One morning, conceptual artist and science teacher Jason Rogalski heard loud bangs outside the door of his City Heights home. He walked out to find a neighbor throwing rocks at a skunk who'd taken cover under his truck. He asked the neighbor to stop scaring the critter. Skunks, he explained, have to live somewhere, right?
"That's what spawned the whole idea," says Rogalski, the team leader of Urban Succession, one of four teams that participated in DNA of Creativity, a multiyear project, sponsored by San Diego Visual Arts Network, that launched in 2012. The project teamed artists with scientists and asked them to collaborate on in-depth explorations fusing the two practices.
"Humans try to totally control the natural environment, and we do largely, but there are things we can't control," Rogalski says. "We are always trying to get rid of the insects, animals, weeds and all that stuff, but it comes back, and we can't stop it."
Rogalski wanted to help his neighbors and other urbanites embrace, rather than constantly battle, skunks and other creatures simply trying to find a home. His concept was intriguing enough to win a modest grant from the DNA of Creativity project. He and his team of local artists and biologists set out to create sculptural objects that could double as homes for animals and organisms. The scientists provided information on the basic necessities the critters would need to survive; the artists then created designs. Once finished, the pieces were scattered throughout urban neighborhoods and put to real-world use.
Some of the sculptures have been removed from their locales and can now be viewed at the DNA of Creativity show, which opens alongside several other exhibitions from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the Oceanside Museum of Art (704 Pier View Way). Admission is $10.
Rogalski's "Honey Pot," a ceramic piece, won't be at OMA but will be featured in a looped film during the exhibition, along with all the Urban Succession work. He shows me the whimsical sculpture in his small backyard; it's meant to be mounted on a rooftop and serve as a beehive, and it'll soon be given to a family who volunteered to host it. Then he points to "Urban Hive," a quirky towering plaster sculpture.
"There's a skunk living in it right now," he says. "It's beautiful, right? But also strong and totally functional."