TOTEM Nature Art " Ferns and Avocado Bark Devas" by Debra Cortese
I wanted to create a custom background image for some of my new blog pages and since I didn’t really have a specific image in mind, I experimented with many variations of nature’s textures and colors from images taken in my back yard. The deep contrast and texture of the bark on our avocado tree was one of my first choices. The energy of the bark is powerful, serious and grounded.
I tested several versions of the bark texture with different flowers and leaves, however when I added the fern frond, which is a prolific character accenting many areas of our back yard, it started to feel right!
Reflecting or mirroring images is one of my favorite techniques in revealing the hidden magic of nature’s energy. You never know what you will actually see when the pieces come together and this time was exceptional! After sizing, layering, adjusting shadows and opacity and putting them all together, a center column of totem devas appeared. Now, this is often exactly what happens however, the images in this piece are profound to me. Their appearance and positions tell a story about the forests (perhaps a bit of fortune telling) and the importance of global connections and interdependence of ALL living elements.
What do you see?
Yes, I am a nature lover. I am soothed, balanced, energized and inspired by plants, trees, leaves, and flowers. I love cloud watching and delight in hearing the early morning bird songs, and in observing the industrious work of honeybees and spiders. Even snakes are welcomed as they tend to the removal of some critters that would otherwise gorge themselves on my rows of tasty vegetables.
Looks like a China Bear?
Here are a few sample Totem Devas and if you click the images you can view larger versions. I welcome your comments and am especially interested in hearing your insights 🙂
photo: Schnebly Winery
Just read the latest Schnebly Winery newsletter and they’ve included an article on the annual “Dinners in Paradise” at Gabrielle Marewski’s Paradise Farms. This is a lovely, local, organic farm that’s renowned among top Miami chefs for providing the best in microgreens, heirloom tomatoes, herbs, edible flowers and more.
This season Paradise Farms is donating 16 Ready to Grow garden beds to 16 public schools through The Education Fund for their Plant a Thousand Gardens Collaborative Nutrition Initiative.
photo: Paradise Farms/Miami Victory Gardens
Schnebly Winery provided the dry Avocado Wine and their signature Category 3 Hurricane Vino for the Common Roots art exhibition that I co-curated with Arts At St Johns and I’m a definite fan of the Avocado Wine… surprisingly similar to a delicate chablis!
Paradise Farms is normally a private space, but during the “Dinners In Paradise”, you have the opportunity to come in, take a tour, enjoy a delicious meal and help a charity all at the same time!
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ART?
It all relates. My art and custom designs are all about sharing the magic of nature’s energy. We are what we eat, drink and believe. There’s magic, memories, and balance in growing a garden, harvesting your very own vegetables and fruits and then preparing them and ideally, sharing a meal with friends and family. Bonus: here’s my Zingy Mango Salsa recipe!
by Carol Hoffman-Guzman, Founding Director of Arts At St Johns, Miami Beach, FL
Plants bring remembrances to me about my father and mother, my grandparents, special places I have lived and visited, and various adventures and projects. I like the smells and textures of plants. Some people like the sweet smell of flowers; I like the strange and musky smell of plant leaves. When I meet a new plant, I pick a leaf, rub it around with my fingertips, and then crush it and bring it to my nose to sniff. Some plants are waxy to the touch, others are fuzzy.
I remember the way the plants shine in the sunlight at different times of the day and the way that they look in different seasons — what happens when the heat is heavy or the rain intense. I have heard that the Impressionist painters were well aware of the color changes that occur in a landscape at dawn and twilight.
On my mother’s side of the family, plants and crops were an integral part of the family’s life, from the Ozarks, to homesteading in Colorado and New Mexico, to small urban gardens in Denver, Colorado. My Grandfather Homer and Grandmother Connie were born and married in the Ozarks, where they farmed (see marriage photo).
However, life in the Ozarks was tough and eventually they threw everything on a flatbed railroad car headed west to homestead on a farm in Yuma, Colorado. Then they moved to Clayton, New Mexico, where they lived in a soddy or dugout (see photo below). The family returned to Colorado in the mid-1920’s before the Clayton area was struck by the 1930’s dustbowl.
My grandparents took plants and gardening with them wherever they lived, even in urban Denver, where they retired. It was a comfort in an alien setting. Grandpa Homer transformed the back yard of their home into a huge garden. He had picked up the art of crop rotation and composting and applied it to his small garden. Homer grew the best tasting tomatoes in the neighborhood, beautiful radishes, and a whole variety of squash included pickle squash. Homer had many “girlfriends” up and down the block because he would take surplus vegetables and hand them out to the women of the house.
I think that my mother Maree also found comfort in small gardening. Although my father Carl was a city boy from St. Louis, he soon learned how to plant gardens and raise chickens. We had chickens when I was a baby, and some of my clothes were made of chicken seed sacks. We had a huge garden outside of Chicago in a suburb called La Grange Park. It occupied the whole vacant lot next door. This is where I remember picking beans, peas, strawberries and the best tomatoes. We later had smaller gardens bordering our lawns in Wheat Ridge, Colorado (the school mascot in Wheat Ridge was the farmer).
I soon forgot about plants when I went to college at Cornell in upper-state New York and graduated in archaeology/anthropology. However, in graduate school at Columbia University in NYC, I began working with the department’s archeologist, and I studied the plant remains that he had brought back from a mountain cave site in Colombia, South America. This was an extremely early site, where corn was still being domesticated. The preserved cobs were not much bigger than the flowering seeds on stalks of grass. Also in the site were remains of squash that originated down in the lowlands in the Amazon basin. This squash indicated that there was communication and trade between the people in the highlands and lowlands.
Here my love of plants began – not plants for plants’ sake, but plants as key elements in human history and culture.
Skip forward to the highland meadows of Arroyo Seco, just north of Taos, New Mexico. Here came my next introduction to the importance of native plants, from the most unlikely source — a Japanese exchange student. For one of our innumerable neighborhood potluck dinners, our Japanese guest offered to make a stir-fry dish. As we tasted her delightful concoction, we asked where she had purchased such unique vegetables. “In the field,” she said. For us, the fields were full of weeds and grass, nothing more. She had made a meal of them.
Years later, I moved to Denver. Here I noticed that the local Vietnamese community would flock to roadsides and our local parks — again to collect the succulent greens that the average gardener would cut or poison.
In Taos and Denver, I had begun doing fiber art — woven, crocheted, patchwork, and stitched pieces of 3-dimentional pieces of art. The “in” thing at the time was to dye your own wool or yarn. Most of the dyes were chemical, purchased from afar; some were highly toxic. So instead I started to see if I could replicate what the indigenous had done in many parts of the world – dye with local plants. I would go into the vacant lots near my house in Lakewood, Colorado (not far from the infamous Columbine High School) and experiment with weeds – the colors were wonderfully rich in greens, yellows, and browns.
Today I look at the importance of plants in human history — the intersection of plants and people. Instead of saying, “we must preserve and save our natural environment, for the sake of nature,” I instead say “saving our plant environment will help save ourselves.”
My husband and I have a small log house on the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee, where I am growing whatever will grow – usually the native plants win out. Here is a great photo of me in my garden.
But here is a better one if you have never met me. I am making some Hot Green Papaya Salsa, from papayas that I rescued after one of the many hurricanes that touched our other home in Miami in the last several years.
NOTE: We would love to read YOUR plant story and welcome your comments as well as images. Please post in the comments section and if you have an image to share, either post a link to it or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
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More Mango talk… guess I get a bit carried away on some projects, but am still enjoying this one and it has already taken on a life of its own. Pauline Goldsmith, a fabulous botanical artist, friend and fellow Fairchild Garden volunteer has curated a Mango Art Exhibition for this year’s annual Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. I’ll have 3 of the Making Mango Salsa series artworks on display in this show and this week plan to have all of them available for purchase online. Will let you know when they’re ready! In the meantime, you can see most of the series on my New Work page. Sign up for my occassional newsletter and special offers and you will instantly get a copy of my Zingy Mango Salsa Recipe – the same one that’s the culmination of the Making Mango Salsa series.
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