The story behind Botanicals begins with a restaurant.
It was a Polynesian Restaurant called Mai-Kai, located in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant offers a full revue – fire dancers, tropical gardens, lagoons, thatched roofs, tiki torches, waterfalls, traditional food, tropical drinks.
Every so often, as a special treat, a young DL Watson and her family would pile into the car – DL in the backseat as the car slowed over the bump of the planked wooden bridge that would, if only for an evening, compress the distance between South Florida and tropical Polynesia.
DL Watson and her family loved the Mai Kai. They loved the wonderment and excitement in the many dining rooms and the gardens. They loved it so much that DL’s father, a commercial artist, decided to bring a part of the Mai Kai back to their home in Miami.
First, it was the thatched awnings over the doorways. Then, when a hurricane hit Miami in the 60’s and destroyed the palms, DL’s father turned the trunks into his own, hand carved tiki torches.
The tikis were approximately 2.4 meters tall and placed around the family’s pool. He ran a torch that ran through each column’s center so they could be lit and inlayed his carvings with exotic plants and flowers.
“In every sense of the word, I was raised in a tropical paradise,” says DL.
The flowers that spliced into the trunks were a fantastic assemblage. Species that would never occur together in nature joined in these hand-crafted totems around which DL would play. And, as she would play she would unknowingly gather inspiration that would blossom in her own art later in her life.
“Just as some of the plant arrangements my father created, my work is never quite true to nature,” says DL. “My inspiration may be the patterns found in nature, but my backyard memories from my childhood, in this tropical wonderland, create my color fantasy.”
After creating her latest series, Botanicals, DL Watson found echoes of the tiki torches and the Mai Kai hidden in the colors and forms of her newest paintings.
“It wasn’t until all of the paintings for this series were done that I discovered the connection to my childhood and what my father had created around our pool,” says DL. “I continue to be amazed at what hidden emotions and images find their way to the canvas with absolutely no intent.”