Unusual Garden

  March 15 - April 21

Houston Center for Photography is proud to announce the exhibition Unusual Garden, featuring the works of Judy Haberl, Ruud van Empel, Brad Temkin, David Robinson, and Lynn Geesaman. Curated by Libbie Masterson, the exhibition will be on view at HCP in the West and Central Galleries from March 8 – April 21. An opening reception will take place on Friday, March 15th from 6pm-8pm.

Unusual Garden will focus on curious perspectives of gardens and botanical material, both natural and manicured. The works on view will include Haberl’s magical photo-luminescent photographic installation of topiaries, Robinson’s luminograms of mushrooms, van Empel’s haunting images of children set amid lush settings of greenery, Geesaman’s shimmering and inviting pictures of classic European countryside, and Temkin’s high-rise landscape featuring unique and beautiful rooftop gardens.

The exhibition’s timing is an important aspect of the theme. During the months of March and April, the many garden clubs and horticultural societies in Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, included will be presenting their annual flower shows and inviting botanists from around the world to participate. Unusual Garden is, in its own way, a way for HCP partaking in this annual tradition.


Judy Haberl spent several months photographing at the Green Animals Topiary Garden, part of the Newport Mansions Preservation Society in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. She considers topiary a form of “green magic” that meditates nature and inserts anthropomorphism into what otherwise could be tepid and banal landscapes. Her large-scale photo-luminescent mega-mural, which will be displayed at HCP, reveals a vast garden composed of multiple topiary animals, flanked on both sides by living topiary shrubs and a garden bench for meditation. Through this type of work she explores the photograph as a theatrical tableaux, providing a hyper-real experience for the viewer - eventually transforming into a garden in moonlight.

David Robinson is a Northern Irish artist based in London. Over the past decade his photographic work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian, and Blueprint. In addition, Robinson is also a chef and co-founder of Sporeboys, a mushroom street-food kitchen touring food markets in London and festivals across the UK. He recently published a children’s book entitled The Mushroom Picker that contains many of his enchanting mushroom luminograms – images created by exposure of photosensitive materials to light, without a camera. The process of creating the luminogram rapidly causes the destruction of the delicate original mushroom design – each successful print is all that remains. The inspiration for the work, and the materials used, are as fleeting, ephemeral, and transient as each other.

American photographer Lynn Geesamen first started traveling to France and Belgium in 1987, and quickly realized that her passion lied in photographing the classic European gardens found abundantly in these countries. At age 33 she learned photography and soon developed her own way of seeing and style of printing. Focusing on her passion for green spaces that have remained untouched by human decadence or industrial intrusion, Geesamen gained national recognition for her striking black and white photography void of people but instead revealing the solitude and refinement found in nature. These quite places the only disturbance is the occasional rustle of leaves or the sounds of your own thoughts are her subjects, and her shimmering images invite the viewer into a dream world where the imagination runs free.

The high regard in which Ruud van Empel is held as an exceptional artist began when he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts Sint Joost in Breda, the Netherlands in 1981. For the next 10 years he spanned the artistic fields of interior, graphic and theatre design until the 1990’s when he began to create surrealistic photographs. Van Empel’s famous series ‘World’ invites the viewer into an extraordinary hallucinatory world in which often wide-eyed black children pose amid lush settings of greenery. Exhibited internationally with great success in the past few years, his first retrospective with over 80 works opened in 2011 in the Groniger Museum in The Netherlands. Van Empel’s working method is considered complex. He photographs four to five professional models in his studio, and then spends time taking detailed shots of plants, animals and other natural elements. The models are then mixed with these images in Photoshop and a new, dreamlike photograph is created.

Brad Temkin is a Chicago-based photographer who has been documenting the human impact on the contemporary landscape for most of his career. Temkin believe that in spite of us, humanity continues to stumble into grace. His photographs celebrate this by focusing on the integration of modern architecture with the landscape – our infrastructure with the environment. He has exhibited his photographs throughout the United States and abroad, and is part of several permanent collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Libbie Masterson earned a BFA from the California College of Arts. An interest in landscapes led her through Europe, Alaska and Antarctica, inspiring a series of photographs illuminated with light panels and eventually installations scaling up to 70 feet. Her first pieces were shown at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (2006), the Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston (2007), and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2008). In 2008 she was commissioned by Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre and the Sarasota Ballet to create a stage set for The Mozart Trilogy, which was performed in Houston, Dallas, New York and Tokyo. In 2008, Masterson was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance for the creation of a photographic installation of evenings in Texas, which she exhibited during the winter 2009-10. This led to a residency at the Dora Maar House in the south of France, awarded by the Museum of Fine Art Houston where she focused on the landscapes of Provence and eventually exhibited them as a part of the Fotofest Biennial in 2012 at Wade Wilson Art, Houston. This spring, Masterson is designing a stage set for a new opera commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera as part of their East Meets West series that will premiere in April 2013. In addition, she is preparing a temporary installation for the reflection pool at Hermann Park. Her photographic work can be seen at the Catherine Couturier Gallery, Houston.