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9am-7pm daily

2021 Exhibitions

Full Circle: A Return to the Land

November 13, 2021–March 13, 2022

Full Circle: A Return to the Land chronicled human interaction with the land including and surrounding Descanso Gardens.

In the exhibition, each of the new cultures that arrived in Southern California — Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American — were examined by the effect they have had on the existing land and/or culture. History can be seen in the story of Toypurina, a Tongva woman who took a leadership role in the 1785 revolt against the San Gabriel Mission. The interweaving of history, art, and ethnobotany from largely unheard perspectives fosters a deeper understanding of how Descanso Gardens and much of Southern California evolved from pre-European contact to the present time.

By comparing the Descanso Gardens landscape with contemporary urban Los Angeles, our detachment from nature could hardly be more dramatic. Looking to traditional Tongva ecological knowledge, we find models of how to realign with nature to achieve a reciprocal relationship with the land on a personal, cultural, and societal level. In coming full circle, we return to the awareness of the land that has existed before us and that we want to leave intact and improved for future generations.

Full Circle consisted of photographs, maps, works of art, contemporary Tongva artifacts, landscape plans, and video components; and was funded in part by Heather and Paul Haaga.

Featured artists

Judith F. Baca, Jesus Barraza, Maynard Dixon, Mercedes Dorame, River Garza, Graham I. Hayes, Nancypili Hernandez, iris yirei hu, William Henry Jackson, Sandra de la Loza, Sheila Pinkel, Craig Torres, J. Michael Walker, and Carleton Watkins.

About the curator

Full Circle: A Return to the Land was organized by Lynn LaBate, an award-winning curator whose multi-disciplinary exhibitions have included The Virgin of Guadalupe: Interpreting Devotion; Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied; and Breaking Ground: 20th Century Latin American Art from the Norton Simon Collection.

Castle Garden

June 28–September 19, 2021

Through contemporary artwork, videos and historic materials, Castle Garden explored how, over the centuries, plants and gardens have played a vital role in communicating our identity and culture. The exhibition also addressed the impact of non-native species on local ecosystems.

Castle Garden examined issues surrounding Southern California landscaping including origin stories of pervasive non-native plants, socio-political conditions surrounding gardening traditions, how drought and climate change route us back to native gardens, and how changes in climate will dictate our future landscape.

Castle Garden explored the history of common characteristics of our home gardens. For example, palm trees — perhaps the defining emblem of the California lifestyle — but only the Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm) is native to California; and even these palms are naturally found nearly 200 miles away in the Colorado Desert. Planting non-native palms en masse occurred in the 1930s, in tandem with the sale of the fully branded California dream.

As part of Castle Garden, artist Jenny Yurshansky invited listeners to acquaint themselves with non-native plants commonly found in California with Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory (Audio Guide). You can experience the audio guide here.

Castle Garden was funded in part by Heather and Paul Haaga and the Pasadena Art Alliance.

Featured artists and curator

The exhibition featured works by Shagha Ariannia, Beatriz Cortez, Samantha Morales Johnson, Amitis Motevalli, Fran Siegel and Jenny Yurshansky; and was curated by Debra Scacco.