Florida is… Nature: An art project by Xavier Cortada

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BY XAVIER CORTADA (SGEM World Science Austria, Feb. 24, 2021)

Key Deer, picture by Xavier Cortada

Florida’s 200th anniversary

On February 22, 1821, the Adams–Onís Treaty was signed, formally transferring Florida from Spain to the United States.

Three centuries earlier, Spanish conquistadores landed on our peninsula, claiming it for Spain and naming it La Florida – from flor, the Spanish word for flower. That 1513 encounter initiated a series of actions that, in recent years, has forever changed our state and its ecosystems.

To commemorate this year’s 200th anniversary, Cortada is continuing his ongoing project Florida is… Nature, which encourages participants to depict Florida’s natural beauty as they find better ways to coexist with nature.

Florida is…

Primarily green with blue water, white sandy beaches, swamps, scrub, and hardwood hammocks. However, we must face the fact that Florida is not what Florida was.

We’ve drained the Everglades, dredged beaches, paved roads and planted monocultures where there was once wilderness. We’ve redistributed waterways, poisoned rivers, and infiltrated aquifers with salt water. We’ve watched politicians rise to power and deny the human impacts on the largest threat we now face: global climate change and sea level rise.

Through “Florida is… Nature,” Xavier Cortada asks Floridians to define their state by its natural environment, not by the edifices and man-made encroachments that have displaced nature.


“Florida is… Nature” was commissioned as public art pieces to hang at three Florida Turnpike plazas: West Palm Beach, Ft. Drum, and Turkey Lake. Its reach expands beyond these three commission sites as an ongoing participatory art project encouraging state-wide audiences to care for Florida’s ecosystems.


PUBLIC ART: Florida Turnpike’s West Palm Beach Plaza features Cortada’s “The Puzzled Landscape: (re)Growing Native Florida piece by piece.” Above each entranceway visitors see 29 puzzle pieces coming together to create an image of wildflowers descending upon a Florida landscape. The artist invites Floridians to use their yards to restore native wildflowers. Courtesy by Xavier Cortada


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.” Courtesy by Xavier Cortada


PUBLIC ART: Florida Turnpike travelers entering Ft. Drum Plaza are greeted by a 20’ mural of a Florida Panther. Inside the Plaza, 12 other endangered animals are depicted, Courtesy by Xavier Cortada

For more information about the project and how you could participate in, you could visit Xavier Cortada’s website