Something of those blues exist in Fernando García’s Mediterráneo I and II in The Natural Flow of Things at Madrid’s La Casa Encendida. On one hand, these works function as paintings: they are large canvases stretched on two dimensional, rectangular frames. But they also document a process. Combining meteorology and mano de artista, the pieces cross sand and sea: their materials are listed as “sewn canvas soaked in the Mediterranean Sea and dried in the sun in different locations on the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, watermelon and melon juice, sand from the beach, and different natural traces.”
Large enough to suggest sails, the pieces become color fields that engulf the body up close, where tiny tendrils of black thread reach out from areas of the canvas that were once sewn closed. The stitches evoke other traditions that bring fabric to moving water, like the knotting of nets, wash in women’s hands, and even sailor’s embroidery. We will never know the wind, humidity, or temperature that produced what’s recorded in and on Mediterráneo’s surfaces. Like the elements that formed them, Fernando´s pieces are transient: grains of sand will drop from them and their fabric will continue to fade. The pieces are testaments to moments that are impossible to return to; they too will change over time.
One way of making flowers last is by pressing them into the pages of a book. In the 19th century, women assembled plant life that they collected to commemorate trips or as a way to catalog the world around them. Emily Dickinson kept one such herbarium as a teen. In her 1896 poem May-Flower, she writes: “Bold little beauty, / Bedecked with thee, / Nature forswears / Antiquity.” A flower album figures in Cristina Regadas’ exhibition Mapa Natal at Porto’s Espaço MIRA. Cristina collected cuttings from her native Campanhã along the routes she walks between her mother’s, grandmother’s, and her own home. Like the residues of Fernando’s Mediterráneo I and II, Cristina’s album captures a specific set of circumstances, this time colored by city development, pollination, and weather. Her herbarium registers the space between science and sentiment on a well-worn path, where flowers known only by sight or folk names materialize and dissolve as the seasons pass.
Cristina took me to see the tide pools in Foz. We approached the waves as the nightfall painted the water pink. The stones all around us were wet, and looked dark and intensely-hued. After a while we started throwing them into the water, and then at the rock formations themselves. Bigger stones ricocheted off the rocks, exploding into chunks, and sloshed into the waves. Smaller ones sprang between boulders, clanged into the sliding water, or disappeared completely without making a sound. Everything was pink, brown, red, and black; there was not a blue in sight.
Special thanks to María Benítez and Patrícia Barbosa.