Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 11, Issue 39
Growing artA Santa Maria landscape artist displays his plant- based sculpture at Jardin de las Granadas
BY SHELLY CONE
Francis Michael Dawson was a little late to the game when he heard about the deadline for submitting his work to the Jardin de las Granadas exhibition space in Santa Barbara. But Dawson’s a bit of a spontaneous type, so with a deadline two days away, he went to the exhibit space and sat and thought—not about what he could create and then display in the space, but rather how he could use it. There’s a difference, he explained.
“With public art, often it’s about the artist’s thoughts and their trip, not about the space,” Dawson said. “I like the art to be about the space rather than proliferation of my own thoughts.”
The Santa Maria artist went to work drawing and engineering plans, which he submitted to a panel of judges. His idea was selected from of hundreds of applications from around the state. His work will show in the Jardin de las Granadas exhibition. His sculpture isn’t made of stone or a block of wood—it lives and grows in front of the Las Granadas housing project in the heart of the cultural arts district on Anapamu.
Dawson’s exhibition is titled Stochastic Probability, on display through April 22, 2011.
The title refers to a sequence of random variables that make things happen. In this case, it refers to how plants grow. The idea came largely from Dawson’s general perspective on life.
“Life happens around us, and we grow and change, and we don’t have control over those things, but we hope and we want to develop and we want to change,” he said.
For the work, Dawson has integrated more than 2,000 hand-tended succulents into four, 10-foot pillars. But the work was, as he described it, obsessive. He spent two months testing soil and propagated 6,000 succulents before settling. Why so much pre-work?
“I need to have a tool kit to draw from,” Dawson said.
Dawson’s artwork explores ritual and time and space and how the bodies we inhabit alter and animate. He believes the process of changing negative space will challenge and positively engage his audience.
Dawson said his work can’t be explained by a tidy definition. He said it doesn’t fit into a modernist framework, but it doesn’t fit into a classicist foundation, either.
“It’s just kind of fun,” he said.
Being chosen for the exhibition was an honor for Dawson, though it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dawson’s plant-based sculptures have been widely recognized. His work has been featured in 18 group exhibitions throughout California. He’s received awards from the James Irvine Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation, UCSB Art affiliates fellowships, and the William Dole Memorial Fund among others.
A 2001 honors graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree from UCSB, Dawson owns a residential landscape company in Santa Maria. For the last 12 years, he’s been a visual artist who has used a large variety of succulents and plant materials in his work. He was featured in the Wall Street Journal for his creative and sustainable landscape work.
All of that is just extra. The real honor is getting to do what he loves to do.
“I love to get dirty,” he said.
He also loves to work outside of a plan: “I’m a very spontaneous person in life, and things happen more intuitively as they go. This was kind of a spontaneous, fresh project.”
Arts Editor Shelly Cone gets her hands dirty with newsprint every week at the Sun. Contact her at email@example.com.