schoolyard art For my CV, please click HERE 

Once upon a time, before art sorted itself out as a category for me, I would be taken to the Los Angeles County Art Museum by my parents. They would drag me through the galleries of 1960’s masterpieces, and then we’d go outside and I would climb on concrete replicas of giant ground sloths. Tar pits, concrete animals, and the county art museum merged into an idea that art, while serious, was properly something to play on.

In the early eighties I was designing sets and costumes for dance companies, and painting little paintings in an apartment in New York City. My images were full of dancing figures and urban grids. One day, I put city and image together. It is essential to have a quiet place to concentrate and think, well organized with all the tools at hand. But outside, the rest of the contiguous world becomes part of the work, and the work part of the world.

I was hooked on working out there - in prisons, woodlots, old buildings, community centers, on refrigerators, public transit, baby lima beans... Nearly twenty years later I got a masters degree in landscape architecture. My capacities and curiosities had expanded; I wanted to know, in practical ways, how things hold together and why the spaces we live in look as they do. Now I work across these two approaches – art and design – using both toolboxes, testing each through the other.

Everyday life should be infused with art: the grace of things well done, the generosity that exceeds practical solutions, the true potency and depth of the things which surround and support our lives. By integration with our environment, artworks can share with other activities their refinement and conceptual complexity. Everyday experience becomes a rich circumstance, rewarding interactions, encouraging sensitivity and openness, empathy and compassion.

The images in my work are drawn from local circumstances, tailored in scale and material to harmonize and amplify their contexts. Acting like seed crystals, they provoke the thoughts of viewers, who then extend the meaning of the artwork in their own perceptions and activities.

My curiosity leaves me open to many things but fundamentally my passion is for culture. I mean the ways by which patterns and meanings are married to physical things; how objects are at the same time also processes; why close attention to the crafts of building and the courtesies of interaction is both necessary and useful. I feel an acute responsibility toward the increasingly vulnerable natural systems that support us, yet it is through our own being, ideas and communities, that we know those systems. Culture is our nature, a companion both inscrutable and familiar.


July, 2018 - Postcards to the Future Forest, a collaboration with the National Forest Foundation' Lake Tahoe West project, is a two year commission to bring new concepts of forest management into piublic view through artworks. Phase one (and six free postcards) can be found at


Watershed Prints, six small editions issued March, 2018
stream systems and reservoirs drawing
Three images in two color prints and silver leaf, 13 x 20" on Fabriano Rosaspina paper. Click HERE for images and pricing.
I will be presenting this work in a short talk on May 12th at the Berkeley Public Library, North Branch.

Saturday, May 13th, 2017
Photography workshop in Pt Reyes -
I will llead a daylong class focused on how picture-taking connects us to landscapes through observation, storytelling and memeory. It's called "The Wish to Photograph"

March-May 2017
Exhibition of Confluence project drawings at the Marin Headlands National Park Service Visitors' Center, through May 15th.

-and see the ARTiciple Interview about the work here.

September, 2016
A twenty-three-foot sentence installed on the top of a curb in Reno NV as a materials test for the Confluence Projects. (Photo Konah Zebert)

text on curb in yellow lettering
August, 2016
Just published at The Gambler, a (partly) random literary and arts magazine.

April, 2016
Prints and postcards of the stream systems that supply Bay Area drinking water, extracted from the National Hydrologic Database - in a pop-up exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, April 16th all day till 8pm.
Mokelumne river watershed

October, 2015
Monthly posts from "Confluence" project research are now available online HERE (you can also subscribe - the next update is due out shortly)
layout of the experimental stream channels
above: a diagram of the experimental stream channels at Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, a UC ecological field station.

August, 2015
The "Confluence" projects are underway, thanks to the generosity of Hatchfund private donors and the Jiji Foundation. I am working with David Herbst's Lab and others, measuring streams and observing Sierra landscapes at the end of the summer after the driest winter on record.
drying pond in the Sierra Nevada

July 23, 2015
Artist Talk at the Golden Thread Gallery, 84-94 Great Patric Street, Belfast, 1-2pm

capital dee excerpted from page of text

June - July 2015
I am in Belfast, Northern Ireland working at Digital Arts Studios as an artist in residence. A remarkable and complicated place, Belfast developed around a unique array of stream systems and topography. I'm looking into its history and trying out the process of making digital fonts from the handwriting of deceased Northern Irish authors.

May 15, 2015
My HATCHFUND campaign is live! Please help accomplish the research phase of my next project. A description and short video (by the fantastic IDEAS IN MOTION) are on the HATCHFUND website, donations are tax deductible...and there are prizes!

April 14, 2015
I go 'fishing' with FISHBIO, checking hatchery-raised salmonids before they are released and counting fish trapped on their way downriver
FISHBIO technician towing hatchery fish in a river

checking fish jaws with a mechanical pencil

stainless steel fish trap

July 9, 2014
a FISHBIO feature on Overlook at Levy Art and Architecture
Flexcon Window Deco with Sacramento Sucker Juvenile

April - September 2014
Limited edition digital photographs of the Endangered Species project are at Levy Art and Architecture, 1286 Sanchez St in San Francisco through June 30th. M-F 9-5
man and mouse

Overlook, a project commissioned by LAA for their facade at 1286 Sanchez Street, will be in place through 2014.
view from the design studio

Winter, 2014

Do sheep feel at home in their wool? Is it too extreme to think of them itching, or desperately hot, clutching for air, frantic for the shearer? Or what feeling they have for style, some sense of renewal in a new look, freshness of air against the skin?...(more)

A winter without rain - I'm feeling it for the fish! Fishbio, doing interesting work in California and SE Asia, has lent me an image for a new project: juvenile Sacramento suckers in a holding tank.

Sacramento Suckers Juvenile

Fall, 2012
October 7th I'll be in conversation about "Shade" at the UC Berkeley Botranical Garden; 2:30-3:30, free with garden admission.

Summer, 2012
Just Opened at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden : Natural Discourse: Artists, Architects and Poets in the Garden.My project, "Shade" is a thousand-square foot photographic print of what a young plant might sense in the shade of an oak woodland. The exhibition runs through January, 2013

Fall, 2011
Photographs of the Endangerbuses may be seen at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, August 22nd through September 30th, 2011.

I spoke about endangered species advocacy at Counterpulse in San Francisco on September 14th, along with Brent Plater (Wild Equity Institute) and Jessie Raeder (Tuolumne River Trust).

SaltMarshHarvestMouse Todd Gilens

Summer, 2011

By way of celebrating the
Magna Carta coming to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, I led two L E T T E R F O R M workshops on June 5th . Contact me if you'd like a copy of the handout, which surveys developments in the history of letter-making.

One of my photographs of Endangered Species buses (but not the one above) was shown at the San Francisco Zen Center April 29 to May 29, part of an exhibition called "Sweetcake Enso." The exhibition is traveling to Zen practice centers around the country.

Endangered Species, my proposal for San Francisco public transit buses, is on the streets of San Francisco from mid-January on. Look for the project website or for endangerbus on Flickr and Twitter.

The proposal was also publlished in Bay Nature Magazine in their winter 2010 issue. For more on the project, download the ANTENNAE essay below.

ANTENNAE: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, published my essay "In and Out of Place" in their issue #10, Heat. The essay outlines the potential for public transit to connect animal and human communities, conservation land urban infrastructure. Download the article HERE.

TREASURE ISLAND BICYCLE RACK COMPETITION: My design is one of three finalists in a competition to create a signature bike rack design for Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Two prototypes have been installed on 6th and Market Streets. See SF Bicycle Coalition Treasure Island page.Bike Rack Design

Thinking Through Nature: Philosophty for an Endangered World, University of Oregon 19-22 of June, 2008. Todd presented a paper titled Iconic Comensalism: Public Transit and Endangered Species. See

Resiliance Art Exhibition, at Resiliance 2008, an international Science Conference. See