Rainbow in the Swamp
NIAD Art Center
During the period of tropical development in Florida from the 1920s to the 1940s, a small number of landowners and developers transformed the landscape in the image of an Edenesque re-creation of all the tropics as a playground for the upper and middle classes. Before this period, the landscape in Florida consisted of the muddy green palette of oak trees, palmetto bushes, and mangroves. The pine trees, oak trees, and palmetto brush inhabited by the first peoples, and then found by the “pioneer” settlers were augmented with imported plants from regions across the globe. Resorts were constructed around planned landscapes, and found landscapes were tropicalized, fenced off, and turned into tourism parks. These sites combined plants, animals, and imagery from tropical locations across the globe and amalgamated them into a domesticated version and singular location—South Florida—establishing an illusion and an aesthetic that still dominate the region today.
The pan-tropic region embodied the European New World fantasy. Florida developers expanded the landscapes of the container gardens created by European plant collectors to a completely immersive experience spanning half a state. The image of the tropics that inspired this construction was contrived in the European and North American imagination.