Mark Messersmith

Tallahassee, Florida

Artist Statement:

This work explores themes of spirit and struggle within modern Florida’s ”natural environment”. Lands and creatures which still manage to survive, though often in small isolated natural habitats and effects of inevitable forced migration, dislocation and destruction of most of Florida's once rich and unique flora and fauna.

For a number of years, I‘ve had an interest in reaching back to reconnect with an artistic linage of American landscape painting from the late nineteenth century, focusing on a group of painters who came to Florida from the Northeastern United States immediately following the Civil War. Artist such as, Martin Johnson Heade, George Inness, Thomas Moran and Winslow Homer to name but a few. They came with, and often painted romantic visions of this exotic southern landscape. Though they looked at this world as artists with some scientific curiosity and concerns, they still managed to view and paint it through the field glasses of dreamy romantics.

My works build on stories (either real or conjectured), along with my own observations and concerns for all the creatures that move within the shrinking environs they inhabit. Creatures moving between and over one another, hoping to survive the chaos of our self concerned lives, in darkening illumination of their fading wilderness. Many prophetic artists, even as early as the 1870’s, foresaw this fate, though surely not to the pace of current level of decimation.

Still, even in 2014, powerful birds, vigilant panthers, wary gators, blackwater swamps, old cypress trees, are still managing to survive in Florida and in my paintings, along with back road citrus stands, and careening logging trucks. These paintings are really of a time and place, midways between hope and despair.