On the back wall of the UCF Art Gallery is a piece featuring four scoria rocks, one jutting out of its frame, drawn on top of a map.

It is titled "Passage" and though it is one of the smallest pieces in the "LeafStorm" exhibit — which is being held until Feb. 13 — its creator, artist Mary Stewart, suggests gallery gazers focus their attention on this piece in particular.

"Some of my favorite works in the UCF Gallery exhibition combine maps with realistic drawings of rocks found in that particular region," said Kevin Haran, assistant director of the School of Visual Arts and Design at UCF, in email. "Through her art, Mary is communicating a feeling and memory associated with a special place."

"Passage" is part of a series called "Angle of Repose," which gets its name from the eponymous theory referring to the maximum angle at which, lets say a pile of sand, can rest on an incline without tumbling.

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Stewart, who is also a Florida State University professor, is concerned with global warming, and "Angle of Repose" refers to the tipping point at which people start to make positive changes.

"Frankly, I'm quite concerned about climate change. It is not theoretical; it is happening," she said. "What happens when nature fights back? What happens when there is a leaf storm? What happens when things become out of balance to a point which nature cannot rebalance. That's the framework from which I'm thinking about."

Stewart's work is meant to convey a personification of nature. To her, nature is incredibly powerful and can either be a powerful ally, or if we treat it badly, a powerful adversary.

It is her focus on this subject that motivated UCF to highlight Stewart's work.

"Her fascination with nature and celebration of its renewal sets a precedent for our students and faculty," said Yulia Tikhonova, UCF Art Gallery director in an email.

Stewart creates her work by taking photographs, which she then reorganizes on Photoshop to create infinite landscapes. Though much of her process takes place on a computer, Stewart is a self-proclaimed technophobe: The Photoshop edition she uses was released in 2007 and she finds newer ones too complicated. She also doesn't use social media or text.

"What I want to accomplish is several fold: The first motivation is understanding something myself and so I am grappling with my own perceptions and experiences in the amazing Florida landscapes. Second, I wish to communicate my love of the landscape and feeling about it as much as I can to as broad an audience I can. Third, I hope that … as many visitors as possible will walk away thinking about the landscape and thinking about nature a bit differently," Stewart said.

People often times look at art because it can broaden their frame of reference, she said. Thus, it can help one look at the world another way.

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Jason Burrell, assistant director of the School of Visual Arts and Design at UCF, explained that some of the pieces are on the edge of representing exactly what they are and symbolizing something more.

"It's a picture of trees, but it evokes stronger emotions than just a picture of trees," he said.

On the last day of the exhibition, Stewart will be giving a 2 p.m. talk titled "From STEAM to STREAM" where she will discuss connections between convergent and divergent thinking, and consider ways in which art and resources can enhance STEM-area studies.


Alex Wexelman is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at

Read or Share this story: