Visualizing Nature

In Visualizing Nature, NYC students grades K-12 engage with the gardens, woodland, and exhibitions at Wave Hill in observation, embodied play, and art-making to explore the parts of nature they’d like to deepen their relationships to. Students engage with the work of artists showing at Wave Hill’s Public Gardens and Cultural Center to imagine how art can serve as a tool for transformation.

Here We Land – Roots and Routes

The Roots and Routes curriculum looks to the artists Camille Hoffman, Maria Hupfield and Sara Jimenez, each of who created original installations for the exhibition Here We Land. This curriculum centers the ways the artists are exploring their own narratives and ideas around claiming place and creates space for students to name the ways in which they see themselves reflected in and move through, contested spaces.

Starting in the woodlands and gardens, young people used self-reflection, guided mindfulness practices, and collaborative games and dialogue with their peers to integrate their own experiences and ecological observations into the spaces that inspired the showing artists. Throughout their visit to the exhibition, young people were given prompts to embody some key themes from each artist’s work. Young people engaged with Maria Hupfield’s Call and Response Bag by exploring what they would carry with them through their journey through time and space. In Sarah Jiminez’s The Edge of Dwelling, an installation fraught with colonial texts and photographs designed to be disorienting, youth attempted to answer who might live in the fictional city. Camille Hoffman’s work asked students to look to the silhouettes of families running away from tear gas at the border, but to also look at the Aspen trees within the silhouettes whose roots entangle with one another to make them stronger. Students were asked to look at both ideas to imagine what comes next for the running silhouettes. Lastly,  young people made artwork in direct response to Camille Hoffman’s question, “where does land live within the body?” by tracing their cameo silhouettes and mapping out their relationship to the lands that have shaped them within their silhouettes.

Figuring the Floral – I See Flowers; Do Flowers See Me? 

Through the Figuring the Floral exhibition and the wild and flower gardens at Wave Hill, students practiced using new tools to see nature more intimately, and with their own unique lenses. Students investigated the ways in which they could build relationships with flowers to learn new skills in seeing flowers more fully, and in return learning to see themselves mirrored in the flowers’ way of being.

Students started in the wild garden by reflecting on what it means to be seen through observational drawing and dialogue. Students were asked recall personal experiences to name memories and feelings of  kinship with flowers. Students explored ways to pay attention to and appreciate nature. Together we asked the question: Can nature see me too? Students used group discussion to unpack the idea that nature can be a place for self-reflection and “self seeing”.

Students the headed into the gallery to center around the work of Lina Iris, Second, Elements from a Cabinet of Anticipation. Through this work students were asked to investigate ideas of connectivity and interconnection through looking at themes of dark matter. Students also gathered around the work of Diana Sofia Lozano’s SubRosa to unpack gender roles and the power of flowers to act as symbols for identity. Using personal zines, students took time for individual reflection around Abigail DeVille’s And the Migrants Kept Coming to reflect on what is discarded, thrown away, and forgotten and what reclamation of what is discarded can mean. Students also engaged in the Sunroom Project Space with the works of Emily Oliveira’s Mundo Irrealis (Wish You Were Here) and Duy Hoàng’s Interarboreal. In these spaces, students were encouraged to generate their own questions based on Olivera’s themes of time-travel, queer futures, and devotional spaces and Hoàng’s themes of survival, home, and care.

Through a game of Gathering through the Senses in the woodlands, students choreographed the parts of nature that moved them. Lastly, students created Face Foliage self-portraits using flower material and principles in biomimicy to create works that used flowers as metaphors for their own identities.

Navigating our Narratives

In the Fall and Winter of 2018, Wave Hill exhibited the 21st Annual International American Society of Botanical Art in the Glyndor Gallery, along with the works of Ashton Agbomenou and Yelaine Rodriguez whose works contemplate the themes around African diaspora. Young people engaged with these works and the gardens by connecting with metaphors in germination, dispersal, and growth.

Students first centered themselves in a deep listening practice in the conservatory where they contemplated how a plant might speak in its own language–and tuning into the different ways in which they can listen to a plant. In the Glyndor Gallery, students engaged with the illustrations that told the stories of seed dispersal, the passage of time, decay and deterioration, and plants most universally recognized for their uses to humans. Students took on the persona of a chosen work, and embodied that plant through words and movement to imagine what that plant might communicate about its life from seed, to dispersal, to growth, to decay. In the woodland, students engaged in dialogue over a garden’s movement over time and seed dispersal; and how students related to each idea.

In the Sunroom project spaces, students were introduced to the themes of self-liberation, African diaspora, and representation in racial identity in Yelaine Rodriguez’s Ezili Dantor, Freedom and the African Diaspora: We are here, because you were there. Students continued exploring the theme of African diaspora in Ashton Agbomenou’s African American, with a particular focus on the baobab’s symbolism as the tree of life. In each space, students were asked to name the narrative. Deepening into the metaphor of seed dispersal, students then created postcards from their communities to emulate Ashton Agbomenou’s wish to depict his Harlem neighborhood. Students finished with a collaborative mural they created to capture the moving gardens and to shape their own narrative by designing a garden space that spoke to their sense of belonging.