Wild Bananas | Richard G. Tiberius

Wild Bananas  |  Richard G. Tiberius

38 inches (96.5 cm) wide by 28 inches (71.1 cm) high

The banana is one of the most popular fruits, sold in markets throughout the world. As anyone who has eaten one knows, they do not contain seeds. The only way the banana tree can reproduce is by sending up shoots. Yet today these seedless bananas are grown in over 100 countries. Humans are totally responsible for their dissemination by uprooting shoots and planting them, as did the farmers who first noticed this oddity more than 7000 years ago, somewhere in Indomalaya.

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The folks who planted this clump of bananas could not have known that their farm would become part of a nature park where no one cleans out dead leaves or prunes and replants the shoots. So perhaps I should refer to them not as “wild” bananas but as “bananas gone wild” or “Feral” bananas.

For an artist, this clump represents a rare opportunity. It doesn’t look anything like a farm. Here we see the whole range of colors from the deepest green to yellow with brown and rusty edges. New leaves with their smooth borders look like huge paddles. As they age, they split into segments. Then, as the parent plant recalls its nutrients and pigments from the older leaves to use them in newer growth, the older leaves fade to a dull tan and the segments between the splits curl into conical rolls. The result is almost abstract—a panoply of color and form.

The bright sunlight reflecting off the leaves added sparkle to the riot of colors and shades. From a distance these patches of reflected light were pure white. But as I approached closer, the veins of the leaf, which had been masked by the glare, became apparent as pale green stripes. In this painting I retained both the sun patches and the green stripes. A painting can be more than a snapshot. It can include several perspectives.

These bananas live near the beach in Playa Pinuela, a park in Costa Rica. They are probably Musa acuminate or Musa balbisiana, two of the common cultivated species.

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