FLORA: the last week to view the show

See FLORA March 9, 10, 11, 2023. Announcement card with details is below. 

Erin Parish, curator statement FLORA: The Impermanence of Beauty Jan14 - Mar 11, 2023


Flora: The Impermanence of Beauty


Alissa Alfonso, Lucy Barber, Judith Berk King, Peter Dayton, Gary Mayer,

Edie Nadelhaft, Mary Seibert, Lisa Stefanelli, Paulette Tavormina, Ute

Vorspel, Laura Watt, Juan Carlos Zaldivar


Tenth Street Gallery, 1655 10th Street, Sarasota, FL 34236, named after the infamous gallery of the 1950s and 60s Ab Ex New York school. Both of which are/were artist-run. (website:tenthstreetgallery.com) Instagram: @10stgallery)


January 14 – March 11, 2023, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, from 1–6, and by appointment: 941-271-4672.


The metaphor of flowers is like no other as it personalizes this pinnacle of the cycles of a plant.  Depictions of the stages of their lives are perfect parallels to our life cycle: birth, fecundity, death.

This exhibition brings together art styles from 17th century Dutch still lifes to a 3D capture and presentation of the blooming of a flower in Virtual Reality. The works have the commonality of topic: flowers. However, each artist brings their unique vision, creating a textured and varied exhibition with a wide range of expression.

I begin with Paulette Tavormina, who heavily references the luscious Dutch natura morta of the 17th century. She photographs tableaux which emphasize abundance, the raison d’être of the genre. The urbanized Dutch and Flemish society desired not scenes from religious origin but rather all the aspects of everyday life. 

I fast forward to the 19th century with Judith Berk King’s succinct botanical drawings on pristine Fabriano paper. The artist uses botany and the cold reality of extinction to inform her work. She imagines species which will evolve out of necessity—our future flora and fauna. They appear to be stemming from an intersection between plant and insect. We are reminded of the multitude of species which employ camouflage and mimicry as a survival technique, and which we are now readily able to see in such detail simply on Netflix, et alias.

Gary Mayer’s expressionist sunflowers give a salutary nod to Vincent Van Gogh before moving into Mayer’s hands. These flowers have passed their prime and there is a sense that the cold of winter is just around the corner. It can be paralleled with later positions in of the life cycle, that of ourselves and our loved ones, as we reach the end.

Lucy Barber paints in a mid-twentieth century manner wherein the push/pull of the paint creates tension in the work, while staying close to “local” color. We catch glimpses of flora via Morandi in these fresh still lifes. There is a quietude and patience which speak of a simpler style of living, away from the ego-driven, manic avalanche of social media and all it consumes.

The impulse to search out and translate the world through geometry, in this case focused on the triangle, is the fodder of the Laura Watt’s work. These kaleidoscopically translated flora are the most abstracted of all the presentations in this exhibition. We apprehend a nod to post-war abstraction, à la early Mondrian.

Alissa Alfonso uses the found object, recycled and repurposed, with a singular vision only a true artist can construct. The materials which comprise her works do not hide the patina created by the lives they’ve already led. They are no longer useful in their original purpose and now may enter the world of the imagination. These are wondrously fanciful and playful sculptures. Three of her sculptures will seem as if they have grown up from the earth below concrete. Three of her sculptures will hang, like a forgotten garden’s flowering, taking the viewer into the realm of Little Shop of Horrors, the Broadway hit and movies. The viewer becomes miniaturized, recalling childhood experiences of the larger world they are discovering.

Peter Dayton creates collaged-image flower paintings with a Warhol-like focus on reproduction and repetition. The overallness and near hallucinogenic patterning flatten the space. He has been doing these xeroxed collage works for decades, a foreshadowing of the virtual world so many artists now inhabit. 

Edie Nadelhaft’s biometric portraits are an update of historical methods of painting and the ultimate depiction of today’s individual identity. Biometrics are being used for surveillance purposes, a dark proposition which lurks under the gorgeous surface. There is a double entendre in her iris paintings, bringing a playfulness to these literally round canvases. They are encircled by gold frames. These are intensely decorative adornments, which reference art history’s titans. The striations of the iris portraits start to feel like the petals which surround the center of a Black Eyed Susan. Through Nadelhaft’s vision, this unfancy wildflower iterates the perpetual reiteration of forms in nature.

Mary Seibert’s eternally cycling photos, permanently embedded in digital frames, are highly evocative of a woman’s sexual organs, essential to the proliferation of species. In these intimate works, the flower is at full bloom, ripe with life-giving pollen. There is a nostalgic cast, yet her presentation is completely contemporary: these frames were designed to house NFTs. Once “printed,” they are immutable. She captures these ladies at their prime. The nostalgia is reminiscent of the 1950s, when women were relegated solely to reproduction’s demands and its attendant labors.

As does Dayton, Lisa Stefanelli takes flowers and brings them into a flat digital world, one which they never inhabit. Through keen design and careful coloration, these digital prints are the farthest from the original flower in this spectrum of artists. She wrests them from nature and turns them to her own purposes: Pattern and Decoration.

Ute Vorspel’s work uses the digital medium to overtake and recast her original photographs. Through her use of Photoshop and high quality digital printing, so readily available, come dreamy, otherworldly works of art. Her images are seductive and mysterious while maintaining a simplicity of form. 

Juan Carlos Zaldivar's work is future oriented as he shows an orchid perpetually blooming in a hologram. This is the ultimate experience of demystifying the process. Does the repetition we witness take something away from the essence of the flower? This is the “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction;” do we lose the “aura” as described by Walter Benjamin? Does it stay precious? In the repetition is there a tiny death through suffocation? Does the audience see the falsehood of this time-based work of man-made illusion? Zaldivar’s work inspires questions about time and space, about how real AR/VR can become. At what point is the original so distant it is no longer necessary to “smell the flowers?” Is this what the future holds for us as we move towards sterilized pre-digested experiences?

In bringing these artists’ work together, I look for the numen within, and the alchemy that happens, when they are placed next to one another. I compare and contrast the artworks to create dialogues. Each work is strongly tied to the influence of its neighbor. 

--Erin Parish, Miami Beach, January 2023


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