HAROLD GARCIA V

WELCOME TO THE EVERGLADES

Curated by Grethell Rasúa

On View: 05/12/21 – 07/11/2021

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Thomas Nickles Project is pleased to present a solo exhibition of investigative work by Cuban-born artist Harold García V that focuses on the conditions, both past and present, that pose a threat to the Everglades’ fragile ecosystem and their underlying causes. Featuring a video and eleven watercolors, the exhibition examines the deeply rooted attitudes and ensuing actions that impact the Everglades today and traces their origin to the late 19th century.

García’s watercolors are anachronistic, fictional portraits and landscapes that link Victorian-era fashion plates together with imagery from contemporary digital photographs. In his La Mode Pratique (Practical Fashion) series Victorian figures sport fashionable attire, which upon closer inspection proves to be partially ornamented with scenes depicting the plight of the Everglades: burning sugar cane fields, algae-covered coastlines, satellite views of luxury housing developments and displaced wildlife. The video work On the Altars of Vanity fully captures the extravagance of ladies’ hats of the period and connects plume hunting with the present-day practice of beautifying luxury housing developments with artificial lakes filled with water diverted from wetlands.

In the main gallery, a large mural depicting an aerial view of urbanized portions of the Everglades and those in their natural, pristine condition covers the majority of one wall. Rendered in watery green, blue and ochre acrylic it creates an immersive environment and connection with the wetland ecology. Throughout the exhibition several of the watercolors are paired with different present-day physical objects—a bag of sugar, a printed digital photo and a group of alligator foot back scratchers—revealing the complex network of relationships between the historic and current. Here García is considering the role of integrity, a subject he frequently examines in his work, and the part it has played in the multitude of challenges the Everglades has faced for over a century. Throughout his career he has presented issues that have come to his attention through personal experience and research, urging viewers to take a closer look into the subject matter to gain awareness.

García was born in Havana, Cuba in 1985. The artist emigrated from Havana to Miami with his family in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2016 when a chance encounter with a great white heron that appeared to be looking for its next meal on the sidewalk outside his home sparked his curiosity about the appearance of this type of wading bird in an urban environment. The artist explains, “I started my research from my interest in understanding the reasons that provoked these behaviors in these species and I ended up digging into a myriad of unfavorable events that are directly connected to the Everglades.”

 

His work has been featured in solo, bipersonal and group exhibitions in Cuba, Austria, Italy and most recently at the Dotfiftyone Gallery in Miami alongside the work of his colleague and wife Grethell Rasúa.

 

The work in this exhibition was the topic of an upcoming virtual conference with the United Nations as part of their Documentation & Division Lecture Series. The show will be García’s third solo exhibition and his first with Thomas Nickles Project. He studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts San Alejandro in Havana, Cuba and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

On the Altars of Vanity, 2017-2019

Single Channel Video

Running Time: 6:25 min

Edition of 5 + 2 AP

In On the Altars of Vanity, García brings together two moments separated by a century, combining historical and present-day footage. In this piece the massacre achieved by the hat industry of the late 19th century and the construction of artificial lakes in luxury housing developments today coexist. The parallelism of these threats to the bird population points to the continued destruction of the Everglades for the benefit of the same human interests: economic gain and the fulfillment of pleasure, vanity, comfort and status.

Harold García V's La Mode Pratique 834.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 834

(THE VIEW THAT LEGITIMIZES A STATUS)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

30” x 46”

The artist superimposes a satellite view of a planned, puzzle-like, luxury waterfront community on the skirt of a Victorian fashion plate. This work expands on the ideas in the video piece On the Altars of Vanity, specifically the practice of developers utilizing artificial lakes to beautify properties for the purpose of increasing their value and attracting buyers. It can be argued that these lakes are necessary, the excavated land is used to raise the ground level for homes and the lakes serve as part of the storm water drainage system, and also as a wildlife habitat. But what concerns García is the origin of the land used for these developments and the water that fills their lakes, and how it was once all part of the natural landscape of the Everglades, now artificially transformed to the detriment of this shrinking ecosystem.

 

Harold García V's $859,000.

The control and misappropriation of water from Lake Okeechobee has enabled the creation of this buildable land. Real estate developers have seen an opportunity to increase asking prices by locating homes on artificial lakes. Home to fish and waterfowl, these sparkling lakes enhance the experience of homeowners by providing a desirable view and a connection to nature. Sadly, just as the skirt worn by the model in this piece appears unquestionably beautiful, or at least interesting, to the uninformed viewer, so do the lakes, which in reality are created by pumping in diverted water from man-made canals that are part of the elaborate water management system that ended the natural flow to the Everglades. The artist wishes to draw attention to the ongoing actions fueled by ambition, with disregard for the environment that threaten the region. The question of cost is inherent in this piece: the cost of housing, the cost of being en vogue, the cost of changing the planet to satisfy our desires.

Harold García V's La Mode Pratique No 008.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 008

(FLOATING ON HOPE)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

15.25” x 22”

This piece addresses how human influence has had a detrimental effect on the fauna and flora of the region and how one of the main impacts in the ecosystem has been caused by the diversion of water in the Everglades. During the wet season water levels on the north side of the Tamiami Trail, which blocks the natural flow, often become dangerously high from a combination of unusually increased rainfall and the inflow of diverted water from urban and agricultural lands. Since the water cannot flow naturally this condition persists for a prolonged period of time, becoming a dire threat for fur bearing animals and wading birds through destruction of their habitat. Projected spending to increase or replace the Tamiami Trail and Alligator Alley with bridges amounts to several hundred million.

Harold García V's La Mode Pratique 001.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 001

(WHAT DRESSES ME UNDRESSES ME)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

30” x 44”

The ornamentation on the skirt of the dress worn by a young Seminole woman is based on a surreal viral image of an alligator that has found its way into a private pool, where it floats on an inflatable raft in the form of its own likeness—evidence of wildlife displacement resulting from South Florida’s shrinking natural habitat. The displeasure on the woman’s face hints at her own displacement.

Photo courtesy of Dave Jacobs

Harold García V's Landscape Patterns In a Disturbed Environment.

Landscape Patterns in a Disturbed Environment

Watercolor on Paper

15.5 x 11”

In a small but powerful image that reminds us of the predatory relationship human encroachment has with the environment and how that extends beyond the Everglades, the artist turns to another image that went viral, that of an alligator with a knife buried between his eyes, miraculously still alive, swimming in the waters of a Texas lake. Here, García fills the clear blue water of a private residential pool in South Florida with multiples of this unsettling sight, amplifying the impact of the irrational dialogue that we have created with nature. 

Viral Tweet.

Viral Tweet

Harold García V's, If We Turn a Tree Into Firewood it Will Burn For Us...

If We Turn A Tree into Firewood, It Will Burn For Us, But It Will No Longer Produce Flowers and Fruit For Our Children

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

46” x 30”

Everglades, beautiful beaches and aqua blue water are, of course, a big draw. The city also boasts that it is an ecotourism destination, offering visitors such opportunities as experiencing the Everglades and its wildlife on educational walks and hikes through its many parks. Promotional imagery depicting flora and fauna can be found in public places throughout the municipality, intended to highlight the city’s concern for the environment and to promote awareness about care and preservation for this vital resource. Simultaneously, activity related to real estate development, mining and agriculture in the surrounding area sadly contrast these efforts.

 

In this work, whose title recalls Aesop's Fable The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs, a pair of well-heeled Victorian women wearing plumed hats reflecting their elevated social status, meet at a 21st century Miami public bus stop with glass panels etched with herons in their natural environment. The artist uses this unnatural juxtaposition to call attention to the destructive past and how the underlying attitudes of that time still persist today, with individuals and corporations profiting from natural resources often without understanding or caring about the immediate or future impact on the environment, humans included.

Harold García V's La Mode Pratique 007.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 007

(CITY DISPLAY)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

30” x 44”

La Mode Pratique 007 (City Display) shows a woman wearing a Victorian dress printed with the same type of Ecological propaganda used in If We Turn A Tree into Firewood, It Will Burn For Us, But It Will No Longer Produce Flowers and Fruit For Our Children.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 004

(FLORIDA KEEPSAKES)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper with Alligator Back Scratcher

Dimensions Variable

Reminiscent of the Victorian feather craze, alligator hides were coveted by the fashion industry starting in the early 20th century, and consequently, alligators were hunted to the point of endangerment. Thankfully, hunting the reptiles became illegal, and in 1987 the alligator was removed from the endangered species list and pronounced fully recovered. Unlike the wading birds prized for their plumes, alligators can now be legally hunted in Florida, including in the Everglades, with the proper license from August 15 to November 1.

 

Alligators are also raised on private farms and commercialized in every possible way. Their hides, the most lucrative product, are sold in large quantities to luxury fashion companies, and their meat, the second most valuable commodity, is purchased by select restaurants and specialty grocers. The leftovers, known as recycled alligator, specifically their heads, teeth and feet, are destined to become Florida souvenirs, which are commonly found in the form of key chains and back scratchers available for purchase in many area pharmacies.

 

The final way the alligator generates revenue is tourism. The Florida Alligator Marketing and Education website suggests that “Alligator farming helps take pressure off the wild alligator population while meeting the high demand for alligator products.” It also states: “Florida Alligator… [is] beautiful, exotic and sustainable and a renewable natural resource that is as native to Florida as our pristine white sandy beaches.”

 

This installation is comprised of two pieces: a watercolor depicting a Seminole man dressed in a Victorian era straw boater and a sunshine yellow shirt patterned with freshly severed recycled alligator feet, paired with a group of three back scratchers with their original tags, hanging as they would in a retail store.

Harold García V's La Mode Pratique 002.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 002

(THE SWEETEST DEAL)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

30” x 44”

LA MODE PRATIQUE 003

(TRACES OF ABUSE)

Watercolor & Pencil on Paper

30” x 44”

Controlled burning is an effective and cost efficient, albeit environmentally consequential, way to harvest sugar cane. A fire rages on the skirt of the dress worn by a Seminole woman as she gazes through a lorgnette into the distance, searching for a lost future. For García, the flames are uncontrolled, nature’s rebellion against man-made constraints, and will burn freely and fiercely until the natural flow of water is restored and the Everglades are healed.

The stacked, beaded necklaces—a Seminole tradition where girls receive a string of beads at birth and add additional layers throughout their lives—create a strong counterpoint to the Victorian dress with a skirt featuring the blue-green hues of a coastal algae bloom brought on in part by the ecologically destabilizing farming practices of the sugar industry. In the gallery installation, a bag of sugar is mounted on the wall between these two pieces, emphasizing the environmental impact of the sugar industry on the Everglades.

Harold García V's La Mode Pratique 006.

LA MODE PRATIQUE 006

(MADAME EVERGLADES)

Watercolor on Paper

22” x 30”

This portrait summarizes the feeling, the conceptual essence, and the ideas of the exhibition, looking back over the last 100-plus years. The artist understands her as the personification of the Everglades—her history inked on her skin, like wounds drawn in images. Each of her tattoos tells a different facet of her life’s story, some of the most important factors that have impacted the great wetland. In this candid moment she bears all, her wistful expression hinting at regret, in what appears to be a day of reckoning, a possible turning point, but even if she changes her ways she’ll be unable to forget.