Denise R. Duarte
The seed for Garden of Diversity - Naturae paradiso diversitas was planted when I was studying to become a master gardener. I learned the botanical definition of the Perfect Flower, one which contains both male and female parts. I had an epiphany! The message was clear and powerful; nature thrives on sexual and gender identity variety. Nature is not defined by binary standards. As an artist, activist and lesbian who has dedicated her creative life to working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues, I could not ignore nature’s message of diversity. I have yearned for the opportunity to explore the relationship between nature’s authentic diversity and the constructed social myth of “natural” human relationships and identity.
My work describes and contrasts the variety of botanical sexuality to humanity’s narrowly defined sexuality and gender. Historical, cultural and botanical references are interwoven throughout the various aspects of the artwork. The definition of “natural” is a constructed “norm” which defies the potential and beauty of the human experience. In the plant world...in nature, reproduction and gender are varied and often fluid. Some plants even change from male to female (and vice versa) over the plant’s lifetime.
The significance of my current work is to reframe the dialogue regarding the true nature of sexuality and identity utilizing the botanical world as a metaphor. The issue of acceptance of all people with the eradication of homophobia and genderphobia is a timely and necessary contemporary endeavor.
My artistic expression ranges from the realm of public art to socially engaged community art. The focus of my public art is defining the site with a cultural and historical reference that resonates with the local community. I work with media that is most appropriate for the site and project, such as, non-reflective thermoplastic, corten steel and ceramic stoneware. My community art projects have utilized materials that best express the community’s voice. They have included re-cycled glass and ceramic stoneware mosaics, painted murals, sculptures and audio recordings giving individual and collective voice to social justice issues. Regardless of the project, surface treatment and form are an important focus. My intent is to have the resulting artwork delight the audience through the use of compelling layers of color, texture and composition.
Concept and aesthetic qualities are the priorities for my work. I believe that it is essential that the concept of the work be relevant and make connections between people and a place or a time. I enjoy interweaving one or more issues into my work, preferably feminist or another social justice issue. I prefer that the message be incrementally revealed with interaction with the work. My message should be one that requires attention and thought with layered with meanings that unfold over time. Aesthetic qualities can include either minimal cleanness of line and simple composition or rich textural depth and elegant detail, recalling a previous time of abundance in design details. I believe that beauty will attract an audience, which will allow for further inspection and communication. I also believe that like attracts like...beauty attracts beauty. My work focuses on the cusp where aesthetic design elements and environments are transitioning to socially significant sites with contemporary contexts.