Experience the artistic Passages to celebrate, preserve and enjoy nature
By Anjuli Castano, Samantha Schalit
Poet Arsimmer McCoy performs as part of Passages, an immersive installation created by Cornelius Tulloch and presented by AIRIE (Artists in Residence in Everglades). Photo by Angel E. Valentin
Growing up in Miami, Cornelius Tulloch had only visited the Everglades once. “I never really felt a tie to Florida as the state. Miami, it's kind of its own world.” As a young adult and emerging artist, he lived there for a month during his artist residency with AIRIE (Artists in Residency in the Everglades). Through his experience, Cornelius felt kinship with the river of grass and its history, and he found renewed purpose in telling its stories.
He was first inspired by the Florida Highwaymen: artists who painted the Florida landscape on coastal highways, defying the constraints of the Jim Crow era and pronouncing their influence through public art.
“And that's what I applied to AIRIE,” Cornelius explained, “to deal with the question how do I, as a Black artist, now taking up this space, begin to depict and learn more about Florida, through my artwork and through storytelling?”
For Cornelius, reconnecting and reclaiming Florida history meant forming a relationship with the Everglades and adapting to the nature of the swamp. Through his Passages, Cornelius faced profound self-discovery that prompted his interest in drawing comparisons between the ways people connect with the land and the ways his peers experienced integration with surrounding cultures.
“A passage can be like a short story or excerpt of writing, or it can be literally a connection of land or water. This is how we begin to connect our stories in this landscape, the Everglades,” explains Cornelius.
Passages is the artful partnership between Cornelius and other 2022 AIRIE residents. The immersive exhibit showcases the residents’ talents in video, music, and poetry to transport viewers to the river of grass at sunset. The Passage acts as a portal to the inner parts of us that are mirrored in the ecology of the Everglades, inspiring a responsibility to know and care for the land.
“My key message was for us to look more deeply at the Everglades, not just as an ecological concern, but also as a large cultural context: what happens when this landscape gets erased, and what stories aren't fully told?” emphasizes Cornelius.
Passages implicitly asks us to reflect on our own relationship to the Everglades in the moments of silence offered. The moments when the only audio is crickets, and you are surrounded by the digital landscape, and native plants serve as windows for contemplation. “It was finding that balance of telling the story but also allowing it to be something that isn't just flashy but meaningful in how people are able to engage with it,” continues Cornelius. It was this balance between artistic interpretation and environmental accuracy which bridged the audience to the landscape in a more personal way, inciting the curiosity which inspired the artists of Passages.
Cornelius shares how “that's the beauty of this residency; no one starts out as an environmental activist, they're not about one sort of specific thing. But I think that genuine curiosity for this environment brought a lot of us there, and then we found ourselves communicating these stories that were unheard.”
Passages features poetry, song and visual explorations by artists Arsimmer McCoy, Francisco Masó, Kunya Rowley, Ania Freer, Lola Flash, Justin Matousek, Alexa Caravia and Cornelius Tulloch. More at airie.org
The residents expose how climate health is intrinsically linked to the survival of culture and history and Cornelius begs the question who is at risk when these spaces are in danger?
Living in the bustling urbanism of Miami, it is easy to forget our proximity to climate catastrophe. But as these issues grow more precarious, we must find ways to reconnect to these environments, which provide examples of resiliency and synchronicity. Passages acts as an example of a creative and expressive medium to connect to this calling. “Now we find ourselves in the Everglades all the time,” says Cornelius. And we should too.
"Passages at the Nest" Exhibition Opening
The Ernest F. Coe Visitors Center in Everglades National Park
40001 State Highway 9336, Homestead, FL 33034
1pm ~ January 28, 2023
Free admission. RSVP here.