Miami-based sculptor Robert Chambers lived in Everglades National Park for one month in 2018, as a Fellow in the Artist in Residence in Everglades (AIRIE) program. In the darkness outside his studio one night, the artist tripped on the roots of an ancient plant: The Saw Palmetto (in Latin, Serenoa repens), That’s when a hidden world began opening up to him.
In fact, the small palms are everywhere you look, native to the subtropical wilderness. The leaves are woven into the thatched roofs of indigenous pavilions you’ll find in Big Cypress, a wetlands preserve north of the national park. In some parts of the world, saw palmetto berries are cherished for their healing properties.
At the AIRIE Nest, an art gallery inside the Visitor Center, we meet Robert Chambers to explore his exhibition titled Serepens. AIRIE curator Deborah Mitchell and two environmental scientists who’ve inspired his new body of work are here, too. Botanist Warren Abrahamson has been researching the saw palmetto for forty years. Hilary Swain directs the Archbold Biological Station, a center dedicated to research and conservation in the South Florida watershed.
Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Photography courtesy AIRIE and Fresh Art International
Related Episodes: Jenny Larsson on Searching for Arctic Winter, Deborah Mitchell: The Artist as Guide to the Everglades, Art and the Environment at Miami’s Deering Estate, Artist Residency in the Everglades, Jorge Menna Barreto on Environmental Sculpture, Andrea Bowers on Environmental Activism