The exhibition is on display in the Goldmark Cultural Center’s Norman Brown Gallery from 25 September, 2023 to 27 October, 2023.
About the Exhibition
On a nature walk during a visit to Miami, my hometown, I found myself in what I can only describe as a magical fairy forest. Lush and green, with light streaming in to illuminate miles and miles of heart shaped vines coating everything. The vine enveloped every bush, palm, and even climbed to the top of the trees. What initially felt magical started to feel odd. I didn’t recognize this vine from my childhood, and its loving embrace seemed to be suffocating. I later learned that this was an invasive species called air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera). In reality, the vine was choking everything in its path.
This vine has found its way, not just to South Florida, but also to my new home in southeastern Texas. Invasive species like this one are often cultivated because of their beauty. When misplaced they kill the native plants and throw off a natural balance.
Standing within the miles and miles of vines, reflecting on how this one plant has impacted both of my current home spaces, I felt truly overwhelmed. I began to photograph the vine, unsure of what these images would become. After printing, I cut most of the photograph away, isolating the vine and its victim. Colorizing the shadow areas of the image where the air potato vine is positioned to highlight it. I deliberately picked a neon pink color due to the unnatural tone, acting as a toxic visual marker. The visual effect is similar to my own first reaction to the air potato. One of awe and enchantment of its beauty. The work lures and guides the viewer to think more deeply about their relationship to nature and the negative impact humans can have on it.
This work helped me build a strong connection, not only with the environment in my newer home of Texas, but between Texas and the place I grew up, South Florida. Miami and Houston are coastal cities, each affected by hurricanes, humidity, and the effects of humans on the natural terrain. Here, I found myself, more strongly than ever before, pulled to think about more than just my immediate surroundings.
– Venessa Monokian, 2023