Arts & Entertainment

Arboretum in Arcadia Asks: What Does the Arboretum Mean to You?

“Madagascar Madness” by artist Frank McDonough – Photo by Galen Patterson / Beacon Media News

128 unique pieces of art adorn the walls and halls of the arboretum library

By Galen Patterson

The Los Angeles County Arboretum Library in Arcadia is currently holding an exhibit on what the Arboretum means to you.

Part of what makes this exhibit extraordinary is the lack of rules artists needed to follow for submissions. The idea was inspired by a former employee of the arboretum who holds a similar exhibit in New Orleans. The former employee also happens to be a friend of Arboretum librarian, Susan Eubank.

Eubank developed the idea, put the word out and managed the submissions along with the library staff. The main criteria for entering were that it had to relate to the Arboretum, and the artists must be members, volunteers or staff. In the end, the library gained members as some artists were looking for a place to showcase their work.

A final criterion considered the safety of the library patrons and in the end was the only reason some submissions had to be turned down. Eubank cites an example of a potential furniture submission. She said the exhibit is still inside a working library and children often come to the library. It was a risk they just couldn’t take and nothing too large or dangerous was displayed.

“We did intake for two days,” said Eubank. “We didn’t know what people would come up with, so it was like Christmas,” she said referring to the opening of submission boxes. Truly, Eubank’s holiday reference must have been accurate as the submissions range from bizarre to the casually observed.

Hung on one wall are scenic paintings of Queen Anne’s Cottage and coach house, while sitting against the opposite wall is a mask with the face of a large, predatory bird and the horns of a Big Horn Sheep.

“Equilibrium” by artist Toy Jones. – Photo by Galen Patterson / Beacon Media News

Portraits of dragonflies hang in a cluster on the wall, all submitted by the same person. A man named Tim Conrow photographed the dragonflies and made regular trips to the Arboretum to find them. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 58 and his photos were submitted by his sister, Martha.

One of the staff members that participated in the exhibit is interpretive horticulturist John Latsko.

Latsko’s painting hangs in the far corner of the exhibit with a loud and vibrant color scheme. At a glance, the painting may appear to be entirely abstract, but the tag reads “abstraction based on actual observation and accumulated knowledge from my work in healthy soil.”

“Soil Network, Crescent Farm” by artist John Latsko – Photo by Galen Patterson / Beacon Media News

“I’ve become enchanted with soil,” Latsko told Arcadia Weekly under the mid-day shade of an Arboretum tree. The painting began as Latsko was roughly sketching the canopy of a tree, while looking up from underneath it. Soon enough, the sketch began to look “too busy,” he said.

Around that time he was looking at soil under a microscope, studying the connective fungal tissue through which plants pass nutrients to each other and help a plant community thrive. “It reminded me of a circulatory system,” he said, “Which is ultimately what it is.”

Latsko decided that what he had been sketching was mirrored from above, into the soil below and made the connection between the animal and plant kingdoms. His painting is a manifestation of that inspiration.

Some of the artwork is for sale, with a majority of the sale going to the artist.

The exhibit is open until June 27 and is included with admission to the Arboretum. Members get in free.

June 12, 2019

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Galen Patterson

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