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In Bloom at ESMoA

Krystal Chang is ESMoA’s LAB resident for 2021. She creates across the disciplines of architecture, landscape design, and floral design.

By Maureen Kingsley

Photo of Krystal Chang's work by Mark Knight

El Segundo’s art and cultural center, ESMoA, located on the southern end of Main Street in Downtown, has once again opened its doors and invited the public inside to explore and discover. From now through September, in-person visitors to ESMoA will encounter the botanically themed works of Los Angeles artist Krystal Chang, ESMoA’s LAB Resident for 2021, in ESMoA’s front entryway.

Krystal’s ESMoA installation is titled “The Flora of the Free Republic of California” and builds on artist Cole Sternberg’s “The Free Republic of California” exhibit within ESMoA’s main gallery. It includes printed, full-color trading-style cards cataloging California’s diverse native and non-native flora. The cards feature original photography and interesting information, facts, and history relating to the flora, and visitors are encouraged to take a few cards home with them. A digital version of the catalog exists as well.

In addition to the flora catalog, Krystal’s installation features a pair of back-lit photographic prints depicting foraged plants and flowers arranged in a studio and on a hillside, respectively. Her third piece, mounted on the lobby’s southernmost wall and hanging from the ceiling, is titled “We Are All Living in the Garden” and is a stunning collection of foraged natural materials, including petals, leaves, cones, acorns, and berries “all gathered together here as if blown in from all directions north, south, east, and west in California,” Krystal says. The display draws the viewer in close to study details and serves as “a reminder to look around you,” the artist adds. Krystal’s own hand-lettering completes the display.

Raised in Los Angeles, Krystal’s professional background is primarily in architecture and construction. A graduate of Cooper Union in New York City, Krystal worked for Santa Monica-based architecture firm Daly Genik and artist/architect/designer/gardener Fritz Haeg while doing freelance exhibition and furniture design. Krystal also spent time at a design-build graduate program at Auburn University in Alabama and as a project manager for Morley Construction back home in Los Angeles.

Photos of Krystal's installation by Mark Knight. Center photo of Krystal by Lindsey Kusterman

While planning her wedding, Krystal became interested in floral design. Inspired by the wild and loose style of flowers starting to emerge, she practiced arranging flowers bought at farmers’ markets. A field botany class she took at Santa Monica Community College, which included visits to Ballona Creek and the Palos Verdes tide pools, is a major influence on her current work as well. Her recent projects include the Meadow/Moon installation at LA Design Festival in 2017, Garden Party installation at Days in 2019, and Flower Machine in 2019.

“I think I was drawn to flora partly as a response to my time in architecture and construction,” Krystal says. “Buildings are permanent, they take a long time to create and require a lot of people to make them, whereas flowers are temporary, ephemeral, and it’s just instant gratification.” She says she is interested in indigenous practices and asks, “What stories have not yet been told about plants and the land?”

Programming around Krystal’s work is in development this summer. A “Just Draw” workshop with Krystal is scheduled for July 9, and a “Plant Club Happy Hour” is planned for July 29. Readers are encouraged to check ESMoA’s website frequently for additional programming, including an anticipated “plant exchange” and El Segundo Art Walk.

ESMoA is open Thursdays noon to 5pm, Fridays 10am to 5pm, and Saturdays 10am-5pm. Visit at 208 Main Street in El Segundo.

See more of Krystal’s work at and on Instagram at @krystalchang.

This story appears in the July 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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