Pillars of the Community
Bird Park
Moving Pictures
Kandinsky’s Garden
Light is Life
Garden Variety
Sierra Club Installation

Public Art
Garden Variety


Garden Variety, 2002-2003
by Wick Alexander

The Garden Variety project is a series of three art element markers commissioned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for the Hostetter, Penetencia Creek and Alum Rock Park and Ride Facilities for the Capitol Light Rail Project.


With its mild climate and fertile soil, California is an ideal growing environment for almost every type of plant family. In a typical California garden, it is common to see many plant species of diverse origins coexisting and flourishing side by side. Such is my observation of the gardens along Capitol Avenue and by extension the communities of Hostetter, Penetencia Creek and Alum Rock. Conspicuous cultural diversity and variety is thriving in these neighborhoods.

When we look at a garden, do we see nature or culture? Author J.B. Jackson would answer, “Landscape is history made visible.” This is especially evident in the existing ghost orchards which are a remnant of the not-too-distant past. The landscape has always been shaped and molded by the regional needs and desires of its temporary occupants. The vernacular gardens within these diverse communities are the source of inspiration for Garden Variety.

We are all victims, whether we know it or not, of a way of thinking that sets the city apart from any other kind of environment. At the root of this confusion is one single error: the error which proclaims that nature is something outside of us, something green which we can perhaps enjoy as a spectacle or examine for future exploitation, but which is only distantly related to us. Nature, thus defined, belongs in the country and is all but totally excluded from the city; hence the oft-repeated outcry that urban man is alienated from it. Nature is actually omnipresent in the city: in the city’s climate, topography and vegetation, and we are in fact surrounded by an impalpable or invisible landscape of spaces and color and sound and movement and temperature, in the city no less than in the country.
J.B. Jackson



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