Artist and Advocate

by Maureen Bloomfield
Artist Magazine
March 2010


"Flying Low" by Taylor Ikin

   Taylor Ikin's watercolor paintings on synthetic paper draw attention to Florida's endangered habitats ..
   "The State with the prettiest name" ... so begins Elizabeth Bishop's ode to Florida, a vast and complex ecosystem of wetlands-saltwater marshes and freshwater lakes.  In her poem Bishop describes sea turtles, buzzards and alligators lolling among the mangrove roots.  The Sunshine State is also home to panthers, wood storks and bald eagles, in addition to countless shore birds.  During the boom years of the 1940s and later, in the mad rush to convert marshes to farmlands, the Army Corps of Engineers built dams to divert and dry up rivers, while developers erected high-rise condominiums on land dredged from the Gulf of Mexico.  This overdevelopment has led to overpopulation, a situation that threatens all species.  Will this exploitation of the natural environment continue?
   Taylor Ikin, a native Virginian but longtime Floridian, is endeavoring to draw attention to the precarious state of Florida's ecosystem.  Her program is simple: She visits endangered sites in order to record their beauty in paintings.  "The places I go to are all accessible to the public, most within an hour's drive from where I live in Hillsborough County," she says.  "I want to give people the opportunity to see the beauty that's available all around them.  My purpose is to educate: The environment is being attacked by developers; people must realize our state is fragile and that habitats can vanish."
   Ikin recalls discovering one such habitat while teaching a workshop at Tampa Museum of Art.  "We were visiting Nature's Classroom, a glass house built on the banks of the Hillsborough River, where we could spot brown bears and deer, when an artist told me she had eagles nesting outside her back door and invited me to Eagle Nest Forest.  I actually witnessed the bald eagles' mating ritual dance.  How important it is for us Floridians to know that eagles can nest in our backyards!" Ikin concludes, "There's a wild component to Florida that has to be preserved, and each painting tells that story."
   Ikin's paintings in watercolor on Yupo, a synthetic paper, render a place as well as a feeling.  Yupo's slick surface, coupled with watercolor's fluidity and Ikin's confident brushstrokes, results in expressive evocations of flora and fauna translated to color and light.  Her current "The Road Less Traveled" exhibition, partly funded by a grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, runs through the end of February at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center (www.dfac.org) and will travel to the Appleton Museum of Art (www.appletonmuseum.org) in Ocala in March.

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