Sofia Valiente – Foreverglades

DANIEL BLAU is thrilled to present Foreverglades – a major project by interdisciplinary artist Sofia Valiente. This project brings stories of the Glades and Florida’s pioneer history to new light through a series of contemporary photographs and published in a unique photobook.
Originally settled in 1925, the fertile Belle Glade region is a major agricultural center and played an often-overlooked role in the development of South Florida. The geography, folklore and cultural expression of the American frontier are most often associated with the West. With Foreverglades, Valiente draws our attention to a watery, verdant Southern frontier and the pioneer spirit that made an uninhabitable land home. ‘We were never meant to live in Florida’ says Valiente. ‘It was said they were buying land by the gallon!’
Valiente’s artistic work is driven and distinguished by lengthy periods of rigorous field research in which she lives within the communities she photographs. She has a remarkable ability to forge relationships across differences, building trust and producing intimate, moving portraits of people and the places they live in. She has resided in the Belle Glade area for five years and Foreverglades has emerged from this period of personal experience and research.
Valiente’s vibrant photographs are sensitively interwoven with the pages of a local history book, ‘Swamp to Sugar Bowl: Pioneer Days in Belle Glade’.
This 1968 book by Lawrence E. Will considers the history of the region from the late 19th century to the 1960s. By embedding her pictures within this existing text the artist posits history as an unfolding story and highlights enduring cultural traditions – such as the Harvest Queen beauty pageant that started in the 1940s and continues to this day.
The talents and interests that informed Foreverglades were already notable in 2014, when Valiente became one of the winners of our 5 Under 30 competition for young photographers with her project Miracle Village. Miracle Village saw the artist living among registered sex offenders in a rural Florida community, getting to know them and producing a body of photographs and a publication that incorporates handwritten testimonies from the residents.
We were honored to exhibit Miracle Village in 2014, and 2015 and she went on to receive the World Press Photo award for this project in 2015, among other prizes and fellowships. Foreverglades was awarded a prestigious Knight Arts Challenge Grant of $75,000 to support its production.
The conceptually and aesthetically rich Foreverglades book will inspire reflection beyond their specific South Florida context. This is an important artwork by an artist whose open mindedness and anthropological approach to artmarking are deeply impressive.
Carrie Foulkes, 2020
The book Foreverglades by Sofia Valiente
The book Foreverglades by Sofia Valiente