- Maryfran Cardamone, Artist
Artist Maryfran Cardamone calls the desert “rich with life.” That wasn’t her first impression when she moved from Philadelphia to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1980 to begin her art career.
At first glance, it looked like stark emptiness. But after three decades of perfecting her art—something she calls a playful intersection between nature, taxonomy and popular culture—she lands back in the desert for a new lesson. This one focuses on grasslands in Arizona.
Cardamone is one of the artists featuring work at the Desert Grasslands exhibition at the Tucson Museum of Art through July 7, 2013. The exhibition will offer an intimate look at one of Arizona’s most threatened landscapes; only one-third of the state’s grasslands survive in good condition.
To get a better understanding of her subject, Cardamone spent two days hiking and collecting plants in late September at the Conservancy’s Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area near Willcox.
“I was inspired by the subtly of the colors and the history of this landscape,” says Cardemone. “I also started thinking about the Native Americans who once cared for the lands.”
During her visit, she learned first-hand how the Conservancy cares for the land from Muleshoe manager Bob Rogers. He told her about restoration strategies including prescribed fire that have improved the grassland and the many streams running through the 49,000-acre ranch.
“Few people appreciate how important grasslands are to our quality of life,” says Bob Rogers. “Healthy native grasslands act like a sponge capturing and purifying our water. They provide habitat for wildlife and sustain our traditional ranching communities. Our goal is to protect and restore Arizona’s native grasslands so they can benefit us all for generations to come.”
Protecting nature is important to Cardamone. She’s been drawn to nature and plants for as long as she can remember.
“My work has always had something to do with nature and the environment because that’s what I care about,” Cardemone adds. She sees this exhibition as an opportunity to help raise awareness about the ways plants and nature can sustain and heal us. “It’s about telling a story in a creative and entertaining way that helps educate people.”
Her mixed-media works on paper are complex, visual narratives that reveal the science, history and beauty of her subjects.
“Years ago, my mentor, realist painter Tom Palmore, told me that it is important to have your personality come through your work. Well, my personality is little offbeat and wacky. Hopefully, I have captured that in my work. I like for my art to evoke a sense of mystery and wonder in the viewer because that’s the way I feel about the natural world.”
To learn more about the exhibit, watch this video from Arizona Public Media.April 23, 2013