Client: Museum of Art History - MOAH
Location: Lancaster, CA, United States
Completion date: 2014
Artwork budget: $12,000
Jill Sykes LTD.
Signs & Designs
For the Yucca Forest, my site-specific installation in MOAH’s Jewel Box Gallery windows, I wanted to focus specifically on indigenous plants of the region, the Antelope Valley. I worked to refine the complexity of the yucca trees into silhouetted shapes that form a blooming white forest overlooking Lancaster Blvd. Beginning with some spontaneous iPhone photography, I amassed dozens of images of the trees. This photographic research became the basis for drawings which ultimately were translated into 18 nearly 10’ tall tree silhouettes cut out of white vinyl; the window space is approximately 10 x 40’ overall.
The Yucca Forest is based upon my silhouetted botanical paintings, and similar in concept to a previous project: Sycamore House, where I was commissioned to design an overall “pattern” of sycamore leaf shadows that were sandblasted onto the outside walls of a home in Pacific Palisades, CA. For this project I envisioned a white-on-white yucca forest with huge, lacy blossoms in various stages of development floating in the air above and beyond the blooming yuccas clustered on the glass, as well as the tall, gnarly burnt-out skeletal trees showing age and decay. From inside, the viewer can see the abstracted and amorphic shapes that form the individual trees; from the street below, the silhouettes overlap, creating a visual depth that changes depending upon where one stands.
It was vital that the trees be “readable” from the street as well as from inside the Gallery, and fabricating them in opaque white was always key: the ever changing sunlight coming through the windows creates shadows on the walls as well as the trees, and seeing them at night from the street, lit from inside, creates an entirely different perspective. The stark white against the desert sunsets was an added bonus.
Inspired by my previous Sycamore House project, I was invited to create an installation for The Jewel Box Gallery at MOAH. I presented two different concepts, and Museum Director Andi Campogone selected the Yucca Forest. Once I had the window dimensions, I finalized my drawings and converted the scanned images into vector files for the vinyl plotting; the trees were enlarged to full size and fabricated by Signs & Designs in Lancaster, CA. The museum staff interns worked to “weed” the individual vinyl trees per my drawings, removing all the bits and pieces that didn’t belong, and then helped me install 18 yuccas - several of which rise close to the full 10’ height of the windows - onto the glass over a 3 day period.
Working in vinyl was new for me, but I knew the opacity of the material would create the desired “shadows out of shadows” effect I was aiming for. Part of the beauty of this project, once we settled on the Yucca Forest concept, was the complete freedom the Museum allowed me in terms of layout and design. There are seven gallery spaces at MOAH, and all seven exhibitions for this show - Contemporary Landscape from the Desert to the Sea - work together brilliantly, and the personalized support we all received from the Museum was spectacular.