Kiti Wenzel was an extraordinary woman, teacher and artist. On Friday, September 14th, 2007, she was taken from us, four months shy of her 100th birthday.
Kiti was already demonstrating her artistic talents in high school; it was a series of drawings in her high school paper that earned her a full scholarship to the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here she started her artistic career after graduation. Much of her time was spent educating children in the principles of art. Kiti moved from Philadelphia to Florida in 1956; during the 1960s. she and her husband owned and operated a restaurant, art studios and gallery on Fort Myers Beach, while still teaching art to a limited number of students. After a move to Sarasota, where she continued her career as a professional artist, she moved back to Fort Myers.
It was in 1981 that Kiti did her first drawing of a bromeliad, Billbergia pyramidalis, which was given to her by a friend. In 1985, she joined the Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society and was intrigued by the wonderful and varied forms of bromeliads and other botanicals. Her switch from impressionistic and abstract painting to the realism of growing plants was fueled by the various plants she intentionally grew for the purpose of using for study and as models. Kiti once wrote "the surprise of each different and individual inflorescence is enough excitement to inspire drawing to record the many varieties nature produces."
There are hundreds of her original watercolors and colored pencil drawings of bromeliads adorning homes throughout the world. Kiti's collection of horticultural print greeting cards remain cherished gifts when sent by a friend. Her numerous Art Exhibitions held over the last four decades here in Florida were memorable events. Her generosity is well documented by her contributions of her works to many auctions of local and international organizations as well as providing posters and original designs for World Bromeliad Conferences' publications.
Although we will never see her picture surrounded by the Smucker's logo on the "Today Show" with Willard Scott… announcing to the world her 100th birthday, Kiti has still left her own unique label on canvases, cards, tee-shirts and most importantly on the hearts of all who knew and admired her. For more than 75 years, she constructed a legacy as a teacher and creator of beauty. The diversity of Kiti's work has distinguished her as a truly exceptional artist and especially as a master of "botanical art". She captured nature with pencils, ink and paint so that many others could enjoy it; and in so doing, Kiti Wenzel, in spite of her passing, allows us to keep her creativity and inspirations close to us for a long time to come.