Maria in Wonderland

A Garden of Possibilities

Story by Carol Cortright  ❧  Photography by David Monroe

“There’s nothing more beautiful than what is in nature.”

~ Artist, Maria Saraceno

Otherworldly yet familiar, the spiky petals gleam like glass. The depth of sensuous color and texture draws you in. You want to touch them, slide your fingers over the smooth surface, feel the curves, the coolness.

These giant blooms transcend garden variety adornment, summoning a magical rain forest with a splash of opulent hues radiating a shine beyond shimmering dew.

Usually, when the lovely tropical coconut palm, the queen palm, and the Christmas palm have gone to seed, the remnants of their fruition fall to the ground or are removed and discarded.

This is where Maria Saraceno intervenes.

Her voice resonates with passion: “I love the dual nature of the pods. When they first come up, they’re tubular, masculine…then they burst open, feminine, filling both functions.”

Maria uses her artistic talent to preserve and give new life to these “reproductive vessels” which otherwise would be tossed aside.

“Artists have been inspired by nature for years,” she says, explaining her penchant for repurposing the exquisite forms she discovers all around her.

One installation, draped over a sconce at the Florida Craftsmen Gallery, glows from within. Pods fan out like dragonfly wings and capture a fading sunset, orange and red bleeding into a violet sky. Some of the edges curl slightly and show a green flash peeking from the underside.

While the larger-than-life petals spiral and spring off the wall hangings, her stand-up arrangements mimic sensual dances, sporting titles like “Waltz” and “Tango.” Each pod in the seductively twisting cluster gracefully tapers to a fine point. Some are embellished with the additional texture of hundreds of tiny seed beads.

The pieces are useful too, as Maria points out the individual pods. Brilliant in color, some adorned with sprays of beads and bejeweled buttons, they lend a slice of tabletop whimsy while holding lemons or other edibles within their fluted bodies.

Also on display at Florida Craftsmen are her “Birds of a Flock.” The clear boxes containing small handcrafted fabric birds represent the theme of subtle entrapment. Maria explores social concepts through art, channeling her wonder and curiosity into acrylic, resin and other materials. Her skillful techniques result in things of pure beauty.

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