Season’s Greetings from Monsanto Gardens!

Everybody here at Monsanto Gardens wishes you happy holidays with family and friends filled with good GMO food and cheer. The halls are decked, the candles are lit, the cookies are baked. Let’s pig out!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of Us

pigsin-Forest_smThe Pigmumpkins and everyone here at Monsanto Gardens would like to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Leaf Girl also sends her best wishes for a season of plenty.


Adios dia de los Muertos

This year’s Dia de los Muertos celebration and art event at the Folk Tree is bittersweet. Like every year for the past ten, I can’t wait to see what Gail Mishkin has done with the place. When I dropped off my “Lost at Sea” skeleton mermaid mirror a couple of weeks ago, the walls were bare and new artwork was only starting to trickle in. Since then, Gail has posted teasers on facebook, but nothing prepares you for the shock of seeing the final transformation from complete chaos to a self-contained world of wonder. How she packs so much disparate artwork…everything from t-shirts and jewelry to floor-to-ceiling altars…into a coherent vision, is a mystery to me, except that I know it requires a lot of hard work, brain-power and creativity. And she has to work fast. Somehow, Gail manages to do all this with grace, humor and a kind heart. I will always be grateful to Gail for taking me on seven years ago, a complete unknown. Since then, she has sold many of my works at the Folk Tree and shown even more that she probably knew would never sell. (Art for art’s sake is a costly sacrifice for a small gallery/store that must sell to stay in business.) I know I am only one of many appreciative artists who have relied on Gail and the Folk Tree to get our work out into the world.

The 31st Annual Day of the Dead show at the Folk Tree is bittersweet, because it probably will be its last. Rocky, the owner of the Folk Tree, is ailing and Gail announced that she will be working full-time at another wonderful independent institution The Flintridge Bookstore. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that these folks throw a good party. I hope you can join me to celebrate what might be adios to Dia de los Muertos at the Folk Tree this Saturday from 2-6 PM. If you can’t make the reception, come see the show any time before November 2nd.

The Folk Tree is located on The Folk Tree 217 S. Fair Oaks Avenue Pasadena, CA.

Phone: (626) 795-8733

Check out this recent article in the Los Angeles Beat: The Rocky Road to the Folk Tree.

Musical Chair Goes to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley

ChairLeftSkyDATE: Saturday, October 4, 2014
TIME: 6:00pm – 10:00pm
PLACE: The Museum of the San Fernando Valley
18860 Nordhoff St., Suite 204
Northridge, CA 91324-3885

– Over 30 Decorative Chairs For Sale
– Embellished Picture Frames For Sale
– Original Historic Northridge Artwork For Sale
– Raffles
– Silent Auction
– Refreshments

Come see my Musical Chair at the Public Art Initiative’s opening Art Exhibit at the New location of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. The Public Art Initiative (PAI) is a group of artists working and living in the San Fernando Valley that want to bring more public art to the area.

This event will be the first time the PAI will host the annual “Chair Show” where over 30 local artists ChairRightSkytransform everyday chairs into artwork. The chairs will be sold during a silent auction.

Thanks to the Great Frame Up in Northridge, the PAI is also getting creative with picture frames that will be available for sale and some will be raffled off during the night.

If you missed the Northridge Village Art Show, you’ll have a chance to see the artwork and meet the artist at this event. Don’t forget to ask about the series of historical murals that are planned for Reseda Blvd based on this artwork.

You can help the PAI fund the next public art project by purchasing chairs, picture frames or artwork during this event.

Join us and let’s celebrate art together!

If you are an artists interested in participating, please email Roger at for details.

Public Art Initiative

To market, to market to patent a pig!

–by Sarah Hage

Monsanto Gardens is thrilled to announce that its parent company (Monsanto) is very close to patenting a pig. They also want to patent the pig gene that makes some pigs fatter than others (re Pigoons in Oryx and Crake).

Watch this video for more info:


This is great news for us at Monsanto Gardens, because patents on Laughing Pig Flowers, Pignome, Bumble Pig, Pigplant, Pigmatoes, Pigtatoes are soon to follow!  First come plants (we own most of the seeds in the world); then come pigs. We are perfectly poised to control the world’s  food supply. What’s so cool is that all that we have to do is call “dibs” on DNA to call it ours. And then we  twist, turn, and recombine genomes any way we please. It’s all good, clean fun and Perfectly Safe! Check with our friends at the FDA. They agree. Heck, we may be able to patent all art with pigs in it. Think of the profits for our shareholders!

What’s coming down the chute at Monsanto Gardens? We’re in the process of dishing up some Pork-eyed Peas next. Stay tuned.

Freeway Lady Resurrection

–By Sarah Hage

I don’t remember “The Freeway Lady” in her first incarnation because she had disappeared by the time I arrived in LA. All I knew was that the mere mention of her name elicited wistful sighs by those who idled in LA traffic much longer than I have. Nor did I know that the  artist Kent Twitchell painted it along with many other monumental works like the Chamber Orchestra Mural, which I have admired many times from a stopped car.

But when Carol Bishop announced to her painting class at LA Valley College that the Freeway Lady was coming to campus and that LAVC students could work on it with Kent Twitchell in his studio, I jumped at the chance. I had no idea what to expect. Would I have to climb scaffolding and wear a face mask? Would it be gridded out on a building. If we are working in the artist’s studio downtown, how was it going to be transferred to the wall of the student center at LAVC? And, most importantly. What if I smear paint everywhere and wreck it?

Paint By Numbers

Paint By Numbers





Kent Twitchell

Kent Twitchell

Hand in Progress

Hand in Progress

Sarah, Barrett, Kent, Tammy

Sarah, Barrett, Kent, Tammy

Face in Progress

Face in Progress

Real Afghan

Real Afghan

Painting Afghan

Painting Afghan

The process turns out to be more magical and mundane than I imagined. Painstaking doesn’t describe it. Attention to detail is a gross understatement. Brilliantly visionary does not capture it.

Much of the magic was done long before we got there. Kent Twitchell had transferred the scale drawing to huge sheets of what looked like tracing paper and taped them to the wall. The sheets are actually a transparent synthetic fabric that the artist treated with layers of clear gesso, matte medium, and gloss medium. Then he pencilled in the drawing on the sheets. The result looks like a typographical map (not a grid). Each dot, area, and organic shape is assigned a number or an X, which corresponds to a color that he mixes and puts into film canisters. The paint is just plain old acrylic paint like we use in class. It is the biggest most ambitious paint-by-numbers project I have ever seen. The result is astonishing.

We were assigned to paint all the X’s on a sheet (X is black)–everything from dots the size of a pencil eraser to the Great Lakes and the fjords of Norway. After three hours, we could already see the artist’s vision taking shape beneath our brushes.

Kent had done quite a bit of work already on the face, hand, and the moon and was adding color to the afghan while we worked.

How does it get on the wall? Like wallpaper. The fabric bonds with the wall itself for a seamless transfer. I can’t wait to see part of the process.

Thank you Kent Twitchell for agreeing to resurrect your masterpiece after someone foolishly painted over the first one. Thank you LA Valley College for acquiring the mural. Thank you Carol Bishop for letting me help recreate one tiny piece of LA history.

Grand Opening of Cope Studios in Glendale this Friday

The Haven
I’ll be there at the behest of Jacqueline Myers-Cho, artist in residence at the studios. She will be showing her work along with 20 other artists. There will be food, music, and live demonstrations. I’m so excited that there is such a large and vibrant artist colony right in Glendale and that I  have been invited to show my work with them.

Artists Anonymous

–By Sarah Hage
I’ve run into quite a few people lately who claim that they are *not* artists or, at least, not yet or not really. In each situation, we were either working on art together or looking at artwork that they created. What’s up with that?

The short answer if fear: fear of being judged, fear of making a fool of themselves, fear of taking themselves too seriously, fear of seeming pretentious, fear of making “bad” art–even fear of having to make more art. I know. I’ve been there. I question myself every day of my life, but at some point, you have to own it.

Who is an artist?

According to the IRS, you cannot claim expenses on art supplies if you don’t show a profit in three years. At that point, art is deemed a “hobby” and not a “profession.” Hobbies are not respected; nor are they tax-deductable unless your hobby happens to be gambling. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. subscribe to IRS definition of artists. I tend to disagree: there are many people whom I consider artists that the IRS would designate as hobbyists, Van Gogh among them. While financial gain in your lifetime is wonderful, it doesn’t make or break you as an artist. Only you can do that. And so many artists do break themselves, either by not making art, or making art and not calling it art. Acts of self-sabotage are so rampant among the profession, that I have to come to the conclusion that being an artist takes a supreme act of courage or at least chutzpah or maybe a lot of both. Talent, doesn’t figure into it. There are plenty of people with lots of talent who don’t make art. Neither does art school. Plenty of people go to art school and don’t make art either.

How to be an artist

The artistic process is summarized perfectly in a flowchart developed by Kate Holden and published in Gwarlingo:
While somebody with a modicum of computer programming knowledge would draw the flowchart differently (I have done it in my head), it would not be as good. In this case, art supersedes science in getting the point across, which is the whole point really.

Say it out loud

After going through a few cycles depicted in the flowchart, it is time to say it out loud in the mirror, and then in front of other people: “Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am an artist.” Get business cards printed. Set up a website, create an artist board on Pinterest and a page on Facebook…whatever it takes to “fake it until you make it,” as the saying goes. To my mind, you are not an artist if you don’t call yourself one. According to my calculations, which is the only metric that matters, I have earned my seven-year chip for being an artist.

Intent is everything

The other quagmire that potential artists struggle with is the question of “what is art?” If you must go there, follow this simple rule: When you present something as art, it’s art. In other words, a cigar is just a cigar unless you mount it and give it a title, like “Cigar” or “This is not a cigar” or “Untitled”. The presentation declares your intent to the viewer. What the viewer makes of it is up to them. In this case, presentation is essential; in most cases, presentation counts for quite a lot.

Presentation presumes that you show your art to other people. Whether you show your art in a museum or gallery or on a wall in a nail salon, it is art. While you will be rejected or accepted by any establishment or institution, only you can make your art, art. And only you can stop making art. It’s a choice; it’s a commitment. It’s as simple and hard as that. As for me, I’m taking it one day at a time.

Welcome to the Amazon!

Everybody loves Amazon. If you don’t, you are lying. Who wouldn’t want to buy something more cheaply than anywhere else and have it delivered to your door? My husband has ordered everything from a flat-screen TV to shampoo, and he’s not alone. For him and many Americans, Amazon *is* Santa Claus. Me, I’m like babies and cats…I have more fun with the box and the packing material than what came in it. Particularly useful for papier-mâché are those seemingly endless anacaondas of paper. Friends and family save them for me to help me out (and assuage their guilt for buying so much stuff on Amazon).

One of my most recent endeavors involved creating a tree stump for my pignome to stand on. I started with a recycled plastic bucket, a cardboard coffee can, and miles of Amazon anacondas, which were perfect for bark. I liked how it turned out well enough to think of it as a piece of artwork rather than simply a prop, which got me thinking. Although, the company is named for the river and its tributaries, I associate Amazon with deforestation, which leads to me ask, how many trees does Amazon cut down to deliver all those packages to all those people? And how many trees died to make my reconstituted tree stump? This is not the first time I have asked myself these questions, or the first time I have reconstituted a tree from post-production tree products (see This is Not a Tree).

After a few Internet searches, I’m, well, stumped. Most of the information about Amazon is written by Amazon. From the little third-party information I could glean, the packing materials are about the only nod to being green that Amazon currently does. And that was a result of complaints from customers who were frsutrated because their packages were too hard to open.

Greenpeace gives low grades to Amazon on their green report card, mostly for using dirty energy to power their warehosues and a complete lack of transparency (apparently, even the CIA files a carbon footprint report card every year; Amazon does not). Read more here. While Greenpeace has their own agenda, an article in Forbes seems to corroborate this information.

Do I think that Amazon is an evil giant clubbing baby seals and destroying the rainforest? Of course not. Still, it is disheartening to discover that our beloved Santa Claus is not doing the right thing on his own. Guess we’ll have to punch him in the pocket book, or support the organizations that do.

Play with your food!


Play with your food! After all, Monsanto has been doing it for years. Go ahead and rearrange those genes any way you like. Heck, get genes from some other life form and attach them to say, a potato. Nothing captures this spirit of fun more than Mr. and Mrs. Pigtato Head. Like all other creatures at Monsanto Gardens, these spuds sport pig features like a pork pie hat, curlique tails, pig snouts and cleft toes. Now you can join in the game of genetic engineering. Design your own pig-human-potato hybrid. What could possibly go wrong?