San Francisco Au Natural
California Academy of Sciences' "Domestic California" Uses
Digital Photography to Recreate San Francisco as it was 300 Years Ago
Exhibit Opens Saturday October 20th

San Francisco (October 15, 2001) - Not too long ago Sacramento Street in the Financial District was a sparkling stream, flowing to the bay. And the parking lot near Fourth and Townsend? It was the bay.
The natural history of these and other spots in San Francisco is the subject of the newest exhibit at The California Academy of Sciences: Domestic California. Artist Mark Brest van Kempen uses collages of digital photographs to create dual panoramic pictures of five locations in the city - one of the modern cityscape and one of the way it looked before there was a city.

Brest van Kempen researched old photographs, journal entries and maps to learn about the original plants, animals and topography of his chosen spots. Working in collaboration with scientists at the Academy he studied the present ecology of the locations and their natural history.
With a vision of the past in his mind's eye, he traveled into the countryside to find existing wild areas with similar characteristics. Using a high-resolution digital camera and digital special effects he brings the old landscape back to life in portraits that are remarkably realistic.

The results will challenge your assumptions about the streets you walk over. The exhibit makes it possible to believe that the corner of 16th and South Van Ness once housed a creek and a marsh. In this context, the seemingly ordinary modern environment becomes extraordinary: a weed growing in a crack in the pavement might be a host plant for an endangered species of butterfly that once flourished there.
Eventually the exhibit will move onto the streets. Brest van Kempen plans to post copies of the photographs at the locations they chronicle.

Mark Brest van Kempen has created a variety of artworks using the landscape itself as sculptural material, including the Free Speech Monument on the UC Berkeley campus. His work has been presented in Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The LA Times. Brest van Kempen was Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2000 and has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and Stanford University.

Domestic California was made possible in part by a grant from The Creative Work Fund. It opens on Saturday, October 20, in Wild California Hall at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park and will run through early 2002.


[The California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Academy's logo are registered trademarks of the California Academy of Sciences.]


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