In the Pines, a new site-specific immersive installation commissioned by Miami-based artist Christina Pettersson, was originally scheduled to open in the Project Room April 3. Given the schedule change it has been been reconfigured for the 1,500 square foot Main Gallery.
Creating a memorial space to pay homage and remember the original pine woods of South Florida and its historical figures and creatures, to which the artist is deeply connected. In transforming the space into a cemetery, the artist's intention is to invite viewers to contemplate and physically connect with these historical narratives and each individual’s significance as if speaking with the dead themselves. Each tomb acts as a portal into a forgotten world, providing each visitor with a deeper understanding of South Florida.
The space is haunted by the wafting tune of In The Pines, a traditional American folk song of unknown origins dating back to at least the 1870s, famously sung by renown artists like Leadbelly and Kurt Cobain, and covered here by the artist herself and Eli Peck. Like many folk songs, In The Pines was passed along orally, changing throughout the years into hundreds of different versions, but always consistently portraying the pines as a place where one encounter’s their own dark soul.
The melody of In the Pines surrounding the cemetery is accompanied by the soft crunching sound of footsteps, emanating from a projected video of the artist dressed in Victorian-era mourning wear, traversing the world’s last large swath of Pine Rockland forest within the Everglades National Park. Once the preeminent landscape of Miami, the film contemplates its disappearance. Visitors’ footsteps echo the artist’s as they walk across Florida native pine mulch through the cemetery of handmade gravestones, surrounded by evergreen walls. All are encouraged to make grave rubbings to take home a piece of the exhibition in homage to figures from South Florida’s robust forgotten history.
Above the gravesite looms a large-scale, multi-panel apocryphal drawing on wood panels, embedded with gravestone symbolism and carved to resemble a cemetery gate. Depicting a landscape devoid of trees and divided by railroad tracks leading nowhere, Pettersson seeks to address and tear down figures like Henry Flagler who engineered destruction on a grand scale for vanity and profit. As Confederate statues at last fall, Pettersson’s work topples the equally-deserving industrialists.
Flanking the drawing are two crumbling entrance towers, all that remains of the estate of John Sewell, one of Miami’s founders, now forgotten on the side of the 195 highway. Mounted on the opposite wall, a large scale map of Miami City Cemetery is decorated with mourning wreaths and clay offering bowls, echoing the walls of a mausoleum.
A séance room in the Project Room invites visitors to peruse the artist’s library and sacred objects, take a seat at the table and call upon their own ancestry.
In the Pines celebrates South Florida’s history by mourning what has been lost while also taking back the cemetery for the living. A sense of community is strengthened by the act of honoring the dead and exploring their forgotten history.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Christina Pettersson has lived in Miami, FL most of her life. Her last two solo exhibitions, in Everglades National Park and at the historic Deering Estate on Biscayne Bay, reflect her lifelong passions in her hometown.
Recent shows include the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, Girls Club, Fort Lauderdale, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, FL, Launch F18, New York, NY. She has exhibited at other museums, particularly in the South, such as the Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, Columbus Museum of Art, GA, Baltimore Museum of Art, MD, Wiregrass Museum of Art, AL, and the Naples Museum of Art, FL. Her work is in major collections locally, such as the PAMM, Martin Z. Margulies at the Warehouse, Deborah & Dennis Scholl, Frances Bishop Good & David Horvitz, and throughout the country.
She has received the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship thrice, the largest regionally sponsored grant in the US. She received a Fulbright Grant to return to Sweden in 2000, attending the Valand School of Fine Arts in Gothenburg.
She has attended residencies at Yaddo, Ucross, Vermont Studio Center, VCCA, The Studios of Key West, Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Program under Inka Essenhigh, and a year long program at the Deering Estate. Taking her to remote and historic places, they have a profound effect on her work. Most influentially she spent a month inside Everglades National Park under the AIRIE residency program in 2015. This residency solidified her desire to focus her artwork on the combination of her local environment, history and community outreach.
Pettersson has curated and staged group performances and public programming throughout her native South Florida. In conjunction with exhibitions and organizations such as AIRIE, Girls Club, and various historical entities she collaborates to bring these themes to life in the community- thru walking and bus tours of neighborhoods, cemeteries and the local environment, guest lectures, workshops, book clubs, even shadow puppet performances. These events have allowed Pettersson’s work to become a true engagement with the community, dissolving boundaries, utilizing the talents of a variety of people and organizations with limited resources, and educating and delighting by innovative means.
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