Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
304B Architecture 2 Building
B.F.A. (High Honors) (Virginia Commonwealth University)
M.A., M.F.A. (Sculpture) (University of Iowa)
M.L.A. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Brenda Brown describes her work as landscape design art research and “an ongoing grapple to reveal and interpret landscape ecosystem phenomena, processes and relationships.” These endeavors inevitably involve considerations of human perception, engagement, use and understanding. For almost fifteen years she has been particularly concerned with landscape sounds, how they can be revealed and what they can reveal about landscapes’ natural and cultural processes and interactions. Among other things, this has involved interacting animal habitats, plant communities, seasonality and various forms of water. In her projects she draws on her education and experience as designer, artist, writer and editor, often collaborating with ecologists and composers as well as with other designers. Several times she has spent some years developing what she calls “cluster projects” that culminate in simultaneous interrelated landscape projects, site specific exhibitions, music premieres and other presentations that reinforce her objectives and offer diverse angles on the subject at hand.
In 2010 she began a project she initially conceived as a landscape as/of sound, a hummingbird landscape habitat restoration at Tzintzuntzan, a national archaeological site in in the Mexican state of Michoacán. There she has collaborated with Dr. Roberto Lindig-Cisneros, a restoration ecologist at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México as well with archaeologists at the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia which manages and researches the site. Thus far there have been three major plantings at the site and the increase in hummingbirds has been monitored scientifically. Brown’s related exhibition, Tzintzuntzan, el lugar de los colibríes – otra vez / Tzintzuntzan, place of the hummingbirds – again, was held at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Alfredo Zalce in Morelia, Mexico, 19 February-3 May, 2015 and then moved to the Tzintzuntzan National Archaeological site itself where it was on display from August 24, 2015 – February 12, 2016. The exhibit documented the design, research and processes of the project and also included more evocative elements incorporating sound, video and adaptations of traditional Mexican arts and crafts. Brown also organized a competitive commission for a new musical composition to coincide with the exhibition’s opening in Morelia. Won by composer Yeudiel Infante it premiered at the Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonoras (CMMAS). Much of the work in the exhibition is documented in a book designed by Brown that doubled as the exhibit catalogue. Sharing the exhibition’s title, distributed outside Mexico by the University Press of Florida, it also includes 8 essays by 12 academics and professionals in related fields. Each essay provides a different illuminating perspective on the project and Brown’s work.
In 2017 Brown was artist in residence for five weeks at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, which led to her creation of the video, “Hearing the Wind: Chaco Canyon”, composed from her documentations at the park as well as subsequent interviews with residents of the Four Corners region. The video along with twelve related prints comprised an exhibition, Minding the Ground; Hearing the Wind: Chaco Canyon, at the park visitor center October 21 – December 3, 2018. In 2018 she was artist in residence at Riding Mountain National Park which has led to her work on a video tentatively entitled Trees in Wind/Wind in Trees.
Brown’s other art/design projects include Spring Ice (2010), the product of two seasons documenting Winnipeg rivers’ spring ice breakup in sound recordings and photographs. Comprised of three complex sound and video installations on the University of Manitoba campus and one that played inside and outside the entrance of Winnipeg’s Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art, Spring Ice also encompassed two new musical works that incorporated Brown’s sound recordings, one by composer Richard Festinger, a professor at San Francisco State University, the other by composer Michael Matthews, a professor at the University of Manitoba. In 2008 her simultaneous Ringling Listening Garden Inside/Outside at the Selby Gallery of Ringling College of Design in Sarasota, Florida and Crowley Listening Trail in Myyaka, Florida coincided with another collaboration with composer Richard Festinger, Insect Voices, which premiered at the exhibition opening.
Brown’s publications and conference and public presentations are extensive and varied. She was a plenary speaker at the Visiones Sonoras symposium in Mexico in 2013 and the Music in Architecture/ Architecture in Music symposium at the University of Texas in 2011. Besides the book mentioned above, publications include book chapters in Landscape Observatory: The Work of Terence Harkness, edited by M. Elen Deming (Novato, California: ORO Publications, 2017); in Music in Architecture/ Architecture in Music, edited by Michael Benedikt (Austin: Center for American Architecture & Design, 2014) and in Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variations, edited by Terence Young and Robert Riley (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002). An article on the roles of living plants in archaeological sites is forthcoming as is a collaborative publication in the journal Ecological Restoration. She has published articles on her projects and teaching in Landscapes/Paysages and articles and reviews in Landscape Journal as well as many articles in Landscape Architecture magazine. She served as Landscape Journal’s assistant editor from 1990-1994 and chaired the committee for Eco-Revelatory Design and was editor and designer of the 1998 Special issue of Landscape Journal, Eco-Revelatory Design: Nature Constructed/Nature Revealed a catalogue for the exhibition of the same name. This project received a Merit Award from the Society of Landscape Architects. Brown is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo and Ucross and a two-time finalist for the Rome Prize.
More information on Brenda Brown can be found on her website, www.bbldar.com