It’s Not Easy Seeing Green

Turning Point Elementary, 2017-2018

2:00 min excerpt from 36:26 minute film. Digital video from scanned 35mm color negatives, classroom and field recordings, 2017- 2018.

In 2017-2018 I worked as an artist in residence at Turning Point Elementary to connect students to Los Angeles’ last remaining wetland using poetry and photography. This was an ambitious project because it involved 300 students, two non-profits, four field trips, and two final art installations that synthesized video, 35mm photography, surrealist poetry, audio recordings, plant material, handmade books, and botanical rubbings. The final video collects the voices and photographs of students into a single-channel poem about Los Angeles's Ballona wetland.

In my workshops, students in grades 2-8 practiced the punk/surrealist poetry form of making ‘cut-ups’ about Ballona. Xeroxed wetland words were cut up and reassembled by students working in small groups. The poems click like nonlinear legos—stuck to the insides of eight-page accordion books with glue. Their voices animate new stories about Ballona's past and future:

Come here exotic coyote, more salt bushes let out wind.

It’s up crane go same to food-chain.

After lost European settlers.

Sea-level rise. Rough grass. Always close to Culver City.

Sanctuary, if you go under growing milkvetch.

Red-fox dragonfly, who within space?

We brought these poems into the wetland where the Ballona watershed becomes a brackish confluence of past and present, fresh water and salt water, pickleweed and egrets, high-rise condos and parking lots. Here students used their poems like storyboards, shooting 35mm photographs to represent each page of their eight page poem.

Wetland 35mm prints, poetry books and audio by grade levels 2-8

Made with the support of the Turning Point visiting artist in residence program and Friends of the Ballona Wetlands.