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New exhibit explores botanical wonders

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by Christine Owen
Editor in Chief

At first glance, they look like simple photographs of plants in a backyard, garden or park. However, these black-and-white pictures strive to tell a much deeper story.

Currently on display at the University of La Verne’s Irene Carlson Gallery is “divide + conquer,” a black and white photography exhibit by Dana Fritz.

Fritz describes the show as a balance of power that exists in formal gardens, botanical gardens, zoological gardens, greenhouses, conservatories nurseries and garden centers.

“Although the natural world has an elaborate system of order, humans have imposed another system of order on the plants that often has very little to do with the original ways of their subjects,” Fritz wrote in a pamphlet about the exhibit.

“I am fascinated with our attempts to control the natural world, and I too participate in its dominion,” she said.

With her photos, Fritz strives to show the unique balance that exists between nature and how plants that once grew naturally in their own habitat are now subject to the man-made environments of backyards and gardens.

“A beautifully manicured planting is as intriguing as the uncontrollable spread of noxious weeds or a tree that grows through a fence,” Fritz wrote.

For her photo, “untitled #19,” Fritz has photographed koi fish in a pond. Viewers are instantly drawn to the beautiful fish in the picture and barely notice the vegetation that is providing shade and protection for the fish in the pond.

The photo demonstrates how freely-growing plants play an important role in the life of the koi and serve a purpose much greater than the aesthetics of a manicured plant would.

“Untitled # 6” shows ladders perched close to a tree that has recently been pruned. There are tree branches and leaves all over the ground, yet the tree is still great in size compared with the ladders.

It is clear that the ladder was not tall enough for anyone to reach the branches on the top of the tree. The sides of it could be manicured, but the nature-given height of the tree is stronger than the ability to control it.

“These images confront this collision of nature and culture,” Fritz wrote.

Gary Colby, professor of photography, said that he discovered Fritz’s work on the internet when he was searching for artists who addressed the concept of constraining nature from its free form.

“I admire the thinking that preceded it,” Colby said.

“She’s thinking about the constraints placed on nature by humans,” he said.

Fritz has 25 photographs on display in the gallery. With each, she has captured a different plant or aspect of wildlife that is unique.

Some have bamboo and banana laves in them while another is simply a wall of ivy.

Visitors can view “divide + conquer” through Oct. 26, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 9 p.m.

The Irene Carlson Gallery is located on the bottom floor of Miller Hall at the University of La Verne.

For more information about this free exhibit, call (909) 593-3511, ext. 4285.

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