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Please Touch The Art: Descanso Gardens Trippy New Installation Wants To Evoke 'Joy'

A plush pink fur-lined cave decorated with wigs on the walls and stuffed panty hose legs hanging like stalagmites.
A plush pink fur-lined cave festooned with wigs on the walls and stuffed panty hose legs hanging like stalagmites.
(Susanne Whatley
/
LAist)
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If worms were 10-feet tall, and didn’t have to be brown, what colors would they be?

If you're artist Adam Schwerner, they'd be orange, pink and blue, and you'd have them take over the staid Boddy House library at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge, just for fun.

These mischievous cylindrical creations tower over visitors in candy-colored majesty. Nearby is a letterboard sign proclaiming "THESE WORMS ARE SELFISH." They're also ill-mannered, as they bore through the coffee table and burrow into the sofa. A few of them flash a toothy snarl.

A smiling worm shaped like a cylinder from Adam Schwerner's "Your Un-Natural Garden" exhibit.
A worm from the "Your Un-Natural Garden" exhibit resides in the Boddy House library at Descanso Gardens.
(Susanne Whatley
/
LAist)
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The Boddy House and the adjacent Sturt Haaga Gallery have hosted art exhibitions for years — usually of the watercolor-in-the garden variety. But in this latest display that opened over the weekend, Schwerner and his fabrication team turned Descanso's rooms and outdoor spaces on their ear with wildly imaginative interactive set pieces.

"Your Un-Natural Garden" is a colorful, trippy series of works inviting you to not only look, but also — touch and play. In fact, that instruction is painted on the ceiling of the house’s entryway.

One room of the gallery is filled with floor-to ceiling strings of bells that tinkle serenely as an electronic gadget triggers their movement. Another is a plush pink fur-lined cave festooned with wigs on the walls and stuffed panty hose legs hanging like stalagmites.

Fuschia panels hanging from the roof form a giant airship over a gravel floor.
The Zeppelin Room features charred wood sides, a gravel floor on which footsteps make an echo-y crunch and hanging orange panels formed into a giant dirigible.
(Susanne Whatley
/
LAist )

And there’s the Zeppelin Room, with charred wood sides, a gravel floor on which footsteps make an echo-y crunch and hanging orange panels formed into a giant dirigible.

long feather boas in vivid neon shades of orange, blue and pink hang down from the ceiling, bathed in lavendar light  A woman peers around one of them.
Alhambra resident Holly Miller feels a long feather boa along her face. Dozens hung from the living room ceiling, bathed in lavender light.
(Susanne Whatley
/
LAist)

Back at the house, dozens of long feather boas hang from every foot of the living room ceiling, bathed in lavender light. A long dining table is laid with yellow and turquoise plates of painted chalk, crayons and golf balls.

There are chairs everywhere — pink ones, a giant one, one comprised of bicycle wheels and another featuring a long spring in the center, uncoiled as though having just ejected the sitter. Outside in the gardens, gravity-defying arches and forms loom like entwined snakes, splashed with bold hues.

The majority of the material came from a recycling company, Tierra Verde Industries in Irvine, which supplied the scrap wood, metal debris and a crazy variety of discarded objects.

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During my preview last week, Schwerner, a self-proclaimed "botanical garden nerd," told me his playful and whimsical exhibit is a reaction to the turmoil of the past few years, to COVID and the lockdown, and the disconnect people experienced along with political turmoil.

The trunk of tree is made up of colorful materials
An outdoor installation from Adam Schwerner's "Your Un-Natural Garden."
(Susanne Whatley
/
LAist)

He wants to reconnect people and help us come out of that dark phase with bright colors and interactive displays. The sea of dangling boas, in particular, is meant to evoke joy.

He believes that after all that we've been through we need to have some fun.

The Instagram-ready installations will be here through Jan. 8, 2023.

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