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Finding God in All Things: Local Artist Begins New Mural for Center for Environmental Studies

Inspired by O’Dowd’s Living Lab and our charism of Finding God in All Things, local artist Hannah Mode, whose work intersects art, science, sustainability, and spirituality, has been commissioned to create a mural on our Center for Environmental Studies building.

On July 19, Hannah visited O’Dowd’s 4-acre Living Lab to begin cyanotypes, an eco-friendly photographic printing process to make blue monochromatic prints using plant clippings from our gardens. The cyanotypes will be one of the three layers needed to make each of the 30 tiles that will be installed on the CES building.

Hannah toured the Living Lab with O’Dowd teacher and Lab co-founder, Annie Prutzman, who shared about the native plants found throughout the gardens and their unique characteristics.

Hannah collected a bevy of plant clippings throughout the tour, and collaborated with the Living Lab team to group her findings and prepare for the cyanotype process.

“I take each plant and try to show the spirit of it, from stem to flower,” Hannah explained, arranging the plants on a cyanotype paper. “By carefully layering the flowers, they will uniquely block the sun’s layers to create a pattern. The entire exposure process takes about 20 minutes.”

When Hannah removed the paper and rinsed it in water, the exposed parts of the paper transformed into hues of cerulean blue. The result? Stunning impressions of the plants at O’Dowd’s Living Lab. Hannah will then transfer the cyanotype images onto tiles, which will be used as part of the base layer of the mural.

Hannah’s interest in art, science, and spirituality is strongly aligned with the lessons of former O’Dowd teacher and another co-founder of the Living Lab, Tom Tyler, who taught at O’Dowd from 1979 to 2005. Hannah is inspired by the geology of the Bay Area and will incorporate a portion of the United States Geologic Survey map that includes O’Dowd’s campus in her mural. “By highlighting a geologic map, the design collapses human and geologic time scales, emphasizing that we are all tied into interconnected Earth systems,” said Hannah.

“Hannah Mode’s artwork is fascinating, clever, and beautiful,” remarked Tom Tyler. “We are definitely kindred spirits—I totally embrace her ‘sense of place’ framework for weaving together the geologic, human, and spiritual dimensions of O’Dowd’s unique story.”


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