Socially distanced art exhibit at the Sherman Library Botanical Garden

If you’re looking for a great excuse to get out and forget about the coronavirus this summer, artist Dustin Gimbel’s sculpture exhibit “Sculptura Botanica” at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar is hard to beat.

“There is nothing less stressful than going out into a garden and looking at beautiful plants,” said Gimbel, a landscape designer and ceramist who created the artwork in his studio in Long Beach. “To me, Sherman Gardens is a hidden gem, a jewelry box garden where there is something of interest for every gardener.”

With ceramic blue agave and spurge Dominating the succulent garden, the turquoise equisetum rising above a bed of artichokes and the soothing sounds of a bubbling water lily pond filled with ceramic, the intimate setting is a welcome dose of beauty and calm during troubled times.

“I think that’s what we need right now,” Gimbel said. “It’s been such a crazy year.”

The garden follows strict COVID-19 protocols: all guests except members must purchase tickets in advance, sanitize their hands when entering the gardens, maintain a social distance of at least six feet and wear a face mask. On a recent visit, it was easy to explore the 2 acre gardens on wide brick paths without meeting other visitors.

Sherman Library Director Scott LaFleur contacted Gimbel last year after seeing his sculptures in a garden he designed in Long Beach. After Gimbel consulted with horticulturalists on site, LaFleur’s request for 15 botanical-themed art installations turned into 176 sculptures or, as Gimbel noted, 700 clay segments.

Pollen Sculptures at Sherman Library & Gardens.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Gimbel said he wanted to showcase plants that are not always appreciated, such as horsetail or grass. “We look at the grass as a whole,” he says. “But what if we looked at the grass bit by bit?” Lily’s anthers are another. The way they are filled with pollen is interesting and beautiful.

He credits Sherman Gardens’ exceptional blend of plants – rare begonias, orchids, bromeliads and carnivorous plants – for inspiring his sculptures.

“This is the backyard of a gardening enthusiast on steroids,” says Gimbel. “There is an incredible variety. They pack so many interesting plants. It is a great place for visitors to have ideas for their own gardens.

"Sculptura Botanica"

The sculptures on the left are inspired by indigenous sages.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Worried that no one will see his show after Orange County’s first stay-at-home order, Gimbel is happy his works may provide respite for those quarantined at home.

“I hope my show inspires people to take a closer look at plants the next time they take a hike,” he said. “It’s magical that when you flip a fern you can see a different pattern. Interesting things can happen in the tiny world of a 10 inch fern.

"Sculptura Botanica" continues until September 15.

“Sculptura Botanica” continues until September 15th.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

‘Sculptura Botanica’

Or: Sherman Library and Gardens, 2647 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar

When: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until September 15.

Tickets: $ 5; free members. (949) 673-2261; thesherman.org


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