Miami artist Christina Pettersson found herself transported to a different time and space when she spent a month inside Everglades National Park as part of the AIRIE (Artists in Residence in Everglades) program in 2016.
“Being there 24 hours a day was profound and, with the realization that 100 years ago people lived in this park, it became more to me than a cordoned-off place or somewhere to visit,” Pettersson says.
It further piqued her interest in exploring how humans lived among the flora and fauna, and the footprint they left on today’s Miami.
Her ink drawing wallpaper of regional Florida is among the works featured in the exhibit, “Where Earth Meets Sky,” curated by AIRIE Creative Director Deborah Mitchell and on view in the AIRIE Nest Gallery inside the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, Everglades National Park, through Jan. 28, 2020.
The gallery, which opened in 2017, funded in part by a Knight Arts Challenge grant, sits within the Coe Visitors Center at the entrance to the park. Since 2001, AIRIE has brought more than 185 artists, writers, composers and choreographers to Everglades National Park for monthlong residences with a focus on arts and ecology.
For filmmaker Claudio Marcotulli — outfitted with a video camera, a still camera, and a head full of ideas — the sawgrass prairie became a landscape to have free reign to explore the beauty of nature and capture movement through the environmental space. The park was his perfect blank canvas, and choreographer Dale Andree’s “Everglades Imprint,” a 20-minute dance piece set in an open glade within the park, provided Marcotulli’s subject matter.
The result: the film “Flickering Glades,” which plays on a corner wall of the gallery, next to floor-to-ceiling windows, as natural light pours in. Marcotulli filmed the piece during a full rehearsal for Andree’s live presentation. The dreamlike imagery is accompanied by a pulsating original score.
Percussionist Ray Robinson and flutist Samuel Tommie “played live and recorded in my studio as they watched the edited film,” Marcotulli says.
The percussion mimics the tick-tock of a camera click, as the dancers move throughout Marcotulli’s celluloid space. Every now and then, one of the dancers goes from flowing movement to a still image.
Technically, he had two cameras recording, one next to each other, says Marcotulli, explaining the process. “One was shooting motion video while the second was taking continuous still shots.”
For the stills, he would keep the shutter open for a full second. (Most shutter speeds average up to 1/4000 of a second). “Every second, there was a new photo coming in,” he says.
In the editing process, he would overlay video over the 1 second, long exposure photography.
“Depending on the movement of the person, they might leave a print that showed a deep trace or slight trace, or sometimes there was no trace at all,” he says. “This is what I wanted to capture, the dynamics of the movement similar to what we see in water.”
As a juxtaposition to what Marcotulli calls the “compartmentalization of the Everglades” with its canals as infrastructure, his film is meant to let loose that constraint.
“You have space and time in the frame, and sound that is like the beating of a heart. It comes together as a way of syncing to what the choreography is conveying. Everything on Earth is in constant motion.”
Meanwhile, Pettersson’s ink drawings literally cover another wall. The wallpaper is more than decorative — it is descriptive. There are drawings scattered about of the long, flat Florida Peninsula to be used as backdrops for vignettes of manatees, sea turtles, chickens and iguanas, plant life.
Drawings of Seminoles on the Miami River and Bahamian pioneers take their place across the various peninsula map sketches. The people depicted in her wallpaper are drawings inspired by early Miamian Ralph Middleton Munroe’s photographs from the late 19th century. A yacht builder, businessman and amateur photographer, his camera provided a visual record of early Miami. Many of his photographs were published in historian Arva Moore Parks’ 2004 book, “The Forgotten Frontier: Florida through the Lens of Ralph Middleton Munroe,” and it’s what Pettersson used as a photographic source.
“The Bahamian pioneers are who began it all in in terms of modern Miami, and some I depict in the wallpaper,” she says.
Hanging atop the wallpaper are photographs and a video by Miana Jun, a New York-based photographer and cinematographer. In line with Marcotulli’s film, the prints by Jun feature the human interaction/reactions of five performers moving through the prairie landscape of Long Pine Key Nature trail.
Pettersson’s wallpaper canvas, created on linen-based vinyl so it looks “old-timey,” is reminiscent of traditional French toile wallpaper.
“The French toile would have landscapes that were bourgeoisie scenes of men in tights and women on swings,” she says. “With my interest in regional history and its landscapes, I wanted to take that style and turn it on its head.”
Pettersson says the ink isn’t dry on a deal for her wallpaper to become available to the public, but she is actively working with a Miami company that specializes in fine art wallpaper.
“This is a medium that is making a return as an art form,” she says.
What: “Where Earth Meets Sky”
When: On view through Jan. 28, 2020
Where: AIRIE Nest Gallery, Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, Everglades National Park, 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closing reception and Sundays in the Park, 1-3 p.m. Jan. 19, with informal tour and talk about the exhibit with Curator Deborah Mitchell. Visitors can board a trolley for Long Pine Key for a live dance performance by Dale Andree.
More information: Visit airie.org or email [email protected]
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Top photo: Claudio Marcotulli’s film, “Flickering Glades,” is based on choreographer Dale Andree’s “Everglades Imprint,” a 20-minute dance piece set in an open glade within the park. (Photo courtesy of Claudio Marcotulli)