Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Palo Alto Public Art Project: Lost in My Abstract Garden on California Avenue

Snippet of Carrie Lederer's Lost in my abstract garden is a swirl of purples and green in various floral shapes.

Snippet of Carrier Lederer’s 2021 mural, Lost in My Abstract Garden. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Title: Lost in My Abstract Garden, 2021

Artist: Carrie Lederer

Location: 155 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

Photo Source: Me

The 2021 Palo Alto Public Art Project

As I mentioned in my last post, Palo Alto has installed eight new temporary murals designed to give residents and businesses struggling with the pandemic a bit of a boost this spring. Last week, I visited the murals along California Avenue, and found myself spending a great deal of time with Carrie Lederer’s Lost in My Abstract Garden.

Painted mural with abstracted flowers, leaves, birds, foxes, and squirrels in a swirling, rich palette of yellows, reds, purples, blues, and greens.
Lost in My Abstract Garden (c) 2021 Carrie Lederer (Photo: Shala Howell)

About the Artist

Oakland-based Carrie Lederer is a painter, sculptor, and installation artist. In her work, she uses fractals and other patterns found in chaos theory to create abstract, apparently chaotic images that reconstruct the delicate, minute, and thoroughly intertwined natural systems that often go unnoticed in the world around us.

Lederer uses all sorts of manmade materials, including fabric, fur, flock, glass eyes, and glitter, in her work. She also makes frequent use of stencils to impose familiar patterns on the abstracted birds, animals, flowers, and other natural shapes that make up her dense, tapestry-like images.

You can find more of Lederer’s work at Turtle Bay Museum, de Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, San Jose Institute of Art, and UCSF Medical Center. She also has an extensive portfolio on her website.

If you visit her website, be certain to stop by her In the Studio section. The brief captions that accompany each photo offer an intriguing glimpse of Lederer’s process–how she gathers inspiration from raw materials gleaned from her garden, how her hands ache after a long afternoon spent cutting paper stencils, and how she juggles several different projects at once.

You can find Carrie Lederer:

A few of my favorite things from Lost in My Abstract Garden

I take long walks about four days a week now, winding my way through my neighborhood inspecting my neighbor’s gardens for new blooms and their bird feeders for new-to-me species and old friends. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that when faced with Lederer’s mural I immediately began hunting for the birds. I looked for them at first simply because I like birds. But in writing this up, I realized that my little bird photos are actually reasonable illustrations of how Lederer’s art combines natural forms with abstracted shapes and patterns.

Bird on red

Snippet of Lederer's mural shows a bird outlined in black on a black branch against a red background.
Portion of Lost in My Abstract Garden (c) 2021 Carrie Lederer. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Bird on green

A bird outlined in green with what appears to be a pile of seeds on its head.
Portion of Lost in My Abstract Garden (c) 2021 Carrie Lederer. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Bird on a fox

A bird perched on the back of a fox.
Portion of Lost in My Abstract Garden (c) 2021 Carrie Lederer. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Bird on a blogger

Selfie of me wearing a blue mask and matching hat against a portion of Carrie Lederer's brightly painted mural, Lost in my Abstract Garden. I've positioned myself so that it looks like one of her birds is perched on my hat.
There’s something different about looking at public art in a pandemic. I can’t quite put my finger on it. (Photo: Shala Howell. Art: Portion of Lost in My Abstract Garden, a mural by Carrie Lederer, 2021.)

These obviously aren’t all of the birds in the garden. I couldn’t possibly show you all of them. Where’s the fun in that?

Want to see the new Palo Alto murals for yourself?

In the meantime, if you’d like to tour the works yourself, you can find an interactive map listing the murals installed so far here.

Want to go, but need help selling it to your kids?  

The fact that public art is installed in public spaces creates all sorts of opportunities for family fun. Pack a picnic lunch, a kite or a frisbee, a family-sized supply of masks and hand sanitizer, and pair the outing with a trip to a nearby park or playground. If you have one, consider bringing your dog.

Don’t have time for a full-fledged outing? Challenge your kids to keep their eyes open while you are out and about doing something else. I bet they (or you) will spot something interesting on your next walk, bike ride, or errand run.

My book, What’s That, Mom?: How to use public art to engage your children with the world around them… without being an artist yourself, provides 15 accessible, practical strategies for using public art to spark conversations with children between the ages of 3 and 10 — no artistic talent or insight required.

What’s That, Mom? is available at and Amazon. There’s even a journal to go with it so that your kids can sketch their favorite works of art and you can record your favorite moments from your outing.

NOTE: This section contains affiliate links to, an online bookstore that provides financial support to local, independent bookstores. At the time I wrote this post, had already raised $12.8m for local bookstores. If you use the link in the previous paragraph to purchase my book on, I’ll earn a commission on your book purchase, as will your preferred independent bookshop. You can also find my book in the new Caterpickles Bookstore. Regardless of whether you use my links or visit the Caterpickles Bookstore, thank you for spending part of your day reading Caterpickles. Learn more about Affiliate Links, the Caterpickles Bookstore, and why I decided to become a Affiliate.

Happy public art hunting!

Related Links:

2 Responses to “Palo Alto Public Art Project: Lost in My Abstract Garden on California Avenue”

    • Shala Howell

      Yes, we definitely have the full compliment of traffic back in the Bay Area. I hope you enjoyed your visit to SF otherwise, and am glad to hear that you are still well.



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