Clifton Childree’s current show at Emerson Dorsch features large paintings with old wood shutters attached to them, dark botanical motifs, and sculptures assembled from vintage folding lawn chairs. Gravel on the floor is laid out with pathways. The chairs and shutters are all shopworn obsolescence and fragility, ready to blow away at any moment.
The gravel ground and sparse vegetation represented in the paintings suggest a more barren and forbidding environment than is usually associated with South Florida. The color palette reminds me of the peculiar light seen just before a hurricane hits, a harsh, glinting gray. It doesn’t signal “tropical paradise,” but “get out while you can.” The whole ensemble seems to mirror the provisional situation of life here.
Childree grew up in Homestead, which was Ground Zero for devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992. We are presently in the midst of hurricane season here, spared for now, but by no means forever, from the uncertainties of natural phenomena, even in the stereotypically idyllic environment of the tropics.