Probing Peculiar Plants
with artist Denise Sfraga

Denise Sfraga is a New York-based artist working in a variety of genres, including painting, collage, photography, and sculpture. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts in Photography from Long Island University, C.W. Post College. Her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, including M. David & Co., The Pelham Art Center, Ely Center of Contemporary Art, The Painting Center, David and Schweitzer Contemporary, LABspace, C24, and Centotto, as well as other unique venues.

Nature has always been an important and integral part of Sfraga's creative life. As a visual artist and avid gardener, the life cycle of plants has always been at the root of her creative energies and exploration. Working in her own garden and experiencing its constant state of flux, from seed germination, leaf and flower growth, and the dispersion of the next generation of seeds, to the final stages of plant decay, Sfraga witnesses an ever-evolving landscape of life forms from which she draws visual inspiration.

Elizabeth Saperstein, in her essay for the exhibition HyperAccumulators, which she co-curated with Alexandra Rutsch Brock, writes..."Sfraga's luminous drawings conjure beautiful but poisonous plants with exotic names. Her glowing, surreal forms recall the cutout animation of Fantastic Planet, the 1970's sci-fi film about humans living on a strange planet. Biomorphic tentacles and pods have a dreamy, psychedelic quality. Glowing edges contrast with the chalky, burnished quality achieved by layering marker and pencil".

Michael David, artist and curator of her solo show Poison Garden at M.David & Co., writes in the catalogue introduction..."Sfraga's process is obsessive and deceptive, just like her complex subjective matter. Her work first appears smooth and without overt gesture, but upon closer inspection, we see surfaces that are tirelessly reworked and made up of countless micro-adjustments. They're infused with lyrically lurid color, creating a surface and image that is simultaneously violent and subsumed. The results are beautiful, dark, luminous, seductive, and disturbing all at once."

During the 90-minute workshop, Probing Peculiar Plants, Denise Sfraga presented a collection of strange and peculiar plants from around the world - the kind you don't normally see at your local garden center. She shared photos of some examples of the plants she included, such as White Baneberry (Doll's Eyes), Hydnora Africana (Jackal Food), Calceolaria Uniflora (Happy Aliens), Hydnellum Peckii (Devil's Tooth), Titan Arum (Corpse Flower), as well as the actual fly-catching plant for us to touch and observe. She used presentation images as inspiration, and with imagination, participants created an 8"x6" drawing of their own wacky and weird plant world using an array of provided materials, including markers, colored pencils, stencils, and crayons.

Denise also demonstrated how to use color pencils to create smooth color transitions, similar to the technique she used for her own artwork exhibited in the gallery. After the workshop, participants not only took their finished artwork but also the cute flower pot as a souvenir gifted by the artist. It was a truly fun and memorable workshop held outdoors, surrounded by nature and the collaborative spirit of art.

This program was made possible in part with public funds from the Queens Arts Fund, a re-grant program supported by New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by New York Foundation for the Arts.

This program was also supported in part by Queens Rising, a multi disciplinary arts celebration created to highlight the borough's culture and creative diversity.

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