“Odes”: Isabel Lee-Rosson at Terrain Dallas

by Emma S. Ahmad April 18, 2023

This spring, Terrain Dallas, the residential lawn of artist and curator Iris Bechtol, which functions as an installation space for emerging artists, will feature artwork by artist and art historian Isabel Lee-Rosson. 

A sculpture of a large mound of twigs and compost

Isabel Lee-Rosson, “Terrain Ode,” 2023. Crape Myrtle, Grapevine, Listeria, Live Oak, Pecan tree, leaves, grass, and food scraps.

Lee-Rosson’s artistic practice centers on the consumption and degradation of the natural environment, calling attention to the manipulation and misuse of plants in man-made landscapes. Her installation for Terrain Dallas, titled Odes, consists of a large conical structure constructed primarily from introduced and invasive flora from the surrounding suburban community.

In anticipation for the fast-approaching spring, many residents in the neighborhood have begun landscaping their yards, giving Lee-Rosson ample piles of tree trimmings to pull from to create her installation. Reclaiming yard waste instead of creating additional trimmings is an extremely eco-friendly method of sourcing material. Internally, the structure is filled with organic material, including leaves, grass clippings, and food scraps from the local restaurant La Bodega, located in the Bishop Arts District, that will compost as the installation ages. Once the installation is gone, the finished compost pile will be used as mulch by Bechtol for her native garden.

Photo of the artist building an outdoor sculpture

Isabel Lee-Rosson building “Terrain Ode.” Photo courtesy of the artist.

In creating the outermost layer of the structure, Lee-Rosson wove together flexible branches in the traditional technique of wattle weaving. She works in collaboration with the landscape, tending to and cultivating the space in which she works and the materials that she uses. The cone-like shape of the major structure is a direct reference to ancient dwellings found across the globe, while the structure’s woven exterior and nurturing interior is symbolic of the undervalued work of women in society. The series is highly influenced by the artistic practices and writings of female land artists, such as Agnes Denes, Maren Hassinger, and Ana Mendieta.

Photo of the artist building a large outdoor sculpture

Isabel Lee-Rosson, “West Texas Ode,” 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Odes at Terrain Dallas marks the second installment in this series. The first construction was created outside of Sweetwater, Texas in 2021. Made from Juniper, Mesquite, Grapevine, Trumpet vine, Sunflowers and filled with leaves, cow manure, garden waste, and coffee grounds, the structure is still standing today, despite the piqued curiosities of the local wildlife and ranch cattle. Each Ode installation pays homage to its site through its material choices and ultimately improves the environment, leaving behind a rich, biodegradable compost pile.

Detail of a large public sculpture made of tree branches

Detail of “West Texas Ode.” Photo courtesy of the artist.

These environmentally conscious installations seek to increase biodiversity and improve soil health, becoming a cozy home to a medley of organisms, while also calling attention to harmful landscaping practices. But the artwork is not just a statement; it is meant to be educational, offering solutions to these issues, such as composting techniques and how to utilize wattle weaving. “I’m trying to push the conversations about land art further, one moment and one performance at a time” says Lee-Rosson. “Through my artistic practice, I can combine my love for gardening and my passion for improving the environment. I want to leave each site better than I found it.”

Watercolor and ink drawing of a field of cactus and high grasses

Isabel Lee-Rosson, “Summer in Sweetwater,” 2021. Watercolor and ink on paper.

Outside of her installation at Terrain Dallas, Lee-Rosson also creates many works on paper. Her series titled Prairie directly documents the flora of threatened habitats. Additionally, her practice extends beyond the studio to guerilla gardening, which has a rich history of being a quietly profound and valuable form of protest, and remains today as a powerful expression of civic dissatisfaction with the man-made urban environment and its lack of native plant life, or lack of plant life entirely.

Encountering one of Lee-Rosson’s Odes is an inspiring experience imbued with a sense of hopefulness for a better tomorrow. Her ecological installation will be on view at Terrain Dallas from March 5 to May 7, 2023.


Terrain Dallas is located at 1122 Elmdale Pl, Dallas, TX 75224. Viewing Hours: Seven days a week, daylight hours during exhibitions.

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