As the Glow Grows
On a nature walk on a visit to my hometown of Miami, Florida, I found myself in what I can only describe as a magical fairy forest. Lush and green, the light streaming in to illuminate miles and miles of heart shaped vines. The vine enveloped every bush, palm, and even climbed to the tops of trees. What initially felt magical started to feel odd. I didn’t recognize this vine from my childhood, and its loving embrace seemed to be suffocating. I later learned that this was an invasive species called air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera). The reality is, the vine was choking everything in its path. This vine found its way, not just to South Florida, but also to my new home in southeastern Texas. Invasive species like this one are often cultivated because of their beauty. When misplaced, they kill the native plants and throw off a natural balance.
Standing in miles and miles of vines, I was overwhelmed by how this one plant has so harmed two cities I call home. To create this work, I cut away most of the photographs I took of the plants, so the vine and its victim are isolated. Colorizing the shadow areas of the image where the air potato vine is positioned, highlights it. I deliberately picked a neon pink color because the unnatural tone acts as an almost toxic visual marker.
The initial visual effect is awe and enchantment, similar to my own first reaction to the air potato. Then the work lures the viewer to think more deeply about their relationship to our ecosystems. It highlights the way human action to create beauty without forethought harms our familiar environments. It also brings to mind the ways we harm our bodies to meet beauty standards, and how human desire for convenience, comfort, and aesthetics have worsened climate change. But while it’s hard to imagine our individual impact on climate change, the idea of learning about, and responding to, invasive species as a way to support ecosystems is more manageable. This work guides people to engage visually with these overwhelming issues on a smaller scale.
With As the Grow Glows, the aim is to examine the fragility of our ecosystems and expose the irrevocable damage that one pretty plant can cause while also looking at the ways we are rooted in our homes through familiar landscapes
Learn more about the Air Potato Vine (Dioscorea bulbifera)