Locust Projects' Latest Exhibition Explores the Many Identities of the Everglades, Opens Saturday

There's more to the Everglades than monstrous bugs, swampy terrain, and toothy alligators. Opening Saturday, March 8, Locust Projects presents new works by Miami-based artists Christy Gast and Felice Grodin, whose study of landscapes and spaces yield intricately-fashioned installations.

Gast's exhibit, "Inholdings," contains two works: A full-scale textile replica of a Nike Hercules missile and a single-channel video entitled War Drums (Nuclear Clock). "Inholdings" shifts the focus between natural, cultural, and desired histories by appropriating craft traditions to document a place.

"An inholding is kind of a bureaucratic term for [privately] held land that's surrounded by public land, which figures a lot into my projects," said Gast during an artist talk held Thursday. "I'm really interested in enigmatic landscapes where there's a history of conflict."

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One manifestation of such conflict is Gast's missile replica, which is constructed from botanical textile designed and printed by the artist. The print's layered images of tomato bushes, Brazilian pepper trees, and lovegrass compete for surface area, much as they compete for living space in reality. Gast's work examines the Hole-in-the-Donut area of the Everglades, a deforested pine rockland that was plowed for tomato fields in the early 1900s. An HM69 Nike Missile base located there housed three nuclear warheads and was on high alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"There's this doubling of language, of armed engagement...invasion, eradication - both on a geopolitical level and on an ecological level, and that was what was interesting to me," Gast said of creating the missile project. "The sculptures are full-scale replicas of the nuclear missiles that were almost engaged ... They were basically one push of a button from being sent up. I was lucky enough that I was able to go and physically measure one to make my plan."

Gast's companion video installation was shot in one of the few existing stands of pine forest in Dade County. Titled War Drums, the 23-minute video pans the horizon in a continuous circle and was shot in one take. Set to a score composed by the artist, one woman plays traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms on a conga while another drummer plays snare military-drum style.

"I set up the camera so it would be recording in a circle so the musicians are also responding to the location of the camera," Gast said. "I wanted to really caress the forest so that we are forced to look at it in a different way..."

While Gast's works in the main gallery conjure a softness in our visualization of the Everglades, Felice Grodin's installation in Locust's Project Room forms another kind of forest, full of sharp points and hyper detail. Using her training as an architect, Grodin's work, A Fabricated Field, considers the formations between territories and maps the forces that go into spaces.

"In the most simple sense, I wanted a very highly-standard idea of materials which is very global, so I used plywood," Grodin said. "It's usually hidden, and I wanted to expose that, because that idea of a universal material is a norm, it's something we all understand."

Grodin installed a raised sub-floor, with gaps between the 4 x 8 sheets of plywood. Bundles of wooden strips rise from different intervals, creating beanstalk-like structures extending to varying heights. Grodin began gathering materials and fabricating the stalks last June, gluing each wooden piece by hand.

"It's very simple technology and that's part of the thing I liked about it, too. It looks very complex but it's really mostly just the human hand and very simple tools," Grodin said. "Think about the great monuments that are built; it's all built with human hands. I still like that part of it; I still like that there's the human touch."

Grodin took advantage of the room's cube-like structure, taking her first full-scale installation from floor to ceiling. Carefully constructed mahogany spears distend from above and mirror the growths below, creating a three-dimensional experience. She plans to document exhibit visitors as they move through the space, adding to the immersive quality of her process.

Locust Project's opening reception for Gast's and Grodin's installations will be held Saturday, March 8, from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibit will run through Saturday, April 12, with gallery hours held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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