LISA WATSON: ON A MISSION | Visual arts | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music


Lisa D. Watson’s little bungalow on DeRenne Avenue is jam-packed with three cats, her late mother’s Shih Tzu, and various items needed for her next series of shows.

Loudspeakers, boxes made by her husband Donny to conceal said loudspeakers, pews, seed packets, educational brochures and artwork fill her living room, while in her office, boxes of packed artworks are ready to be transported.

Avant Gardener: A Creative Exploration of Imperiled Species hangs September 2 through October 22 at Savannah’s Sulfur Studios before moving to the Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head in November and the Averitt Center For The Arts in Statesboro next March.

The multi-sensory show has been in the works for two years, and Watson has been working hard to secure a longer-than-usual stay at Sulfur and to organize other venues.

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‘Hibiscus Grandiflorus’, a native of Georgia and host plant to several butterflies and moths, is on the Chatham County Rare List (photo credit, Siobhan Egan).

Originally from Ohio, she earned a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design in 1991, spent many years as a muralist for movie sets, and is now an acclaimed eco-artist who uses nearly 100% repurposed materials. to create and express its environment. concerns. Media includes reclaimed wood, papers, product nets, thrift store finds, and paintings salvaged from Starlandia Art Supply.

The goal of the upcoming Avant Gardener show, Watson explains, “is to educate and show people the native plants that we don’t normally see around us. It’s also to talk about habitat loss – which comes down to herbicide spraying, development, urban sprawl, alien plant species and hurricane damage.

These goals, of course, tie into her career (and primary source of income) as a consultant in native plants and drought-tolerant garden design. His company, Plan It Green, LLC, currently has a waiting list of eight clients who want to install native gardens.

Watson says his landscaping and artwork were separated for many years, “but I realize they are one now.”

His 2017 solo exhibition at Jepson highlighted concerns about the loss of natural habitat during the construction of bridges, highways and overpasses, and his 2020 exhibition Deer Humans at Key West Studios focused on the fragile natural habitat of Key’s deer and on endangered plants in Georgia and Florida. .

After collaborating with the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge on Deer Humans, she realized that working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other conservation groups would be the most effective way to amplify her advocacy efforts.

Watson returned to Key West Studios to study and educate others on the decline of the Semaphore cactus.

“In 2020, there were only about 100 left in the Keys, but since then the Key West Garden Club has put in so many native plants and a few semaphore cacti.”

This result is just one of many directly attributable to the influence of Watson’s eco-focused art…

Recently hired by the City of Savannah to help implement native landscaping, she provided them with a list of native plants, a list of invasive plants, and “a list of rare plants we need to start thinking about incorporating” .

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“Sprawl Has Consequences” was inspired by religious message billboards in South Carolina (photo credit, Siobhan Egan).

While walking with the director of the city’s municipal archives, Luciana Spracher, Watson told her, “It’s really hard for me to walk in these squares. Besides live oaks, we could be in Asia! Although this is a historic city, do we tell the story of the ports – that we can bring all these exotic species in – or do we mean what was here, and what we should to bring back ? »

“I started my business in 2008 and reading Doug Tallamy’s books I realized that many landscape species weren’t doing anything for our insects,” Watson continues. Old enough to notice declining populations of birds and butterflies, she says, “If you have a Chinese tallow tree, for example, there are no caterpillars working on it, but if you have a live oak , you have 500 different caterpillars, which are the main source of food for birds.

“When we moved into this house, she continues, I inherited azaleas, gardenias, oleander, crepe myrtle. They don’t harm other species, but if we have to replace one, I’ll go native. Nandina is my sworn enemy. Berries kill birds, but large nurseries will sell them if people keep buying them. So, I understood that I had to educate the consumer. Because most nurseries don’t care.

Locally, Watson says Victory Gardens cares, and through her advocacy, Hester & Zipperer is carrying more natives and no longer selling nandina.

In preparation for this show, Watson has been on research trips with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, though she won’t reveal exact locations because of endangered plant poachers (yes , It’s a thing). A trip with the Longleaf Pine Alliance inspired a 36-foot-long artwork called “Field of Vision,” while a survey of monarch caterpillars with Darien naturalist Christa Hayes ultimately became the inspiration for the show’s central “altarpiece”, “Kingdom of a roadside ditch.

Hayes, an advocate for ending roadside herbicide spraying in McIntosh County, showed Watson a ditch that housed 11 native plants, four of which are endangered. And, of course, plants are hosts for many kinds of butterflies and other pollinators.

“As soon as I heard that, I knew what my altar would be!” said Watson. Befitting an altar, she installs pews and speakers in the gallery because “I want people to know they can relax, be contemplative and think about gardening while they absorb the work. of sound art”.

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Watson stands in front of the “altar” titled “Kingdom of a Roadside Ditch” set up temporarily in his home.

Sound art refers to music specially composed by Eric Chasalow, Graduate Dean of Brandeis University and Director of the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio. The two met as artists-in-residence at Key West Studios.

“I still can’t believe it!” Watson says: “I listened to some of his music while I was working and asked him, ‘So how can someone like me get someone like you to write a piece for this show? ‘ and he said, ‘Well, I think you just did.’

Other elements of Avant Gardener include native seed packets to attract pollinators, brochures with native plant recommendations for our coastal region, and lists of invasive plants. Invasive plants, their seeds and spores, are plants that are not native to our ecosystem and whose introduction causes environmental damage.

Finally, the talented Emily Earl of Sulfur Studios has compiled a wonderful catalog, which includes a QR code to access the sound art, made possible through investment from the City of Savannah and partnership with Coastal Discovery Museum. (Interestingly, the latter institution recently removed Chinese tallow trees from its property because of Watson’s advocacy.)

“I didn’t do this show to sell art,” says Watson, although she understandably hopes there will be sales. “I like making art more than gardening. But gardening is more important than art. There are organizations on the ground doing great work. But they need me, as an artist, to help educate the public. I kind of found my mission now.

“Before Gardener” by Lisa Watson (American, b. 1967) opens this Friday, September 2 at Sulfur Studios, 2301 Bull Street, and runs through October 22. There will be a Yaupon Tea Tasting and Coastal Habitats Lecture on Saturday September 17th. at 2 p.m. and a native plant sale in conjunction with the first Sulfur Street Fair on Friday, October 7.

Watson will give an artist talk on Saturday, October 15 at 2 p.m.

Full details on Find Watson on or on Instagram @art.ldw


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