Denise Sfraga: Strange Brew at The Garage Art Center

Featured Artist
Denise Sfraga, installation detail

The work included in Strange Brew, Denise Sfraga’s solo show at the Garage Art Center, explores the life cycle of plants. This fascination with plants has always been at the root of the artist’s creative inspiration. Sfraga, who is based in New York City, says that working in her own garden and experiencing its constant state of flux, gives her the opportunity to witness first hand actual seed germination, leaf and flower growth, the dispersion of the next generation of seeds and the final stages of decay, “an ever evolving landscape of life forms that change color, shape and appearance daily.”

In his essay for your show, Paul D’Agostino describes it as ‘hypercharged nature’, fervidly earthy and extraterrestrial at once.” Tell us a bit about the genesis of this body of work and how do you see it in that context?

I’ve always been captivated by the mystery inherent in plants, each leaf and flower an alien universe unto itself that begs to be looked at, explored and embraced as part of my own creative journey. This recent body of work is a nod to the history of plant renderings, portraits really, from early botanical illustrators and pioneers of flora photography like Maud Purdy and Karl Blossfeldt (as well as the innovative work of contemporary artists) to the simple beauty of a Burpee seed catalog. I think Paul’s keen description of the work in his Strange Brew essay as ‘curious visions of hypercharged nature’ best describes the hum, chaos and cumulative energy brewing in each garden I’m attempting to capture. Although a uniquely, stylized plant form dominates each painting’s other worldly space, the scenarios that take place in and around that central form helps animate the variety of activities being utilized for basic survival. 

I also love that Paul describes the work as “fervidly earthy and extraterrestrial at once”. We typically imagine a garden as a place of refuge and peacefulness,  full of ‘fervidly earthy’ presence. My work attempts to pull back the curtain of that garden of quiet and comfort and reveal the more sinister, devious and cunning reality that lingers just below the surface. An extraterrestrial life form in our own backyard.

Tell us a bit about your process.

My process is pretty intuitive and each title is a clue to the painting’s visual magic. Like binomial nomenclature, which combines a genus and species—I try to merge a specific series that I’ve been working on like Fetish or Bloom with some visual or emotional aspect of that painting’s image, like delicioso or contorto. Fetish saxitilis yellow (saxitilis – latin for ‘dwelling among rocks’) for instance, is part of a series where rocks are symbolic of the strength and versatility of even the smallest of plants thriving in the harshest possible conditions.

Fetish saxatilis yellow, 12 x 9”, colored pencil on paper mounted on wood panel, 2022

All photos courtesy of the artist

Denise Sfraga: Strange Brew The Garage Art Center April 1 – 30, 2023 26-01 Corporal Kennedy Street Bayside, NY

About the artist: Denise Sfraga is a New York based artist working in a variety of genres including painting, collage and photography. 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 at M.David & Co., The Pelham Art Center, Ely Center of Contemporary Art, The Painting Center, David and Schweitzer Contemporary, LABspace, C24, Centotto and Tilt Gallery, as well as other unique venues.

To view or order a copy of Strange Brew catalog with Paul D’Agostino’s essay, here.