Current Exhibitions

Creative Ecology: Linda Gass
What We Discovered at Cooley Landing
November 14 - January 22

On the Edge, Copyright 2008 © Linda Gass.

For the exhibition, Gass has created intimately-scaled stitched paintings and substantial land-art installations that explore the water and landscapes, exploring the themes of what lives in the water and sea level rise. She strives to create beautiful artwork with a message—work that engages the viewer and promotes awareness and action around the conservation of land and water. Two community art projects, led by Gass, will also be shown. The first consists of photographs of a community-built land art installation marking the historic shoreline and filling of wetlands. The second is a quilt comprised of 66 colorful silk paintings created by community members and reflecting the natural environment of Cooley Landing.

"Science, nature and the community all came together to inform and inspire the artwork in the exhibition," says Gass. "I was touched by how people responded to what they saw, the drawings they made in their field notebooks, and the conversations I had with them. Much of the artwork I'm showing is a true collaboration with the community."

About Creative Ecology
Her effort is part of Creative Ecology: Exploring Our Environment with Art, Science, and the Community, an innovative program promoting appreciation of the natural world through scientific inquiry and the creative process. The effort includes artists, educators and the larger community, and is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and made possible through a partnership between the Palo Alto Art Center and the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo.

                                Image: Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, Picnic Dress Tent, 2005, chromogenic photograph,
                                40 x 48 in.; courtesy of the artists

“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives.”

—Rebecca Solnit        

Front Yard/Backstreet explores the connections between people and their communities. These artists encourage us to see our communities in new ways, by showcasing unique and unexpected features of our landscapes, neighborhoods, blocks and parks, and the businesses and people who inhabit them. Featuring works in a wide range of media, Front Yard/Backstreet explores themes of mapping, landscape, and population, ultimately encouraging us to reconsider our relationships to the places in which we live work, and play.

“Maps encourage boldness…They make anything seem possible.”—Mark Jenkins

Maps are vital tools for exploration, documentation, and memory. They help us to make sense of our communities and serve as nostalgic reminders of the places we have lived, visited, and dreamed about. Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet find inspiration in the form of maps to create artworks that explore our relationship to place. Val Britton refers to her complex mixed-media works as “emotional landscapes” that suggest imagined roadways, land masses, and oceans. Craig Dorety in collaboration with Jim Campbell creates an illusion of a three-dimensional urban landscape in a two-dimensional format in Inverted Pixel Array—Street Scene NYC. In her laser-cut works, installations, and FRICKbits app, Laurie Frick tracks and visualizes personal data—including her walking and sleep patterns. Matt Gonzalez assembles street-grid collages from found materials to reflect his urban landscapes. Kate Pocrass encourages us to see the everyday in a new light in her This is Happiness: Palo Alto map, which is available for free to all. Lordy Rodriguez uses the language of cartography to explore the cultural and historic identities of our community.

Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet bring us closer to both natural and man-made elements in our landscape, encouraging us to see parts of our terrain that we may have overlooked. Deeply concerned with the environmental fragility of our coasts and marshes, Tanja Geis presents a site-specific installation created from mud collected from the nearby Baylands. Amanda Marchand’s compelling photographs offer us a rarely-seen view of gardens at night. Tracey Snelling plays with scale in her miniature dwellings, incorporating video to suggest alternate narratives. Blending traditional photographic processes with satellite imagery culled from Google maps, Greg Stimac addresses the power of landscape in shaping community identity.

Ultimately, people build our communities and infuse them with life.  Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet highlight populations in our community that we may not see, or have chosen not to notice. They also provide novel perspectives on the people we see every day. Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao create dress tents that humorously blend performance, sculpture and photography, challenging representations of women by exploring what lies underneath the façade (or under the dress). Whitney Lynn’s video documents famous San Francisco street performer Greg Jacobs (a.k.a. Bushman) as he plays with his own visibility. In meticulously detailed pencil drawings, Joel Daniel Phillips spotlights residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home community, work produced during a residency at the Palo Alto Art Center. Arne Svenson employs unique compositional techniques to elevate the manual laborers who are his subjects.

Friday Night at the Art Center: Opening Celebration for
Front Yard/Backstreet

Friday, September 18, 7 - 10 p.m.
Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road

Join us as we celebrate the opening of Front Yard/Backstreet with hands-on artmaking, interactive activities presented by the Mobile Arts Platform, a special performance by exhibiting artists Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, food trucks, live music by Old Broads Rule, and a cash bar featuring a specialty cocktail provided by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

Double Take by Patrick Dougherty:
A site-specific installation

January 2011 -

Patrick Dougherty and detail of Ruaille Buaille (Hijinx)
2008, Parklands in County Offaly, Ireland.
Photo: James Fraher

The Palo Alto Art Center is honored to present a monumental, site-specific installation by Patrick Dougherty, one of the nation’s most prominent environmental sculptors. The public may view the artist’s creative process during his three week artist residency, January 11- 28, 2011, on the grounds of the Palo Alto Art Center.

Identified as the Jackson Pollock of saplings by art critic John Perreault, Patrick Dougherty is a process-oriented artist whose lyrical, organic works are created specifically for each site. Made from local and renewable willow saplings, his works embody natural life cycles, changing over time as the sticks settle and decay, eventually returning to the earth from which they grew. Dougherty has created over 200 monumental site-specific installations on the grounds of major museums, universities, botanical gardens, and private residences worldwide. The resulting works evoke a wide array of natural forms, ranging from nests to objects with a transparent architecture, like woodland dwellings, or basketry.

Environmental sensitivity is a major concern for the artist. Saplings are gathered from maintained sources so that the branches grow back to make new sticks for future uses. Dougherty does not use any artificial supports in his constructions because the inherent properties of saplings cause them to snag and entangle easily.

While there is a signature quality to his work, each of his compelling sculptures relates specifically to the physical site in a unique way. Dougherty believes that ideas percolate at the actual venue and that “the success of a piece lies in capturing the essence of a place and then playing with what you make of that essence.” Unlike other sculptors, he initially conceives of his work by making a series of word associations on both the physical and social qualities of a site. He is conscious of drawing in space, as he weaves sticks with lighter and darker colors and varying widths and lengths.

This project is commissioned by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation and co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Public Art Commission. It is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Documentary film of the Patrick Dougherty installation at the Palo Alto Art Center (You Tube)

Patrick Dougherty Lecture at the Palo Alto Art Center (You Tube)

Public Reactions to Double Take by Patrick Dougerhty (You Tube)
Last Updated: Nov 19, 2015