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Walking Tour: Pitzer College, Part 2

February 22, 2011

Perfect pair

As seen in the first of my posts from Pitzer College, gorgeous succulents are in abundance and allowed to shine … landscaping and display inspiration is everywhere! But, I found that inspiration most exciting when art entered the equation. Who knew that an abstract mural and succulent plantings would look so perfect together? Or that graffiti splash and succulent dash could coexist so peacefully? I’ve always found the presence of rusted metal a natural in the succulent garden and Pitzer peppers its desert displays with sculptural doppelgangers that are charmingly rough … let’s check out what happens when juicy leaves meet art.

Student work

Created by students, to showcase both the control of using stencils and the looseness of paint drips, this mural is on the east wall of Mead Hall that faces Pitzer Road. I love the colors and the abstract nature of the design … the energy afforded by both are terrific foils for the sturdy sculptural structures of the succulents planted before it.

Message board

Something to say? Write it on the wall! The graffiti tradition lives large here on this west wall of Mead Hall. Student messages overlap and create a moving and everchanging billboard of concerns and topics. The way the colors become muted as they’re painted over, and the hotter colors of the newest graffiti, really excite against the more-structured succulent planting in front of it.


I found an interesting photograph of this mural from July of last year which shows not only the artwork looking very differently, but the landscape as well. Click here for a surprising look back.

Loosely colorful

This more strident, and relatively new, graffiti mural plays nicely with the more graphic and complex shapes of the cacti and succulents facing it. The combination of mural and succulents is really speaking to me and I wonder just which wall of the Rancho should get this treatment … and should it face the public street? Would some creation of mine facing out, invite contributions from passersby? Would I find the presence of graffiti on one of my walls, on a mural of mine, as exciting as seen here? Interesting questions to ponder as I find the time to do a combination mural/planting area of my own …

Technicolor dream

Gracing an inward-facing wall of Mead Hall, this extravagant 1997 mural is titled ‘Interhueman’. Painted by Mexican-American muralist Paul Botello, with student help, it has all the hallmarks of Mexican style murals: strong, muscular imagery, fantastic colors and a swirling energy. Although there is no succulent interaction here it’s too beautiful not to show. Ready for sculpture? …


Wandering among the desert plantings we encountered these sculptural pieces: Fanciful metal creatures, organic ceramic forms and almost 2-dimensional representations of succulents in rusted rebar. Subtly placed, at first I almost miss them … but soon I start to seek them out. Though playful, they serve to elevate the landscaping design and point up the sculptural presence of the plants themselves by echoing them. Again, very inspiring … Now, I need to find a friendly welder with a supply of rusty rebar and a willingness to follow my directions, so I can have some sculptures of my own … Craigslist will probably provide just the right craftsman …

As you can certainly tell by now, our visit to Pitzer College was both enjoyable and inspirational. We plan to be back when the threat of rain isn’t an issue and there’s time to take it all in. The art of landscaping, art combined with landscaping, and the inimitable natural beauty of succulents, are available here for in-depth study — talk about higher learning!

Learn more about Pitzer College on their website here. To view a flickr album of past and present campus murals, click here. Watch a short interview with muralist Paul Botello here.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2011 3:43 pm

    Fantastic post! So inspiring! I’m trying to muster my courage to paint a rather large stucco wall on the side of my own home. What an interesting mix of murals, both styles and materials. (There’s an amazing Siquieros mural inside the dining hall of Pomona college, too!) Those sculptures are fun as well. Love that bold, irreverent, creative college energy!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 22, 2011 4:41 pm

      I found it all inspiring as you could tell, I’m sure… Now if only I had time to act on these impulses!! Another mural spur was the mid-century house you visited on your blog recently; those examples were really cool, too!

  2. February 22, 2011 4:55 pm

    I was rather surprised at how much I loved the paintings combined with the plants…especially your first two pictures. I am excited about the possibilities ahead for your garden….combining your planting style and your painting style I see fabulous things!!

    Oh and those metal agave and barrel cactus shapes have me wondering who I might know that could craft such wonderful shapes. Great post Reuben!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 22, 2011 4:58 pm

      Thanks, Loree… I’d be interested to know how a painting of mine would look as well… but I’m intent on including graffiti elements, too! As for the rebar cacti: I gotta find someone to make some for me

  3. mattisalomaki permalink
    February 22, 2011 5:35 pm

    Great walk. Particularly like that you pointed out that the plants changed as well as the wall art over time. I can see how neither are really ever complete, and can be expressive. Matti

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 22, 2011 5:55 pm

      I always like to include a little something extra with posts … one of the reasons it takes me so danged long to get ’em up sometimes!

  4. February 28, 2011 4:22 pm


    Can I follow you on StumbleUpon?

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 28, 2011 4:51 pm

      I’m sorry to say I’m such a lame-o that I’m not sure … I get stumbled upon but not sure how it happens; do you have any tips? I know there’s a stumble ‘submit’ button at the bottom of each post … how about subscribing?

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