BIG CYPRESS GALLERY | Niki ButcherBig Cypress National Preserve © 2016
Photographic Story Clyde and I towed our sailboat across the country, pursuing the dream of living a simple life on a sailboat in Florida, where the sunsets glow with pastel colors, and the sea is warm. We traded in the stress of running a large company with many employees in California for the simplicity of selling our photographs at art festivals and the chance to return to our passion for creating art. I took up handpainted photography and exhibited my art in a booth next to Clyde. As the demand for our art grew, we began thinking about owning a gallery. We wanted to own the property on which the gallery stood, and we felt the property should reflect Clyde’s photography: the environment of Florida. We spent several years looking but could never find the right property; it was always too expensive or in the wrong setting. We loved driving the scenic Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) through the Big Cypress National Preserve whenever we went to Miami. One particular spot on this drive appealed to Clyde and me but for very different reasons. I love funky places and people, and Leon Whilden’s Orchid Nursery had both. For years I had wanted to visit it. Clyde had noticed the property as well. One day Clyde was out by himself and stopped to photograph the beautiful pond next to the parking lot of Whilden’s nursery. Just as he set up his camera, he heard a shotgun blast. He turned to see an armed older man screaming obscenities at him and telling him to get off his property. From that day forward, I could not convince him to even consider stopping. So, one day, I was by myself driving back from a visit with the Miccosukee Indians when I noticed a little sign that said, “Parking $2” in front of the orchid nursery. I drove in, waving $2 from the window, and was greeted by a friendly older man and his little white dog. He invited me to walk around the 13 acres of land he owned. The property was so peaceful and beautiful. I could visualize building a home in the back and a gallery up front next to that beautiful pond Clyde had tried to photograph. As I was leaving, I saw a sign that said it was for sale! My dream became our reality in 1992 when we purchased the land and nursery from Leon. When I painted this photograph, I added an otherworldly feeling to the image because our experience in this place has been a dream come true. The Art of Hand Painting Black and White Photographs Niki prints her images on fiber-base black and white mat surface paper in the darkroom, then using Q-tips and cotton balls, she applies a thin coat of oil paint over the surface allowing the image to gently be seen through the oil paint. Archival Print Making Niki’s open edition gicleé artwork is printed on Sunset Bright Velvet Rag matte finish paper using eight archival inks. A state-of-the-art Epson Stylus Pro printer creates deep, rich dark values that hold subtle detail in the shadows as well as bright vivid colors that are truly tropical.