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FLorigami: Folded Images of Florida’s Hidden Nature by Michael LaFosse

Original Exhibit Dates:  March 29 through September 18, 2005

Michael LaFosse is a Massachusetts resident and paper-folding master who has exhibited his delicate origami paper sculptures all over the world. A biologist by training, LaFosse has studied endangered species and folded their likenesses for museum displays elsewhere.

For FLorigami, LaFosse brought his talents to Florida to observe, sketch and fold the Florida Everglades ecosystem. Twenty-five original origami paper sculptures depicting the flora and fauna of the Everglades, with all the variation of size, color and form as the living plants and animals, made up this exhibition, specially created for The Morikami Museum. The show also helped increase public awareness of the plight of the Everglades by educating visitors about the threatened species that make their home there and how they are connected to one another.

1) Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana)
Folded from two five-foot squares of our handmade paper. The white side is abaca colored with titanium dioxide, the black side a blend of 80% abaca and 20% hemp fiber, pigmented with carbon black.
This bird prefers feeding in shallow waters, sweeping its bill from side to side, sensing vibrations from its prey. It often perches in dead trees, hence its name, ever on the lookout for small amphibians, fish and reptiles that inhabit the shallow waters.
My challenge was to show the black color on the legs, head, beak, and at the extreme edges of the wings, yet still maintain a folded form capable of showing detail in the face. Though the beak could be longer, this folding pattern suited me best, and even though it took several tries, I am pleased with the result. — Michael LaFosse

2) American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis) 
Wet-folded from a single, five-foot square of our own 70% abaca-30% cotton rag handmade paper. 
This show would not be complete without an alligator, a critical component of the fragile Everglades ecosystem. In many ways this was the most challenging form for me to render in origami. The first step was to fold an elaborate grid-work of scales, which reduced the surface area of the paper by 75% (and took about 50 hours). 
It is appropriate that my massive, initial sheet of paper was quickly consumed by this relatively small but voracious reptile. The gator was then folded from the condensed, heavily-textured paper. While I coaxed the form from the damp mass of scales, it writhed and wrestled with me. —Michael LaFosse

3) Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Folded from two 22-inch squares of our handmade paper. The white side is abaca colored with titanium dioxide, the gray side a blend of 80% abaca and 20% hemp fiber, pigmented with carbon black and titanium dioxide.
These fish-eating birds dive and swim proficiently through the water. The anhinga has feathers that do not repel water easily, unlike ducks and geese. This is why they are so often seen perched on logs and rocks, spreading their wings to dry while resting between meals. I have opted for a simple, geometric look for this model, in order to emphasize the familiar silhouette of its seemingly welcoming, outstretched wings. —Michael LaFosse
4) Florida Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis)
Folded from two 5 ½-foot square sheets of our handmade abaca paper. The gray side is colored with carbon black and titanium dioxide, the white colored with titanium dioxide.
The Florida sandhill crane is smaller than the whooping crane, and has more gray. The Florida subspecies is one of three non-migrating populations that are more threatened by habitat loss than their migrating cousins. – Michael LaFosse
5) Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)
Folded from a nine-inch square of our tissue-thin, overbeaten, abaca fiber paper, which we pigmented with titanium dioxide.
Most orchid enthusiasts hope to see or photograph this rare and endangered, white flower blossom. A so-called “leafless” species grows on trees in hardwood hammocks, but is difficult to catch in bloom since it is so rare. It actually begins as a seedling with a single leaf, which soon withers after the gray root mass forms.
I was inspired to fold this species after a visit to the International Orchid Center in Delray Beach, where I learned more about the orchids native to Florida. – Michael LaFosse

6) Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) 
Folded from a 29-inch square of our own handmade paper, consisting of 80% abaca fiber and 20% hemp colored with iron oxide, carbon black, and copper-bronze pigments. This is the last species of tortoise still found in the eastern United States. A gopher tortoise burrows into drier, sandy, higher ground, feeding on small plants, grasses, and fruits. More than a decade passes before a tortoise matures to reproductive age. Often, predators ravage a female’s single clutch of eggs. 
My style for this tortoise is more of a folk-art treatment. When I studied these tortoises at the Gumbo Limbo Center, Boca Raton, and at Dreher Park Zoo in West Palm Beach, I found these creatures to be real characters. I was amused by their stubborn, purposeful digging, and their intense facial expressions when making the arduous trek to the food dish. – Michael LaFosse

7) Sea Turtles 
Folded from a 19-inch square of our handmade paper, 50% abaca and 50% cotton rag fiber, pigmented by phthalo blue, phthalo green, and carbon black. 
This model represents several species that visit Florida waters and beaches to lay their eggs at night. Hatchlings emerge from the nest after dark, and quickly scamper to the relative safety of the open ocean water. Because my first observations of sea turtles occurred when I was scuba diving, these origami models are bluish. Other colors of sunlight are absorbed by the first few feet of ocean water, making most creatures appear bluish. 
I have a particular fondness for turtles, and have designed many origami turtle models. When I was very young, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to grow up to be a turtle! – Michael LaFosse

8) Lady’s Slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule)
Each blossom is folded from a seven-inch square of handmade, two-colored 100% abaca paper, the green side colored with phthalo green and powdered mica, the pink with napthol red and powdered mica. Each leaf is folded from a single eight-inch square of handmade abaca paper, colored the same as the green side of the blossom papers.
Although this is the most likely orchid one may see in the wild, it is a rare sight these days as its habitat — moist, acidic, sun-dappled pine forests and wetlands— is cleared and drained. All orchid species in the United States are protected.
Enjoy the treat of seeing these vanishing beauties while you still can. I saw many stands of them in Massachusetts pine forests back in the 1970s. Those stands, sadly, have been cleared to make way for development — even though the lady’s slipper is a protected species! – Michael LaFosse
Wood Stork 1) Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana)
Wood Stork 2) American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)
Wood Stork 3) Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Wood Stork 4) Florida Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis)
Wood Stork 5) Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)
Wood Stork 6) Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)
Wood Stork 7) Sea Turtles
Wood Stork 8) Lady’s Slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule)