FRI 7/30 Can a mangrove island be squeezed into a soup can? How do sea grapes play juxtaposed against a wall of Jeff Koons vacuum cleaners? How can the grandeur of our region's natural gifts -- the ocean, salty waters, birds, and alligators -- be distilled into a beer bottle installation by Gabriel Orozco?
It's an either/or world when it comes to contemporary art, where painters who choose to depict the elegance of nature over trendier subjects such as soup cans or psychological angst get little to no attention. In the pages of influential Manhattan-based publications such as Art in America, nature painting often takes a back seat to the more abstract renderings.
But long after today's theories of "thisism or thatism" have faded from memory, it's a safe bet that works on flowers or landscapes will continue to reward and fascinate art lovers. The timeless beauty of the natural world is said to have inspired artists from the first cave paintings right up to the present day. So why stop now?
Painter Patricia Rottino Cummins, an art teacher for 25 years in Miami-Dade public schools and an adjunct professor at Barry University, finds inspiration in the seascapes and vistas of Biscayne National Park. Her latest work, displayed in the exhibition "Biscayne Botanicals," captures nature's quiet drama.
"My goal as an artist and painter is to communicate the beauty found in nature," Cummins says. "To make my viewers look again at what we normally take for granted is what I find most important in my work."
Cummins's stunning paintings, from the lowly prickly pear and sea grape to the riotous colors of native orchids and bromeliads in bloom, come to life against a seascape backdrop of the blue waters of Biscayne Bay. The work is far from canned and trendy pop material.
"Biscayne Botanicals" runs through Sunday, November 7, at Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th St. Opening reception begins at 7:00 p.m. Friday, July 30. Admission is free. Call 305-230-7275. -- Chris Deangelis
Art Deco, Anyone?
NOW 24/7 It's not likely that Miami Design Preservation League tour director Sheldon Brown will train prospective volunteers at the MDPL's Art Deco Museum, but chances are participants will at least meet him. Brown not only knows the historic district like the back of his hand, he was stationed there for a spell during WWII. He can gush with stories from the old army days to the time when MDPL founder Barbara Capitman lay down in front of bulldozers that ultimately demolished the Senator Hotel. Drama, indeed. Even former Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin, a volunteer tour guide, gets involved. Now you can, too. The MDPL is calling for volunteers to help out at its burgeoning museum. Even if you don't know Leonard Horowitz from L. Murray Dixon, or MiMo from SoHo, you'll get an education about the dreamy, colorful architectural movement. To volunteer, just make an appearance between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at the MDPL's museum/welcome center, 1001 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. Or call 305-672-2014. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez
A Grape Deal
Gulp gratis in the Gables
FRI 7/30 Don't drink and drive. Drink and take the trolley. Wolfe's Wine Shoppe (124 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables) wants you to do that, though not necessarily in that order. To increase awareness about the fabulous Coral Gables Trolley and the many places it can take you (namely up and down Ponce de Leon Boulevard or across Miracle Mile), the enophiles at Wolfe's are granting free admission for tonight's tasting to anyone who gets to their shop via the old-fangled mode of public transport. Available for sampling will be anywhere from 8 to 10 wines (exactly which have yet to be determined). But sip lightly and don't count on getting hammered and hightailing back to your car via the trolley. It ceases service at a rather uncivilized 8:00 p.m. The tasting runs from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Non-trolley riders pay $10, which includes a Spiegelau glass. Call 305-445-4567 to R.S.V.P. -- Nina Korman
SAT 7/31 Bring your favorite dish -- some tasty food or an attractive date -- to the celebration. That's what the folks who live in the North Miami neighborhood known as Alhambra Heights would like you to do for the block party their homeowners and community crime watch associations are throwing from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on NW 122nd Street, between 2nd and 5th avenues. Sure, you've heard of North Miami, but never of Alhambra Heights. Located between NW 119th and 128th streets and NW 2nd and 6th avenues, it's one of many subdivisions that features mostly modest-size houses built during the early 1950s and 1960s and a diverse population including many Latins and Haitians. There's even a Greek Orthodox Church plunked on the corner of NW 122nd Street and NW 2nd Avenue. Also an observance of National Night Out Against Crime, the bash promises plenty of refreshments and prizes -- to those who behave themselves, of course. Admission is free. Call 305-773-9529. -- Nina Korman