Art project contemplating state’s environmental issues to transform COC Art Gallery exterior

Workers from Feathers Wraps put up mural on COC's Art Gallery on the Valencia campus. By Michele Lutes/The Signal

Inspired by some of California’s biggest environmental issues, like water conservation, Los Angeles-based artist Devon Tsuno brings a massive art project set to transform College of the Canyons Art Gallery’s exterior.

“California Seedlings” will cover 702 square feet of the building’s façade with a graphic film wrap, a project that will mark the start of the gallery’s new initiative to use the institution’s public space through dynamic contemporary art.

“I knew I wanted to do some public art and take the excitement from indoors to go on the broader campus,” said Pamela Bailey Lewis, COC’s newest art director.

Lewis then learned that students and communities found great interest in environmental issues. That’s when Tsuno’s artwork came to mind.

Workers from Feathers Wraps put up mural on COC’s Art Gallery on the Valencia campus piece by piece. By Michele Lutes/The Signal


Not only did they want an artist whose focus was on said topics, but one who could work between fine and commercial art. This was important, Lewis said, because of the procedure needed to transfer a paint-based work into a digital version that will be cut out and placed onto the building. 

The original piece was painted on handmade paper, of “washy” texture, Tsuno said. Elon Schoenholz, a commercial photographer specializing in architecture and interiors, then photographed the project in 10 sections with a high-resolution camera. The files were then stitched together to reproduce a 61-feet-wide and 13-feet-tall version of the painting.

The project depicts an abstract collection of native and non-native plants using vibrant colors like yellows and pinks in contrast with blue hues.

“I chose those colors because they memorialize the tradition of graffiti that is no longer allowed at the L.A. River,” Tsuno said.

“California Seedlings” is based on plants in the L.A. watershed and it’s a mixture of California plants that migrate to the L.A. riverbed, the artist explained.

“It represents the diversity of California and the changes for good and bad,” he added.

Lewis said the work will not only be exciting to look at, but it will provide an opportunity to “engage our students in new ways in discussions about contemporary art, sustainability, and our environment.”  

For the past 10 years, Tsuno has focused on the scarcity of water, tying in his passion for the outdoors while living in an urban area like L.A. He said he enjoys researching local bodies of water like the L.A. and San Gabriel rivers, asking why these places exist and how cities have or have not restored and managed nature in those areas.

“My paintings are a contemplation of the change in cities,” he said referring to the collision between nature and urban spaces.

Influenced by Japanese, 19th-century Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and fabric, Tsuno’s rich, densely layered works are inspired by the vigorous and dynamic flora competing for space in urban environments.

His art project at COC will be on view from Monday, August 13 through May 2019. A public reception will be held from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18.

All gallery exhibitions and related events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit  COC Art Gallery.

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