Botanical illustrator plants visions of global places at MIA
Miami artist hopes her mix of plants and cultures grows on travelers
Miami artist Donna Torres has drawn from 50 years of traveling the world to explore the connection between plants and the stories and cultures around them to create her newest exhibition The Radiance of Proximity, now showing at Miami International Airport’s Gate D31 Gallery through March 2024. The exhibition’s title is based on the idea of how the closeness of a place, a path, a friend, or family has a radiance to it.
The airport setting felt appropriate given that the work is inspired by new places, people, and environments. I hope that travelers will find in this exhibition the excitement I find in different plants and places and the global cultures that inspired them.
The botanical illustrator and textile designer in oils, graphite, and watercolor is fascinated by the legends and traditions of plant use through time, visually documenting how plants have been used to heal the body and mind.
The exhibition features oil paintings and large-scale graphite drawings produced since 2004. Ancient cultures and early female plant explorers and healers inspire Torres’ most recent works. Passengers will have the opportunity to view the painting, A Table for Maria Sybilla Merian (2020), which recalls the German-born entomologist and botanical artist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717) who traveled to Surinam in the 17th century to study the native insects and plants of the area.
At the time, women were more likely to be home, focusing on ‘women's work’ and family. Instead, Maria Merian and her daughter traveled to Surinam to document the natural life in watercolors and drawings.
Likewise, in the graphite drawing For Maria Sabina, the woman who swims in the sacred (2020), Torres drew inspiration from Mazatec shaman and oral poet Maria Sabina (1894 – 1985), who lived in Huautla de Jiménez in Mexico. Sabina's night-long ritual healing sessions were recorded and translated. The drawing, teeming with images of the region's underwater creatures, plants, and fungi, was based on these texts.
Torres’ work also features views of interior spaces, arid deserts, a Miami cityscape with chrysalises hatching into native South Florida butterflies, and even unknown galaxies. Among these multilayered scenes is the painting Distant Wanders, Close Enchantments (2021). The work melds Miami's tropical plant life into the dry landscape of the Atacama Desert and the rock art motifs found in northern Chile.
The exhibition also includes Radiance (2023), the title for the artist's most recent painting and textile design created for the MIA show. The botanical textile pattern shown in proximity to her drawings illustrates plants found at Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where the artist taught botanical art for several years.
Torres received her BFA in Painting and an MFA in Painting and Drawing at Florida International University (FIU). She recently retired from serving as an adjunct professor at FIU and from teaching botanical illustration at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's Education Department in Miami. She has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally. Recent group shows include Chamanismo, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, in Santiago, Chile (2022); Ecopharma, La Pared Arte Contemporáneo in Pereira, Colombia (2022); and her most recent solo exhibition Caminos y Enlaces at Sala Gasco Arte Contemporáneo, in Santiago, Chile (2023).
She was a recipient of an American Society of Botanical Artists grant to teach botanical illustration to the Indigenous Peoples of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile in 2004 and was awarded the Corral & Cathers Artist Fund at the Coral Gables Community Foundation in 2023. Her paintings and drawings are included in public and private collections, and her botanical artworks have been published in numerous books.
To request materials in accessible format, Sign Language Interpreters, CART services and/or any accommodation to participate in any Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) public meetings and events please email the ADA Office at ADAcoordinator@miami-airport.com or call the office in 305-876-7747 five days in advance to initiate your request. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may also call 711 (Florida Relay Service).