Shared Landscapes

Visiting Artist Lecture

by Patricia Johanson

September 30, 2014
Naropa University Nalanda Campus

Patricia JohansonOur first Visiting Artist lecture was by Patricia Johanson. Author of Art and Survival, Patricia is known for her large-scale art projects that create aesthetic and practical habitats for humans and wildlife. On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, she presented a slide lecture Shared Landscapes at the Nalanda Campus. Shared Landscapes focuses on the biological basis of how nature shares resources. She discussed how we can learn to design projects that are beneficial to all species, weaving together human needs, beauty, ecological infrastructure, wildlife continuity to create a cooperative community. 

Patricia Johanson’s monumental public projects originate from small drawings and are simultaneously aesthetic, ecological and functional. From Endangered Garden in San Francisco—both a municipal sewer and a California State Park—to her Park for the Amazon Rainforest and Mary’s Garden (a Pennsylvania mining reclamation site) she demonstrates her concern for protecting our common biological heritage while creating major sculptural infrastructure. Her work embodies her attunement to the meaning of each place, and her vision of designing human structures as ecological art forms. Art critic Lucy Lippard writes, “Of all the artists (so many of them women) who have become known over the last few decades for large-scale public art in/with nature—what is now called ‘eco-art,’ Johanson stands out as a seldom-acknowledged pioneer. Her writings of the late 1960s, when she was still in her twenties, are a cornucopia of possibilities for environmental art and planning that are still being ‘discovered’ today.” 

Her enthusiasm for nature and for art began in childhood. She grew up in New York City, where her mother, a former model, introduced her to the arts. As a high school student, she excelled at music, but at Bennington College (1958–1962) she was a painting major. Through her contacts at Bennington, Patricia became part of the 1960s New-York art-world. She met fellow-artists Kenneth NolandDavid Smith, Helen FrankenthalerFranz KlinePhilip Guston and Joseph Cornell.