To most, art begins with a piece of paper and efforts of drawing inside the lines. Yet, Audrey Hynes figured out the secret formula: skip the paper and start with the roots. Or, in her case, the trunk.
For her MFA exhibition, "Neither Here Nor There," opening this weekend at the University of Miami's Wynwood Project Space
, Hynes explores the invasive melaleuca tree. The tree, brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s from Australia, was widely planted in Florida in the '70s and '80s. By the '90s, it was clear that the trees were destructive to the local ecosystem, and Florida has spent millions trying to get rid of it.
Hynes's on-site installation will include photography, video, and sculpture. In the following Q&A, Hynes takes us through her inspirations and how she got hold of one of Florida's bitchiest weeds.
New Times: When did you first notice the melaleuca tree in Miami?
Audrey Hynes: When I came back to Miami, I was driving on Highway 41 from Marco Island, and I noticed all the melaleuca trees in the Everglades. I was so fascinated by the ones that are dead. I noticed there were people cutting the trees down.
I wanted the material, so I started calling government agencies and trying to find out who I could get the trees from. I finally came across the Florida Department of Transportation. They helped me a lot in getting me the right non-profit in South Florida, the Florida Caribbean Exotic Plants Management Team for the National Parks Service.
I called them up and spoke to a man there that was willing to work with me. We met in the Everglades and he chainsawed a bunch of trees for me after they had been sprayed. I brought them back to school and I've been working with them since last September.
How is the tree incorporated into your project?
The tree is made out of paperbark, which means you can peel the layers of bark off. The tree trunks are pretty thin, but the actual girth of the tree can be pretty hefty. So I started sewing the bark together, and in the process of working with the trees, made several different projects. It's a great material to work with and it's loaded with information. It's so site-specific to Florida.
Many of your previous projects blur the line between fiction and reality. Does Neither Here Nor There have that same ambiguous quality?
There's a good portion of imagination. Everything in my show, except for actual documentation of the trees, has aspects of imagination. There's one video where I set up my video camera in my car while I was driving, shooting the trees. It's actual documentation, but it looks like a lifeline. With that I'm trying to bring in the idea of the landscape and the human connection, and how human interaction affects environments.
Is that reflected in the name of your installation?
Well, it's a saying, people say that a lot, and in wanting to combine the human and the environmental, there's some figurative lyrics in the whole show. I wanted the saying to be what someone would actually say, not necessarily about my project, but about indifference. Because it doesn't really mean anything, 'neither here nor there.'
Is your project ultimately about indifference?
It's more about mortality and our human fallibility. Not thinking thoroughly, and the effects human decisions can have.
See "Neither Here Nor There" at the Wynwood Project Space (2200 NW Second Ave., Miami). The gallery is open tomorrow from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., or by appointment through June 26. Visit as.miami.edu.
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