Woodland wonders

Nature surrounds us. There it is, making the most of whatever soil and space it can eke out of human encroachment. Birds, plants, trees, wildlife, insects find a way. For instance, when the ditches alongside roadways fill with water, it’s common to see egret spotting insects and snails among the elegant stalks of arrowhead flowers and grasses.

Florida has managed to preserve some areas from development, though. Brooker Creek Preserve, spanning Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties, is just such a treasured place, where arched branches of live oaks form a vast cathedral through which sunlight casts its sacred light over swamp, hammock, and flatwoods. I come to Brooker Creek Preserve to center and take notice. Every visit exposes a new discovery where even the most commonplace “weeds” reveal themselves as precious. 

It was during a guided walk with one of the Brooker Creek Preserve staff, Barb Hoffman, that I was particularly struck by how the silver-grey tillandsia glowed bright red when illuminated by sunlight. These spiky, curly plants cling to trees, rooted not in soil but air. And the trees are bedecked by blooms of red Christmas lichen (among other varieties).

In my ignorance, I thought these plants to be parasitic, but my guide explained that this is a myth. In fact, lichen are beneficial to fungi, serving them nutrients and a habitat. Lichen are sensitive to air pollutants and are used by climate scientists as a key indicator of air quality. These delicate epiphytes are so lucky to be able to hug trees and commune with the arboreal commonwealth. 

I am currently up to my inky fingers in celebration of these woodland gems. Three of my prints are on display and available for purchase at Brooker Creek Preserve from May 15 – August 13, 2023. Inquiries: info@friendsofbrookercreek.org

Left: “Rooted on air,” Relief, drypoint, monoprint, 2023; Akua intaglio on Rives BFK; 18″x18″

Above: “Airy conceptions,” Relief, drypoint, monoprint, 2023; Akua intaglio on Rives BFK; 18″x18″

Treading the shallows

“Treading the shallows” won Third Place in Dunedin Fine Arts Center member show, April 1 – May 16, 2022. Judge Caroline Mathers commented that “The subtlety of this piece invites calm and encourages reflection. Its gentle palette and soft lines create a mesmerizing scene that one could never tire of looking at.”

My proceeds from the prize and sale were donated to World Central Kitchen as part of Dunedin Fine Arts Center aid to Ukrainian refugees.

This piece employs a new process for me, learned from Liz Chalfin at Zea Mays Printmaking. I scanned the image and laser-printed it to special paper that can be inked and printed like a lithograph stone. Then, the image is transferred to an aluminum plate through my etching press, and the plate is immersed in a copper sulfate bath. The inked image on the aluminum resists the copper sulfate and will not hold any ink, but the blank areas of the plate will be etched.

This piece took three plates — two aluminum etchings and a carved relief plate. My post called “Process talk: Aluminum Etching” describes how the plates were made (with a video).