PUBLIC ART: At the Florida Turnpike Turkey Lake Plaza (near Orlando), Cortada depicted Florida’s sunshine and the water-bound diatoms. “Conceptually,” Cortada stated, “I wanted the installation to track a day in the life across the Sunshine State.”
Diatoms are water-bound, single-celled symmetrical organisms encapsulated in silica. They harness the power of the sun to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and are responsible for generating one-third of the air we breathe. Each diatom species has a different salinity preference, so changes in the mixture of fresh and sea water (driven by sea level and changes in water management) can be inferred from past diatom remains.
The natural archival processes of diatoms presented artist Xavier Cortada with an opportunity to express scientific perspectives of time through artistic mediums, “Diatoms” an essential part of the artist “Florida is…Nature” installations across the Florida Turnpike. This series was conceptualized during Cortada‘s residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist Residency in Captiva, Florida, “Florida is…” is an evolving body of work that depicts the natural beauty of Florida, asking local residents to define their state by its actual nature, not by things we do and build to displace it. The conceptual significance of the diatom harkens back to the intent of the “Florida is…” series, one that promotes an awareness and engagement towards the natural environment.
One of each of the “Diatom” prints (series of 5) from “Florida is…Nature” are in the collection of Florida’s Department of State in Tallahassee, the works also having been exhibited at the Orlando Science Center, The Frank (Frank C. Otis Gallery and Exhibit Hall), and Creative Pinellas as an integral part of the artist’s exhibitions.