WELCOME

TO

THE

EVERGLADES

Presented by

Thomas Nickles Project

Artwork by Harold Garcia V.

Curated by Grethell Rasúa

The Everglades is one of the most important natural wonders of the world,

the largest subtropical wetland of its kind in the U.S. located in South Florida.

Another entry in the classic cannon of tales of Man vs Nature, here we tell the story of ‘Big Sugar’ and the feathered haberdashers of the early twentieth century, where the two crossed paths and decimated the population of endemic waterfowl for their beautiful plumage to be sent far and wide, up to the garment districts from Canal Street to Saville Row, while changing the course of the rivers to irrigate sugar cane led to the catastrophic displacement of all of our finned, feathered and scaled friends. 

 

Historically, the Everglades flowed as a shallow bed of water from the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee, then traveled as a very slow, shallow, grassy River that ended in Florida Bay. The large marsh worked very well for the grass and animals that grew in it, but not for the settlement of people. In order to make the area useful for humans, beginning in the 1920's state projects were created to control the waters. The Everglades were divided into sections separated by canals and levees. Today, the naturally flowing water system no longer exists.

 

In Garcia's La Mode Pratique series, Victorian era fashion plates are recast in meticulous watercolors where the, usually white, women’s faces are at times replaced by the strikingly strong features of indigenous peoples of Southern America. The drape and folds of their skirts feature images of the corresponding apocalypse, be it an algae bloom or a rush fire, perhaps the most frightening is the satellite view of the planned housing developments which all of the “homes” circle around a puzzle-like waterfront view. The question of cost is inherent in these works, the cost of housing, the cost of being fashionable, the cost of changing the planet to our liking.

La Mode Pratique No. 834

The lady wears an elegant late 19th century dress, printed with a satellite-based image of one of the most expensive condominiums currently located in Florida. 

The City of Miami

sells itself with an environmentalist tinge; it has produced ecological propaganda in different public places to "raise awareness" about the care and preservation of its fauna.

If we turn a tree into firewood, it will burn for us,

but it will no longer produce flowers or fruit for our children

This piece comments on the pressure of the burgeoning tourism industry throughout South Florida. Although Miami, has produced ecological propaganda in different public places to raise awareness about the care and preservation of its fauna, at the same time there are large real estate companies, mining sectors, agriculture and other factors that sadly contrast with any interest in real care.

 

These well-heeled women meet at the bus stop featuring Herons etched in their natural habitat oblivious to the destruction that led them there, waiting for the bus or just arriving as tourists, feather collectors?, asynchronous, out of time and out of place, while wearing the regal plumage of their social status. Each out of their context, who belongs where?

A woman's social status in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was dictated by the amount of feathers she wore in her hat. The more she had, the more class she possessed. The Everglades, because of its vast fauna, became the largest supplier of feathers to the New York, Paris and London hat industries of the time. In 1886, the plumes of the Snowy Egret were valued at $32 per ounce, which was more than twice the price of gold. Wading birds, particularly Great Blue Herons, Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets were subjected to a massacre that brought them close to extinction.

 

Today there are laws to protect them, created by the National Audubon Society. In 1901, Florida passed the Audubon Model Law, which made plume hunting illegal. In 1910, the New York State legislature enacted the Audubon Plumage Act, which prohibits the sale or possession of feathers of protected bird species in the United States.

The Landscape

has also been subjected to the will of the sugar industry in Florida creating almost irreversible damage. Two US companies, US Sugar and Florida Crystals, owners of Domino’s sugar are known as ‘Big Sugar’. In the 1950s, the Army Corps of Engineers created the Everglades Agricultural Area, where sugar plantations were established. Located south of Lake Okeechobee, they control the main source of energy for irrigation: water, where they completely obstruct the flow of water to Florida Bay. The sugar producers feed the cane with phosphorus-rich fertilizers and then dump their phosphorus-based plantation waste into Lake Okeechobee, nourishing an explosive growth of blue-green algae which suffocates the native fish as it spreads across the surface of the lake, and further, to Florida's shorelines.

The color of the algae bloom was the visual

and thematic inspiration for the creation of

La Mode Pratique No. 003

Controlled burning

of sugar is an effective way to harvest it. A native Everglades woman looks into the distance, wearing glasses as if to see the situation more clearly, dressed in a period costume that bears the image of burning cane fields.

La Mode Pratique

No. 002

Currently, there are private farms that raise Alligators to commercialize every part of them. Their skin is sold in large quantities to fashion companies to make luxury handbags, shoes and other items. The rest, what they call recycled alligators: their legs and heads, are destined to be Florida souvenirs. The gators' legs are individually bolted to a stick to function as a back scratcher. They can also be purchased as key chains, at popular pharmacies such as CVS in South Beach and many stores in the region.

Seminole wearing a shirt sketched with crocodile legs. 

La Mode Pratique No. 004

La Mode Pratique No. 001

What Dresses Me

Undresses Me

Her dress is based on a surreal viral image of an alligator instinctively showing up to swim in his usual watering hole that has now been replaced by a sunken, built-in pool while he floats on a raft with his own likeness.

Landscape Pattern in a Disturbed Environment

Consciously or not we have created an irrational dialogue with nature.

 

In a small but striking image that reminds us of our predatory relationship with the environment the artist turned to another viral image, that of an alligator swimming in the waters of a Texas lake with a knife buried between its eyes while still alive. Here, Garcia depicts and multiplies the same image in one of the pools on private property in Florida.

Harold Garcia V. was born in Havana, Cuba, 1985,

lived in Miami for 15 years and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

© 2021 THOMAS NICKLES PROJECT