Artist-in-Residence Glenda Joyce Hape Harvests Flax in Golden Gate Park

One of the many goals of the Artist-in-Residence program at the de Young Museum is to explore connections between the artists and the surrounding park environment. These connections enrich our museum visitors' experience through the guest artists' explorations and interpretations. Visiting artists from around the globe offer a unique experience to learn about natural materials found right here in Golden Gate Park.

Māori artist Glenda Hape uses flax to weave and create contemporary art. There are more than 7,500 exotic plant species surrounding the de Young in Golden Gate Park, including several types of ornamental flax. The species of flax Glenda needed to continue her weaving projects in the Kimball Gallery is called Phormium tenax, also known as New Zealand flax (or harakeke in the Māori language). Last week, Glenda explained how difficult it is to harvest the materials she uses in her artistic practice, but with the assistance of Andy Stone, gardner and park supervisor for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks, Glenda's harvesting trip around Stowe Lake was bountiful and she found just the right flax (harakeke).

Fan shaped flax bush

Glenda points out the fan shape at the root of the flax bush. Māori only harvest the outer, older "ancestor" leaves, which represent grandparents. They preserve the younger, overlapping inner three leaves, which look like a "V." This configuration represents the family, the newest shoot is the child flanked and protected by the mother and father. Harvesting in this way also helps the flax bush to continue to grow.

Harvesting and clearing the brush

Glenda harvests flax and cleans up the bush in the process.

Harvesting

Glenda shows Andy the Māori way of harvesting the leaves while an onlooker explores the muka (flax fiber) that Glenda extracted from the flax plant (harakeke). 

Cut leaves

Glenda cuts the leaves as described above. The cuts are clean and kept at an angle as a courtesy to future harvesters who could be injured by careless, jagged cuts.

Glenda and Andy before a banana tree sapling

Glenda Hape and Andy Stone of San Francisco Recreation and Parks stand in front of a banana tree seedling in the park. The Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas department and the Artist-in Residence program at the de Young Museum would like to thank Andy Stone and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department for lending their time and expertise. Thanks, Andy!

Don't miss your last opportunity to view Glenda's exhibition Connections through Fiber and be a part of her art making process. Join Glenda tomorrow night for the closing reception for her residency in the Kimball Education Gallery from 6:00–8:30 p.m.