Get to Know the Artists: Wendy Domster

May 12, 2017

Get to Know the Artists
Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations

Several of the artists participating in Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations shared their personal histories and thoughts on art and being an artist and responded to the questions below.

Wendy Domster

A native of Buffalo, New York, Domster holds a Fine Arts Degree from Alfred University. She has lived in Santa Cruz, California, for the past 32 years and is a veteran of the Fire Service, now retired; her focus expresses her artistic vision through the manipulation of raw, recycled, and reused materials.

domster cutting a treeDomster describes her work, her perspective on life and art, and her installation piece Sequoia Semprotea: My work as an artist has been latent and intermittent. Not to say it has been casual in any sense of the definition. Quite the contrary, it is exceptionally intentional, physical, and enthusiastic as well as ceremonial. I was traditionally trained in fine arts with a concentration in glass blowing, ceramics, and steel work, all of which I abandoned years ago to make a living as a firefighter for 26 years.

As life shifts, flows, and continually moves on, significant moments may be left behind, overlooked, submerged and sometimes forgotten. Inspired by traditions of remembering through storytelling, I use a sculptural palette for preserving, highlighting, and stirring up life’s moments. My sculptures are imaginative experiments in using raw and recycled materials to keep memories vital, capturing their essence and expressing it through art. My viewpoint promotes exploration of the intimate connection between nature, science, spirituality, and us.  My work invites conversation and reflection about our personal stories as well as our perception of the world around us.  Sequoia Semprotea is a fabricated mythological plant, a coastal bloom notable for having the ability to truly transform perceptions. I collected fallen redwood limbs from this past winter’s storms and combined them with an amalgam of recycled materials to mimic the South African Protea. “Protea” represents change and hope, “Semper” means “always,” and the Sequoia is giant and long-lived. It is no wonder this rare coastal bloom is appearing in the Arboretum to remind us of the continued potential of long-lived hope, change, and transformation.”

What person, place, or event has been a primary influence on your work and why? The people, places, and events in my life that have been essential to my creative journey and body of work begin back home on the east coast. Influenced by my father, an artist, engineer, designer, musician, and my mother, an artist, oil painter, sculptor and lover of life. Home was a creative establishment!

The place:  Alfred University School of Art and Design has an uncommon celebrated history of engaging in the interface of Art, Science and Technology. The school’s unique foundation gave me a platform I continue to resonate with.

The Event:  In particular, the single most influential event in my life that brought this artist back from creative dormancy was a conference called “The Bioneers.”  It brought together art, science, technology, and social entrepreneurs together in a fertile hub with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. My epiphany during that weekend was to re-emerge as an artist and sculptor and to create installations that define and redefine an environmental space while at the same time preserving the elements and mystery of life’s stories. I knew my future as an artist would no longer be defined and represented by traditional disciplines.

Adjectives that best describe you as an artist/person: Artist: Self-defined, ingenious, conceptual; Person: Adventurous, empathetic, resourceful. 

Adjectives that best describe your work: Compelling, perceptive, ambitious

  coastal bloom      
Coastal Bloom

If you had a personal philosophy/motto, what would it be? Courage is necessary to creativity… “JUMP” (Joseph Campbell)

What might surprise someone about you/your work? That I still don’t have a website!  (email:

What are your thoughts on the Art in Arboretum: Environmental Installations exhibition? What a pleasure it was to be asked for to create a piece for the Environmental Installation Exhibition at the Arboretum—it is a beautiful location to explore the relationship between sculpture and the UCSC Arboretum’s disciplined topography. And it’s an exciting time to see various artists restructure the viewers’ conceptual and perceptual experience of different areas of the Arboretum, especially for those viewers that have been long time explorers, volunteers, and employees of the gardens. For those who have never visited, the fusion of sculpture and garden will ensure their return visit. It will be intoxicating!