Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Great Tree Snail Hunt
I've just returned from a wonderful trip to the Everglades looking for Liguus Tree Snails. They're an inspiration for a project that I've wanted to do that explores the relationship between the patterns on these beautiful shells and the incredible designs on Seminole/Miccosukee clothing. When I first saw the collection of tree snail shells in cases at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center over 30 years ago I immediately thought of the designs in Seminole Patchwork. The relationship seemed obvious. But research back then didn't support a connection. Still, it has stuck in my head that there is one.
The cases have long since vanished - possibly in Hurricane Andrew. And speculation is that the snails with the beautiful colors I saw in those shells are now extinct. During my trip I was able to find and photograph over 50 unique snails at Royal Palm, Pinelands and Pinecrest. As you can see in the three photos of snails here, they are still amazingly beautiful and inspiring.
I also visited the outstanding Ah-tha-thi-ki Museum south of Clewiston to do research on the origins of the clothing in their library. The Museum itself is small but the exhibits are so modern and incredibly well designed it's a real treat to visit. And their collection is said to have over 4000 artifacts, much of it early clothing samples. I didn't even get to that yet!
Last month I purchased Henry's Close's wonderful book on the Liguus (The Liguus Tree Snails of South Florida) and he devoted a small chapter to the connection between the snails and Seminole clothing. And at the Museum library yesterday I found a quote from Harriet Bedell back in 1941 that totally supports the idea. The quest for more information is going to be fun! I have much more research to do and am excited to have the opportunity to be the Artist in Residence in the Everglades for the month of July to continue work on my project.
If you have an interest in Liguus or Seminole clothing, please write!