In Cascading Citrus artist Victoria DeBlassie uses the history of citrus in Florence as a point of departure to unveil how cultural and economic value is constructed and deconstructed over time to comment on notions of sustainability. Since value is what determines what gets conserved and valorized and what gets discarded and thrown out, DeBlassie uses this process to reconsider the discarded as potential for creating an environmentally conscious future. During the Italian Renaissance, citrus was cherished by the Medici family since it was only available to the wealthy due to its rareness. It was housed in Renaissance gardens and in citrus greenhouses, also known as the limonaia made specially to protect this fruit in the winter months. Revealing change and development over succeeding centuries, citrus decreased in value cross-culturally as they became ubiquitous. DeBlassie applied ecologically friendly Tuscan tanning techniques to community-collected citrus peels that would otherwise have been thrown away to preserve them while recalling this Florentine history and questioning how systems of cultural and economic value are socially constructed. From the tanned peels, DeBlassie has machine stitched them together to create a type of cascade that recalls dramatic Renaissance fountains, a stark contrast to the peels’ potential fate of being tossed in the garbage. DeBlassie’s process reflects both the history of the material itself as well as the history of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi as the first house of the Medici. The centrally located unfurling citrus cascade in the Limonaia leads the viewers’ eye to the fountain of the Renaissance garden, the landscape feature DeBlassie is referencing to connect the past with the present.
Contemporarily, DeBlassie uses citrus as a metaphor for the excess of contemporary life. Reflecting on the idea of our wants and our needs, DeBlassie investigates the necessity of eating food, paired with the absurdity of having unseasonable food available all year long due to globalization that indulges our desires for a specific kind of food. The superfluity of always having everything readily accessible has led to the climate crisis. Her transformation of orange peels represents the possibility for a sustainable social change compatible with the rhythms of nature.