New Exhibit Showcases Work of Botanical Artist
By Brian Hiro
In her former life, Britton Neubacher was a crisis worker. To spruce up an otherwise drab environment, and because the organization she worked for didn’t have money for elaborate decorations, she would stuff her drop-in center with plants.
“The more plants I brought in,” Neubacher said, “the calmer people felt – including me.”
At a certain point, the plants that she surrounded herself with began to feel more inspirational than the crisis work itself. Seeking to transform the office into even more of a sanctuary for her clients, Neubacher decided to create a terrarium inside of a glass orb, then hang it from the ceiling.
A second career was born, with Neubacher reinventing herself as a botanical artist and creating a company – San Diego-based TEND – in 2007 to support her fledgling passion. Her work has been featured in such diverse locations as the San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego International Airport, Trash Lamb Gallery in South Park and the Sturt Haaga Gallery at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.
This semester, the Cal State San Marcos community can get an up-close look at the fruits of Neubacher’s life transition. As part of the CSUSM library’s spring Context Exhibit Series, Neubacher took 10 weeks this winter to install a collection of plant-based sculpture and assemblage that’s now on display on the third floor of the library. The exhibit, titled “Emergence,” can be viewed in person or online through July.
Neubacher will discuss her work and her inspiration for creating this installation on April 6 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Kellogg Reading Room on the fifth floor of the library. An RSVP is required to attend.
“Her art reflects a connection between the arts and the sciences,” said Rosa Rodriguez, CSUSM’s outreach librarian. “You can see reflections of geometry, plant science, sculpture, sustainability and more. There’s a special meaning for everyone in this exhibit. Seeing her uniquely shaped pieces and her use of natural materials is very impactful. It brings what we typically see outdoors indoors and allows the viewer to be immersed in her pieces. I am very excited to introduce Britton to the campus and our community.”
“Emergence” is made up of three separate elements that tie together under a common theme. Mounted on a wall at the back of the exhibit area are a group of what Neubacher calls portals, framed pieces of earth that are designed to “portal” the viewer deeper into the natural world. The five “Fecund Fractals” are shaped like pyramids, while the two “Bloom Seeds” on either end are shaped like flowers.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a towering plant sculpture composed of green spheres that widen in diameter as the piece grows taller. The effect is fanciful and vaguely Seussian. The sculpture, titled “Song of Increase,” is “inspired by nature’s adaptive system of optimizing wellness more and more powerfully after every setback,” Neubacher said.
She would know. While she was developing this artwork last year, her mother died.
“So what was initially a statement about loss and discovery inside the pandemic became a louder call to remake myself in the face of this very personal hardship, and emerge anew,” Neubacher said. “When I named this exhibit ‘Emergence,’ I had no idea how invitational that title would become.”
Among the materials that Neubacher used in creating the exhibit are lichen, moss, fern, foam, wood, pebble and mixed botanicals. Everything in her art, she said, is forged, found or preserved.
“I’m drawn to materials that offer texture and movement, or the illusion of movement, and love using preserved botanicals as an alternative to cut flowers and water-hungry plants,” she said. “Most of my plants and all of my mosses are preserved with non-toxic glycerin, which allows them to remain in a state of suspended animation for many years.”
Rodriguez was introduced to Neubacher's work through Char Booth, associate dean of the library. After looking at some pieces on the TEND website, Rodriguez thought she would be a great fit for the CSUSM community.
“Her art pieces connect to what the campus does as a whole for our students,” Rodriguez said. “We strive to provide new experiences, support emotional wellness and connect us with one another through art.”
Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist
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