Jim Draper reflects on the experience of “Feast of Flowers”
Jim Draper is right on time. Meeting me in the Stein Gallery at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens on our agreed upon appointment of 1:30 p.m., Draper strolls into the large space where his multi-disciplinary project “Feast of Flowers,” has been on display since mid-December of last year. “Sorry I’m late,” he says. After I assure him that he is right on the money, we sit in two black leather chairs that face his recent work while also providing us with a fitting view of the museum’s award-winning gardens and the St. Johns River. It is an ideal setting to speak with Draper, as his twin loves – painting and the outdoors – are both within sight of one another. Two iPads are placed on the table between us and a collection of hard-shell binders are stacked upright against the wall. The tablet computers contain copies of the digital publication which coincides with the exhibit; the spiral bound books feature dozens of photographs that Draper took during his many excursions into the natural world, the very source and place that feeds his work. The 25 recent paintings in the exhibit are large-scale oils that both celebrate the flora and fauna of Florida while also warning of their possible passing. The title “Feast of Flowers” is a translation of the Spanish “Pascua de Florida,” the name chosen by Ponce De Leon in 1513 when he and his fellow explorer-conquistadors “discovered” the very much already-inhabited land that became known as Florida. On this 500th anniversary of Ponce De Leon’s arrival, Draper explores these ideas of “feasting,” devouring, conquest and commodification throughout the exhibit.