By Vidya Pradhan
Imagine your backyard as a canvas. The flowers and the greenery provide the color while the architectural details form the composition of the painting. If you have a vision for your garden and want help transforming it into a work of art, then Laxmi Natarajan of Bagicha is the artist for you.
Like most people migrating to Silicon Valley, Laxmi arrived here with a job in high tech. Let’s face it, if you are a South Indian with test scores in the 90th percentile, you are expected to pursue the sciences. After 11 years managing a database group at Informix, she responded to the inner voice calling her to the arts. She took painting courses at the College of San Mateo and decided to focus on Chinese Brush painting. Her ability to combine Western watercolor influences with Oriental traditions has given her a unique style and her paintings have won awards in local art shows. Laxmi is part of the Redwood City Art Group and has been painting for over 11 years now. Four years ago, while designing her own backyard, she was struck by the similarity between her paintings and her landscaping project. “It was a blank canvas and I had to figure out the colors, the elements and the perspectives,” she reminisces. She went back to school to get certified in landscape design and started Bagicha last year. “A garden is like a painting,” explains Laxmi, “except it is like multiple paintings at the same place. Every view is like a frame. I compose every part of the garden. It is like painting in 3-D.” “Most people have a vision for their garden. They need a bridge to translate their vision into a real thing that fits into their functional needs and budgets as well. That is where I come in. My strengths are my passion for art, creativity and color.” Most of her clients are from the Indian community and she finds that she is able to empathize with their ideas. For instance, when her client is looking for a fragrant patch of garden, she can sense that it is the scent of jasmine that is being evoked. She knows what plants to chose when someone wants to have something sweet-smelling at night. She is also able to incorporate Indian philosophies into her designs. One client wanted to step out into the garden and do yoga. So Laxmi was able to orient the garden appropriately and give him a Zen platform. She also designed the garden to accommodate an outdoor seating area for a dance performance. Laxmi continues to paint, finding that the two different expressions of art give each other balance. She teaches art classes at her studio in Redwood City and also to preschool kids in a Montessori school nearby. In the future are plans to start a children’s gardening club to inculcate a feeling of closeness with the earth. Also in the works is a greenhouse where plants of Asian origin will be cultivated and sold. “Make the earth a little better by surrounding yourself with things that are beautiful to you,” says Laxmi. In her own small way, she is doing exactly that. Laxmi's art gallery can be found here. 'Cranes on Pine Tree' won 1st prize at he SAG Spring Art Show in Redwood City. 'Happiness' won second place at the San Mateo county fair.