Art-in-Nature: Enchantment Wrap Up

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

The Moving Clouds (performance) by Minoosh Zomorodina

Within You and Without You (terrace site-work) by Faith Purvey

Park Pool Province (poolside fence work) by Karen Reitzel

Cloud Chamber (aviary site-work) by Ben Allanoff

Enchantment: a feeling of great pleasure, delight; the state of being under a spell or magic; a feeling of being attracted by something interesting, pretty, something that holds your attention.

This month marks the closing of Enchantment at Peter Strauss Ranch in Agoura Hills, California. Three site works were installed in May and the final performance was on Saturday September 10th. Each artist was provided an honorarium by ecoartspace to cover materials and incidentals. It was the fourth successful collaboration between ecoartspace and the National Park Service (NPS); the others, Windsock Currents at Crissy Field in the Presidio (2005), and at the Grand Canyon South Rim Artist-in-Residence Program (2009 and 2012).

Peter Strauss Ranch is home of an enchanting oak woodland that was inhabited for thousands of years by the Chumash people, and later as part of the Rancho Las Virgenes after Spanish Colonization. The modern Pool and rustic Terrace were built in the 1940s when Warren Shobert and Arthur Edeson purchased the ranch and transformed it into Lake Enchanto, an amusement park and retreat. Lake Enchanto closed in 1960. Peter Strauss purchased and restored the ranch in 1976 and lived on site until 1983. The ranch was then sold to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and the National Park Service purchased the ranch in 1987 as part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It is located in the Triunfo Creek drainage.

About the works:

Cloud Chamber: Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Ben Allanoff transformed an existing aviary structure originally built by a former owner Harry Miller, a pioneering automotive engineer who used the ranch as a weekend retreat in the 1920. For this site, Allanoff cut biomorphic shapes from sheet metal and hung them from the top of the wire cage, a symbolism of the birds that once resided there. The reflective shapes were strikingly architectural, while evocative of the spirits or energies that “animate our world and our individual psyches that cannot be grasped,” stated the artist.

Park Pool Province by Karen Reitzel included two panels on the fencing around an abandoned circular cement pool consisting of hand-dyed strips of silk scarf material. One depicting two prancing poodles and poison oak leaves on aqua blue silk, and the other a helicopter with swimming poodle-shaped clouds on fleshy pink colored silk that could be seen from atop of the adjacent terrace. The artist was inspired by the site’s history of leisure, pleasure, and artifice, and the contemporary condition of partly re-natured, drought-stricken lands in close proximity to encroaching development.

Within You and Without You by Faith Purvey located on a terraced hill overlooking the circular pool was an ascending pathway made of natural burlap and orange fabrics cut in a triangular shape. Participants climbing the hill entered a perceptual shift of the mind and an eventual meditative vantage space at the crest. Alluding to the rising stair paths found on Mayan Temples, the artist made use of the sites’ archaic architectural qualities to position her viewers to feel as though they had stepped into the distant past–whether meditating on 8,000 years of Chumash habitation, or the mysterious disappearance of the Mayan civilizations.

The Moving Clouds performance on Saturday, September 10th, by Minoosh Zomorodinia, was sited in front of the aviary where she engaged visitors along a path while they passed through on their way to the Tiny Porches monthly concert series. Dressed in all white, including her hijab, with several layers of shiny silver Mylar sheeting overlaid, the artist performed a series of ritual actions with repetitions of walking, marching, and jumping to animate her concerns for the changing climate. The reflective material was used to visually connect with nature, land, and the physicality of the human body, while re-creating the sounds of the oceans.

Special thanks goes to Ranger Tori Kuykendall who invited ecoartspace to curate this summer art-in-the-park program, and to Ben Allanoff who suggested ecoartspace to Tori and laid the groundwork for Enchantment to happen. Thanks to the artists Karen Rietzel, Faith Purvey and Minoosh Zomorodinia for their thoughtful installations, and again to Ben Allanoff for his dedication to making art-in-nature and his additional installation made with Park staff along with volunteers from Santa Monica College and inmates from Malibu Conservation Camp #13. The playful sculpture made from cut fallen trees on Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area property is titled Wood/Trees, and was designed and guided by Allanoff as a collaboration to amplify the creative energy and spirit of trees.


ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

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