitors are encouraged to contribute to the exhibit, to get up close and fully experience it.
From “The Uncomfy Room” to the ever-Instagrammable “Boa Room,” guests are invited to feel, listen to and smell each piece.
“Taste is the only sense you’re not encouraged to indulge,” Martinez said.
Allowing people to directly experience the art gives them the opportunity to let go and find community, Schwerner said.
Schwerner said “Your (Un)natural Garden” was made possible through extensive collaboration with design and fabrication experts who helped him construct his pieces at Descanso. Schwerner said friends and colleagues at creative organizations such as Pink Sparrow, JustDesign and Art Mafia inspired much of the exhibition.
Kalie Acheson, creative consultant at Art Mafia, said the exhibition brought people together at all stages of production as “Your (Un)natural Garden” went from an idea to breathtaking reality.
The “Agora Table,” for example, is surrounded by chairs made out of everything from bicycle tires to springs, where visitors can move around dishes as they wish. Inspired by the Seder table of his childhood, Schwerner said he created a space where community can be built in the aftermath of division.
“COVID divided us away from one another, and I wanted to create a place where people can come together,” Schwerner said.
The “Uncomfy Room,” at first glance, is very, very pink. Its walls are completely covered with various shades and textures, bulbous masses of fabric hang from the ceiling — and all of it is pink.
“You might be confused about what this room is supposed to evoke,” Martinez said. “But that soundtrack really doesn’t leave any room for doubt.”
The soundtrack is a series of gurgling noises — popping bubbles and other sounds you might hear inside the human body. Martinez said it is not meant to be a comfortable place.
“He wants people to feel that initial discomfort, and find a place to feel welcome amongst that discomfort,” Martinez said.
Schwerner said he wants people to learn about themselves through the art, and for that learning to happen, we have to first feel a bit uncomfortable.
“I’ve laughed with visitors about the art. I’ve cried with them over deaths in their families,” Schwerner said. “I hope with this exhibit, it brings people together.”
“Your (Un)natural Garden” will be exhibited at Descanso Gardens until Jan. 8, 2023. The exhibition is closed on the third Tuesday of every month, and tickets are $11 with a student ID.