The Robin Rice Gallery is pleased to present Pelican Finn, an exhibition of photographs. An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, April 22, 5:30–8:30 pm.
Pelican Finn, a reference to the subject’s name, broadly illustrates the relationship between individual and environment while specifically capturing a Cuban American woman’s relationship to the Florida Everglades, a world heritage site and the largest wetland on earth. Shooting through the intense and wild conditions inherent to the setting, Schilling creates a magical, dreamlike world that captures the untamed spirit of both the Everglades and Finn, who was introduced to the Everglades in flight from Cuba to the United States for the first time.
The exhibition brings together Schilling’s portrait, figurative, and landscape photography. For the series, she used a vintage Yashica twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera and 120 film, creating vivid, crisp, and colorful images. Vibrant greens and blues, pervasive in the aquatic landscape, saturate the work. Including a few images in black and white, Schilling cites Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa among her inspirations.
In the invitation piece “Gator Hook,” Finn’s reflection cuts clearly through soft disturbances in the water’s surface, which mirrors the giant expanse of blue sky surrounded by blooming cypress trees. Wiry, untamed branches frame either side of her body. Her face disappears into the water, leaving only the outline of a cowboy hat and a hint of orange sleeve to distinguish her torso from the surrounding nature.
In another image “Loop Road” depicts Finn leaning backward into the sunrise. The sun glows through dark palm fronds, suffusing the image with warmth and enveloping her in yellow sky.
The series was inspired, in part, by Michael Grunwald’s The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, which chronicles the destruction and posits the possible resurrection of the Everglades. Schilling manages to weigh the balance among newness, discovery, and optimism with the precariousness and uncertainty of nature and the threat of loss without slipping into the pedantic mode that too often accompanies an immigrant narrative, or falling prey to a conservationist’s zeal.
A Miami native, Schilling (b. 1987) is a self-taught photographer. She began her practice in photojournalism at the Miami Herald with the support and guidance of Patrick Farrell, and the spectrum of her work now includes reportage, portrait, commercial, architecture, and wedding photography. She holds a degree in visual anthropology from the University of Florida, Gainesville. This is her first show at the Robin Rice Gallery.