A Sense of Place: Mangroves

An Essay about the Brazilian Artist,
Ernesto Kunde

Wines of place are tasked with a higher calling, sacred and not easily attained – to transmit the unique vinous identity of an individual plot of land from which the grapes came. The reasons we ask this of fine wines are cultural, commercial and historical. They are also personal and spiritual.

Through OVID Guest Essays, we invite a broader perspective on the intersection of place, purpose and time, as told firsthand through authors, artists, innovators, explorers and craftsmen. Each storyteller has spent a lifetime listening to these evocative places and advanced our understanding as vineyardists and students of terroir.

We invite you to enjoy this piece penned by arts and culture journalist Stephanie Sporn about the sense of place artist Ernesto Kunde transports through his flora-inspired pieces.

Growing up on a farm in South Brazil speaking Portuguese, Ernesto Kunde never let his limited access to artistic materials stifle his creativity. “I used to paint with my grandfather’s leftover coffee,” remembers the Miami-based artist, who’d voraciously sketch the cows and mountains, among other scenes within his reach. He’d relish in the days that his sister, who was studying in the city, would travel home with design and art books and magazines in hand. Kunde’s appreciation for the flora and fauna of his surroundings eventually led him to Florida, after a brief art-school stint at Cooper Union in New York – he’d clash with his teacher who wanted him to specialize in abstraction.

“Almost everything I paint is related to my surroundings. Built into my subconscious from an early age was the idea to always play with what you have, and for me, that was nature,” says Kunde. A pivotal turning point came several years ago when the artist was kayaking in Biscayne Bay. “The way the mangroves grew reminded me so much of the corn fields on my family’s farm in Brazil – part of the roots were in the ground; part exposed, but here, they were much bigger and in water,” recalls Kunde. The artist was especially “fascinated” by the plant’s shadows, which has inspired the interplay of positive versus negative space in his work. Florida’s abundant Spanish moss, a frequent subject in his art, also reminds Kunde of his childhood home: “During Easter time, everybody from the town used to come to our house to collect the moss and make a nest to put eggs in.”

Beyond its vegetation, Florida has additionally influenced Kunde’s palette. “I’ll always be inspired by color where I see our sunsets,” he says, noting how they vary in different parts of the state, though the ones in the Keys are particularly beautiful with their range of pastel to vibrant hues. Kunde’s bold paint choices are further shaped by master colorist Paul Cézanne, his favorite artist. While Kunde’s high-contrast, graphic works most immediately evoke Pop art, Impressionism is also integral to his œuvre. “It’s always good to see Cézanne’s brushstrokes because with my work, too, it looks abstract when you stand up close, and you have to step away to see the big picture,” he says. “I want the viewer to be intrigued.” In Kunde’s canvases, branches and leaves often appear like Abstract Expressionist splatters or photographic negatives, electrified by vibrant expanses of color that heighten the plants’ patterned effect.

While Pop art generally embraced widespread consumerism, Kunde remains reticent to accept Miami’s own increasingly commercial landscape; he prefers landscapes filled with nature. “The city has changed a lot since I moved here. There’s more traffic, more buildings, more noise,” says Kunde whose studio is in the art-filled Little Haiti neighborhood. Finding respite in the Everglades and other rural oases just a few hours away, the artist envisions eventually moving outside Miami, to surround himself in the nature he gains such inspiration from.

And even if Miami itself isn’t Kunde’s forever home, it will eternally be a part of him as the place that unlocked his full potential as an artist. The city emanates through his work, just as his work is omni-present in the city. While he has produced several temporary murals there, he aspires to create a permanent piece of public art to grow with Miami’s ever-changing landscape. “What I love about art is the process of creating and evolving because change is inevitable.”

Art, much like great wines of substance, pose a point of view and can capture a singular moment. For Kunde’s work, this may be a snapshot of a mangroves knotted vines, revealed as they have a moment of dry respite before the next high tide. For the wines of the OVID estate, a bottling is the liquid representation of the moment in time that the grapes were picked and the years that informed the vineyard, millennium that produced the soils and months where the berries went from buds to clusters. Each instance is a unique moment, never captured the same way again. Change is the only constant, and often it takes a true artist sometimes a winemaker to translate the potential of a moment into art that the world can appreciate.  

The iconic, red volcanic soil series of Pritchard Hill lines the narrow road leading up to OVID Napa Valley.

About the Artist 

Ernesto Kunde was born in Paraíso do Sul, Brazil in 1973. After a brief stint re-discovering his family roots in Germany (where he worked in agriculture in Mosbach), Kunde returned to Brazil in 1995 where he first began his artistic journey by experimenting with works on paper: drawings and controlled coffee stains. Since then, Kunde has narrowed his aesthetic focus into painting on a diverse range of surfaces (most prominently found wood and canvas).   

Having worked as a full-time artist for more than a decade, Kunde has a presence throughout the city, where his large-scale paintings of the South Floridian landscape are readily on view in retail hotspots, such as designer Holly Hunt’s showroom, as well as in temporary exhibitions, including at Sagrado Café and Boulan South Beach hotel. His work is represented independently in Miami and by Drew Marc Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida Kunde lives and works in Miami (Little Haiti). 


About the Author 

Stephanie is an award-winning freelance arts and culture journalist based in New York City. Specializing in the intersection of art, design, and fashion, she writes for Christie’s auction house, TEFAF, and Art Basel, while also regularly contributing to a multitude of publications, including Architectural Digest, Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, and  Artnet, among others. She co-authored Inside: At Home with Great Designers (Phaidon, 2022) which invites readers into the distinctive homes of 60 of today’s top interior designers, and is active in the field of fashion academia.