The latest exhibit features four Florida artists who examine the relationship between humankind and nature.
Just like the rest of the country, Florida is an ever-changing landscape of natural green space and manmade works of concrete and steel.
The juxtaposition of nature versus development is prevalent in a state that sees its share of apartment complexes and homes replacing woodlands.
These interactions and the following affects have been watched closely by interested parties — especially artists such as Alexander Diaz in his witty series “Florida’s Mountains.”
“I drove around Central and Northeast Florida looking for these piles of dirt, and to me, they represent what we are doing to the earth,” Diaz said. “They look like mountains — but they’re not mountains, of course. They’re piles of dirt that were found at construction sites. To me, they’re symbolic of the transformation of our natural environment.”
Shot in a style reflective of master photographer Ansel Adams — whom Diaz cites as being a major influence — each black-and-white photo depicts towering mounds of dirt and rock, which is shot in such a way that you could mistake them for being actual mountains.
The series, along with Diaz’s “Revisiting Florida” self-portrait series, are just a small part of a four—artist showcase at the Maitland Art Center’s latest exhibit, titled “Enchanted Florida: Picturing Contemporary Landscape,” which examines the complex relationship between humans and their natural surroundings.
Although some shows are picked for myriad reasons, the concept for Enchanted Florida was chosen by the observations by the center’s own Rangsook Yoon — who serves as the director of experiences and the center’s curator.
“I moved here five years ago — around the Lake Nona area — and within the past three years, I have seen dramatic changes happening in the neighborhood,” Yoon said. “For a long time, I wanted shopping malls and more facilities like Starbucks. But once that started to happen, the whole horizon became empty. Beautiful oak trees and acres of the beautiful forests were being demolished.”
The idea came to Yoon a few months after starting her current role in October, and starting in January, she began to research Florida artists who best encapsulated the show’s concept.
Her search came back with four artists in Diaz (St. Augustine), painters Bruce Marsh (Tampa) and Lilian Garcia-Roig (Tallahassee), and photographer/video artist Corey George (Tampa). All are transplants who have lived in Florida for many years now, Yoon said.
“The exhibition is beautiful — I couldn’t be any happier,” she said. “All four artists have a very different and unique style, but in terms of their ways of approaching and the kind of artists who inspires them have similarities, so each work by each different artists tends to converse with each other.
“They’re very different from each other, but there are commonalities in both their interests in Florida landscapes and also their artistic aesthetic concerns too,” she said.
For the artists chosen, the balance between visual aesthetics and underlying meaning play an important role in their pieces — especially when it touches on something as relevant as the health of our environment.
Since the first time he picked up a camera in high school, Diaz has balanced on a fine line of sending a message in a beautifully composed photograph and avoiding being heavy-handed with his message.
“You can push people away from your work if it’s too preachy,” Diaz said. “So I always want to present my ideas in a humorous way or non-direct way, to give room for interpretation and to bring people in. My strategy is to bring people in through aesthetics — make it something that is beautiful — and then when they’re in the work they think about other ideas.”
With 37 pieces of art on display by Diaz, Marsh, Garcia-Roig and George all together in the center’s four galleries, Yoon hopes visitors will take the time to dive in and discover the messages in each work.
From there, the hope is viewers will walk away with an intellectually stimulating experience, and a new outlook on the world around them.
“I want them to be able to be able to experience the skills and the talents of these Florida based artists,” Yoon said. “But at the same time, I want people to be thinking about the way we experience nature in Florida and how it is changing rapidly.”