Throughout civilized history, people have cultivated the earth by planting fruit, herbs, vegetables and flowers, and created gardens for both consumption and pleasure. We are dependant on nature's bounty, humbled by its mysteries, and awed by its terror. We are drawn to the wild as much as we are overwhelmed by it. Urban homeowners and apartment dwellers brighten their surroundings by inviting nature in, planting seeds into soil which are pruned into orderly paths and windowsill containers. It is the garden which provides both a place of romance and insulation from nature's savage and often harsh reality; grasses are tamed, foliage is manicured, nature is domesticated.
Maria Martinez-Canas's fascination with flowers began more than twenty years ago when she incorporated plants indigenous to her native homelands of Cuba and Puerto Rico into her photographic works. Her interest was again piqued a few years ago when she discovered the 17th c. Book, Hortus Eystettensis, the largest monograph devoted to the cataloging and presentation or flower. While looking through its pages, Martinez-Canas's was struck by the austerity of each specimen and the power it still held on the printed page. Using simplicity as a template, Martinez-Canas's work began to emerge: photographic imagery which explores the relationship between organic form and nature, without human presence.
Continuing to create her own negatives by drawing, cutting and collaging information onto Rubylith (a film covered acetate), Martinez-Canas creates environments which reveal the chaos and symmetry of life under the soil. This can be seen in her two newest series, Hortus and Naturalia, where flower petals mingle with organic shapes held to the earth by branches exploding off the page; snail forms float near bulb roots, suspended in flight as fossils collide with broken tree limbs. These are layered photographs which remind us of nature's ability to give nourishment as well as its intuitive power to consume all it contacts.