University of Delaware student Cate Medlock had always dreamed of seeing the Amazon River, so when the opportunity arose for her to join thirteen other students and professor Sue Barton on a study abroad excursion over winter session, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to go somewhere pretty special and this program was the perfect blend of nature, art and culture so it was exactly what I wanted,” said Medlock, a senior environmental science major.
Barton, professor and Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the study abroad presents two courses—Field Sketching of Landscape Subjects and Plants and Human Culture, which is a course she teaches each fall.
The students visited the Amazon for the first week of their time in Brazil and then travelled to Rio de Janeiro where they were able to visit the home and gardens of artist Roberto Burle Marx and look at works by Marx and other Brazilian landscape architects and artists.
During their time on the Amazon, the students stayed in the floating Uacari Lodge in the Mamiraua Reserve, which afforded them the opportunity to encounter the plants and animals of the Amazon—such as pink river dolphins and caimans—close up.
“It’s pretty crazy to tell people that you were staying on a floating lodge in the middle of the river, hanging out on a hammock sketching and seeing pink river dolphins,” Medlock said.
In Rio de Janeiro, the students visited several gardens designed by Burle Marx, the landscape architect credited with beginning the native plant movement in landscape architecture. In addition to Burle Marx’s home, the students visited a rooftop garden, Flamingo Park and Tacaruna, a restored Burle Marx garden. Students also enjoyed Inhotim, a public Garden featuring modern art in galleries and landscape settings.
Many of the Brazilian artists the students researched for a study abroad presentation had their art displayed throughout the Garden.
“At least six students found their artists either at Inhotim or in Rio,” said Barton. “One of them, Eduardo Kobra, did a huge mural on a wall that was done for the Olympics. As soon as the students saw the pieces, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my artist.’ It was very cool and was a really nice connection.”
For their final project as part of the study abroad, the students had to sketch a montage of five images from their time in Brazil. These montages are now on display in the hallways of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
Medlock said that even though she didn’t have any previous artistic experience, it was a great opportunity to learn and travel, and that her sketchbook is something she will cherish forever.
“You come back with this sketch book full of some really bizarre objects that you see but you’re staring at them for a long while and it’s an intimate knowledge of this one area. I can still picture myself in that one spot where I was sitting sketching that object and there’s notes about it and I’m journaling about things I saw or how I was feeling at the same time,” said Medlock. “It’s almost a little time capsule that I get to look back and see who I was at that time and what I was feeling and what I was thinking.”
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos courtesy of Sue Barton