We are thrilled to invite you to join us for the third ‘Natural Discourse’ symposium on Thursday, October 10th from 9 to 5 at the beautiful Berkeley City Club. Natural Discourse’ is an ongoing series of symposia, publications, and site-specific art installations that explore the connections between art, architecture, gardens and science -- and juxtapose the ideas of scholars, writers, and artists who are engaged in new and exciting explorations that inform the way we live on the planet today. In our upcoming symposium artist Alice Miceli de Araujo responds to environmental devastation brought on by human activity and Mary Jo McConnell tells of trekking up mountains to paint birds that use beauty to attract a mate. Robert Pogue Harrison, Rosina Pierotti Professor at Stanford University, offers a literary perspective on what gardening gives us, Margaret Morton reveals the essence of our urge to create beauty in her photos of homeless people’s gardens and Roger Handgarter, Chancellor’s Professor of Biology at Indiana University exposes the unseen movements of plants. All of our speakers challenge us to think about our role in the web of natural processes. This will take place in the historic Julia Morgan building that houses The Berkeley City Club.  We are working with the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Downtown Berkeley Business Association and city leaders to bring art installations to the garden and city streets as an ongoing part of 'Natural Discourse' in 2014. We welcome the opportunity to invite our audience to reflect on the threads that connect our ideas of nature with our urban lives. 
There will be a book sale of speakers' books, the Natural Discourse catalogue and other relevant volumes, organized by Mrs. Dalloway's Books. We hope you will join us for a day that will stretch our thinking about art and landscape and expose us to creative energy from multiple disciplines.  

"​The first two symposia, held at the UC Botanical Garden, were among the very best days I've ever spent sitting and listening to others speak. This third symposium promises to be outstanding, with a group of speakers from around the country. The focus is less on gardens and more on art, with lots of inspiring ideas and images. I wouldn't miss it for the world." Richard Turner, Editor Emeritus, Pacific Horticulture Magazine

"Being involved from the beginning with Natural Discourse has been an enriching and inspiring experience. I am so looking forward to the 2013 seminar."
Alta Tingle, The Gardener
 "What we heard was an extraordinary series of lectures, a “natural discourse” that drew from the disciplines of anthropology, art, botany, design, science, politics, engineering, including: The transformation of a sheep ranch in Sonoma County into a world-class, Richard Serra-containing, outdoor art installation (I must see this some day*); the inception of the International Garden Festival at Chaumont sur Loire (I must visit this some day); the making of The Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca, Mexico (I MUST go here some day); the role of cellular structure, its actual physical shape, in furthering understanding of stem cell biology (I may benefit from this some day)." Denise Maher Garden blogger extraordinaire at ‘A Growing Obsession’ 
"I don't recall the last time a conference left me in such mind bending elation. By the end of the first Natural Discourse Symposium in 2012, all of us in that bright room at the UC Botanical Garden felt a rare confluence of wonder, joy, fascination, gratitude, and camaraderie. Artists, poets, scientists, gardeners, designers, builders, academics, and curators -- beautiful speakers all-- presented their work to an audience who rose to the occasion, contributing questions and comments that advanced presenters' ideas, generated new ones, and created new connections." Jason Dewees, Horticulturalist and Palm Broker, Flora Grubb Gardens

Roger HandgarterChancellor’s
Professor of Biology at Indiana University Bloomington - Handgarter works on the physiological and molecular mechanisms by which plants perceive and respond to environmental stimuli. Together, light and gravity have profound effects on plant development and much of his research focuses on how plants integrate the information from these environmental stimuli. Handgarter will show us some of the wonderful time lapse footage and microscopy used when he worked with the artist Dennis DeHart on the fascinating exhibit ‘SlowLife’.

Robert Pogue Harrison – Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature at Stanford University. Professor Harrison has written many wonderful books, including ‘Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition’ and ‘Dominion of the Dead’. In 'Gardens', Harrison 'graces readers with a thoughtful, wide ranging examination of the many ways gardens evoke the human condition. Moving from the gardens of ancient philosophers to the gardens of homeless people in contemporary New York, he shows how, again and again, the garden has served as a check against the destruction and losses of history'.

Photo: Bower of satin bower bird   David Rothenberg  from his book ‘Survival of the Beautiful’
Alice Miceli de Araujo- Brazilian artist/photographer who creates conceptual visualizations for extreme, often socio-political, issues, dealing with subjects such as time, memory and death. With her ‘Chernobyl Project’ she created a series of images of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone imprinted by the invisible radiation that has contaminated the area since the disaster on 26 April 1986.

​At left: ‘
Woods, snowy afternoon. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Belarus

Mary Jo McConnell  - An artist who believes she has discovered some fellow artists in the bird kingdom and has been traveling to Papua New Guinea since 1992 to document their individual installations. Male Vogelkop bowerbirds create displays designed to attract females, choosing from among a wide array of decorative elements – berries, flowers, colorful bits of trash- and arrange them aesthetically on the ground. Scientists working in evolutionary developmental biology are modifying the theory that mate choice is made on purely genetic quality and now looking at the role of aesthetics in sexual selection. Bower birds are the favorite example of animals that create something that is purely beautiful.

At right: ‘The Artist’s Palette’ egg tempera, linen on board, 2011

Margaret Morton - Photographer known for her images of the dwellings and gardens homeless individuals have assembled in public parks, vacant lots, along the waterfronts, beneath the streets, and in the abandoned buildings of New York City. Her photographs have been published in many books including ‘Transitory Gardens, Uprooted Lives’ written by Diana Balmori and ‘The Tunnel, the Underground Homeless of New York City’. More recently Ms Morton has been working on a project called ‘Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan’. Ms Morton is a professor at Cooper Union in NYC.

At right: ‘
Jimmy’s Fishpond’ Margaret Morton


Shirley Alexandra Watts artist and principal of sawattsdesign an award winning design/build firm working in gardens all over the SF Bay Area since 1992. In 2007 she was invited to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden to create the project that became 'Natural Discourse'.  Shirley worked with Mary Anne Friel to co-curate the exhibit 'Natural Discourse: Artists, Architects, Scientists & Poets in the Garden' which brought a multi disciplinary group to the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley to develop site specific work that was on view within the collection for 6 months in 2012. As the founder of ‘Natural Discourse’, Shirley has conceived and executed two previous inter-disciplinary symposia. This work allows her to see the connections between many disciplines, bring thinkers from seemingly disparate professions to the table and enjoy the public conversation that follows.

At left: ‘
When I have fears’ Memorial project at I-Park’ 2013.
The Berkeley City Club is a historic hotel, private social club, and event venue. It has been accepted into the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. In 1927, a small group of women felt the need for a center around women’s activities and had cherished the plan of bringing this into being in Berkeley. These women hired Julia Morgan to design and supervise the construction of the Club, also known as the “Little Castle” since Miss Morgan was also building the Hearst Castle and many of the buildings features remind visitors of the Hearst Castle.The City Club is located at 2315 Durant Ave within walking distance of the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

We are very grateful to the following sponsors for their help supporting this event: