We had the good fortune of connecting with Donna Torres and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donna, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in Nova Scotia, Canada of a Canadian father and Colombian mother. Traveling every summer to Colombia gave me the language skills and love of the tropical environment that has influenced my work. I grew up in Miami where the landscape instilled in me a love for the natural world. Further traveling in South America informed my work, searching for all the stories, history and anthropology of the plant subjects I was painting. I traveled with my husband (an art historian/archaeologist) studying the artifacts used by ancient shamans in their healing practices. I was able to observe the plants in their native habitats and connect with researchers and artists whose work had had similar concerns to my own. My life experiences have always been a key to my work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I loved art but after taking a class at the University of New Mexico I really fell in love with the medium of painting. I loved telling stories that were real and also the stuff of hopes and dreams. My love of the natural world found easy expression through painting. I began using oils, then watercolor and mixed media. I am an adjunct professor in painting at Florida International University and formerly taught botanical illustration classes at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. I illustrate books on mind moving plants and after making lots of paintings I also thought about designing textiles. My paintings were about plants that people had special connection to; plants used in healing the body and the mind. I found a company that could print my designs on quality textiles and later made a website that I could sell my textiles and prints of my paintings. Hard work, organizing time and persistence pay off in so many ways. Currently I am preparing work for my solo exhibition, Caminos y Enlaces (Pathways and Connections) at the Sala Gasco Arté Contemporáneo that will happen in Santiago, Chile, December 2021. It will be a combination of drawings, paintings and textile installation.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
For local beaches, I would choose Crandon Park instead of South Beach. I would stop by a sandwich shop and have a picnic on the beach. There’s a lot of palm trees to provide cover and its super relaxing. If you like nature no one does it better than Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Its 80 acres of beautiful lush greenery that would make a lovely afternoon. I would recommend visiting some of our local university galleries such as The Phillip and Patricia Frost Art Museum at Florida International University and the Lowe Museum at the University of Miami. They host some interesting and unique exhibitions throughout the year. In winter, a trip to the Everglades would get my vote.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to thank Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for providing me a living library of plants to paint, draw and learn from. My immediate boss, Mary Neustien was also instrumental in encouraging me to explore new ideas in my work.
Ivan Santiago Donna Torres