Archives: Visual Arts

Bogota’s Ledania brings street art indoors for Museum of Graffiti show ‘Private Spaces’

Written By Vanessa Reyes
September 29, 2022 at 9:31 PM

She’s one of the most prominent artists on the Bogota graffiti scene. Diana Ordoñez, known artistically as Ledania, brings her art to Miami’s Museum of Graffiti in a show through November in Wynwood. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Graffiti. The word itself can cause a strong reaction. Many see it as the defacement of public walls and buildings. But graffiti has arrived to become something else — art.

“So many people are focused on whether (the art) is legal or illegal and they are not looking at the sheer talent. When you look at Ledania’s work, you see pure talent with aerosol,” says Allison Freidin, co-founder of the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood.

Diana Ordoñez, known artistically as Ledania, began graffiti painting 15 years ago on the streets of Bogota, Colombia.

Diana Ordoñez, known artistically as Ledania, began graffiti painting 15 years ago on the streets of Bogota, Colombia. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

“The most significant part (for me) was that I didn’t want only people who knew about art to see my work, but everyone who takes up the same space I do,” says Ordoñez. “It’s a motto I took upon myself — to take over the walls that were built to divide people and spaces and use them as a unifying piece through art and color.”

The 34-year-old has taken the motto to heart throughout the world in the past decade, displaying her murals in places such as the Artscape Festival in Sweden and the Curitiba Biennial in Brazil. Now, she is bringing her solo exhibition, titled “Ledania: Private Spaces,” indoors to Miami’s Museum of Graffiti.

While “Ledania: Private Spaces” is only the second solo show of a female artist at the Museum of Graffiti, which opened in 2019, Freidin says the mostly male-dominated world of graffiti art is opening up to women.

Ledania, “Untitled,” 2022.

“It used to be really rare (to have female graffiti artists), but now, as a new generation of writers is coming up, there have been certain artists like Lady Pink (first female artist to show at the Museum) who have paved the way for more women to come,” says Freidin.

Ordóñez says her experience as a writer (what graffiti artists are called since graffiti is a letter-based art) has changed over time, not just as a woman in the field but as an artist.

“You discover new tools, and you start growing even more because you have to start climbing higher places and turn in art at higher elevations, so you’re dealing with climate change and wall texture changes (that) make the art dependent on improvisation,” says Ordoñez, who uses primarily aerosol spray for her art.

“That is one of the reasons I love graffiti because I am not someone who plans most things out. I just wait to see how the improvisation moves the piece along.”

Unlike her previous work, she says the Miami exhibition brings “part of Latin America” with her into a much more private space. She says for the exhibit she chose to pair vibrant colors, florals, and forestry with the feeling of nature that would be a natural fit in a place of rest.

“It will be a fusion of what I started with, which is graffiti, but it is very important to me for people to be able to bring a piece of this outside artwork into the spaces that are the most private, which is the home, office or wherever it is that they rest,” she says.

Ledania, Mi Comedia, 2022, spray paint on found furniture; on wall, Tono Grises 1, 2022, stained glass on backlit mount, Tono Grises 2, 2022, stained glass on backlit mount. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

The conceptual aspect of “Ledania: Private Spaces” is important to note. It isn’t just a matter of coming to look at paintings on a wall, but rather becoming a part of the art, according to Ordoñez. That collaboration between spectator and artist includes an interactive and immersive site-specific installation that brings a more three-dimensional quality. It’s this excitement of depth that runs throughout all the work she creates.

“Art is really the only way a person has freedom,” she says. “A person who can express themselves freely through any kind of art, whether it’s music, theater, painting, or whatever helps you express yourself in the most sincere way, helps (us) not feel limited by the standards that society imposes. For me, art and culture and everything within are what gives people breath within this grid-like existence that we live day to day.”

She says her inspiration comes from the people she meets, either working in a public place or in the many countries she visits.

“I am used to painting with the noise on the streets, the onlookers walking by and talking to me and it’s almost like they are taking the art out of me, so (inspiration) can happen at any moment, at any time. But what takes the creativity to another level is learning about other cultures,” says Ordoñez, who says she spends about 10 months out of the year traveling.

She cites Asia, Japan and Singapore, specifically, as sources of great creativity.

Ledania, “Untitled,” 2022.

It’s no surprise that Ordoñez derived part of her artistic name from Leda, the famous female seduced by Zeus in Greek mythology, and whose Greek origin means happy.

Ordoñez says she is happy that she is able to create a life and has found success doing her art, something that her parents, both artists, dreamt about but never fully realized.

“My dad is a muralist, my mom is an artisan and they both studied art, but on their own time because they liked it, but they didn’t pursue it because they thought it was too complicated to actually make a living off it,” she explains. “At the beginning, there was talk about (me) pursuing graphic design or public relations, just somewhere where a paycheck was more of a sure thing, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to think that way. I just had to be more free.”

WHAT: “Ledania: Private Spaces”

WHERE: Museum of Graffiti, 276 NW 26th St., Miami

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends through Friday, Nov.18

COST: $16. Children ages 13 and under admitted free

INFORMATION: 786-580-4678 or museumofgraffiti.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Alternative Art Space Locust Projects Turning 25 With Big Move

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
September 20, 2022 at 12:01 AM

Executive Director Lorie Mertes stands in front of the new home of Locust Projects in Little River. The alternative art space will move from its Design District location in February 2023. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Wazzan)

The first exhibition for Miami’s Locust Projects, titled “Pigs and Lint,” was inspired by a discovery that Westen Charles, one of the alternative art spaces founders created after he was enlisted to fix his grandmother’s broken clothes dryer.

Miami’s longest-running nonprofit alternative art space is gearing up to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2023. With a move to a larger space in the works for its silver jubilee which will begin a new chapter for the organization, something that will never disappear is why Charles, along with his cohorts, artists Brian Cooper, known as COOPER, and Elizabeth Withstandley began Locust Projects in the first place.

“Everywhere that we wanted to show in Miami would have never shown our art,” says Charles, a working artist who teaches fine art at Miami’s Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH), and who still serves on Locust Projects board of directors.

Locust Projects founders Brian Cooper, Elizabeth Withstandley and Westen Charles circa 1998.  (Photo courtesy of Locust Projects)

Since that 1999 inaugural show, which was inside a 3,500-square-foot dilapidated warehouse at 105 NW 23rd St., in Wynwood, which the trio rented for what Charles remembers to be about $600 a month, Locust Projects has remained an incubator of new art and ideas. The exhibition space is currently on North Miami Avenue in Miami’s Design District, a little over a mile from the original location.

In February of 2023, Locust Projects will move back to a warehouse, this time in Little River. The 8,000-square foot, open floor-plan space, at 297 NE 69th St., will double the size of its current location.

“It’s always been the idea of having a space to support artists in creating ambitious work in both scale and ideas and encouraging risk-taking and experimentation,” according to Lorie Mertes, who became the executive director of Locust Projects on, what she vividly remembers as “the eve of its 20th anniversary in 2018.”

Locust Projects’ first location, Wynwood, in its first year 1998. (Photo courtesy of Locust Projects)

It was 1998 when the idea for Locust Projects began. Charles was enrolled in the University of Miami Master of Fine Arts program and still kept in touch with two of his classmates he became close to while an undergraduate at New York’s Pratt Institute. “I convinced them to come to Miami and we got a studio space together. (Wynwood) was a really dangerous neighborhood then. At the time we started there, we couldn’t imagine what it would become – the growth of the art world that would happen in Miami.”

He remembers the shows they produced of other artists were bringing people into the Wynwood warehouse. “There was a desire for art then. These were hardcore art people that were coming in. They weren’t socialites that were trying to keep up with anything. They were just people that liked art,” Charles recalls.

Two of those people who “liked art” were collectors Dennis and Debra Scholl, change agents who saw a future for Locust Projects. “It wasn’t our interest to become professional, to get professional gallery managers. We were artists,” says Charles. “We wound up meeting Dennis and Debra.” Charles confides that he told Dennis that he wasn’t sure how much longer the trio could keep Locust Projects afloat. “We got to the point where we were going to have to shut down. We couldn’t afford it anymore,” Charles says, adding that it was also taking time away from the trio’s own artistic practices.

Like it was yesterday, he remembers Dennis telling him: ” ‘You can’t stop. You have to keep going. I’ll show you how to do it to where it can be sustainable, and where you don’t have to do everything yourself.’ ”

Charles says the pair helped them form a board of directors and apply to become a not-for-profit 501c3. They sought out and got grants and, in 2006, they hired a full-time director.

Dennis became the founding board chair. For the last 14 years, Debra has been the board chair.

Jedediah Ceaser’s mural poster project on the outside of Locust Projects, Wynwood, in 2003. (Photo courtesy of Locust Projects)

“We would go to Locust exhibitions when they were in Wynwood,” Debra recalls. “The three artists that founded Locust had days jobs and they were working artists, but they wanted to do something for the arts community where they allowed an artist to come in and make whatever that person wanted without worrying about having it financed or making something for someone to purchase,” she says.

Debra says she and her husband “loved” the idea of the freedom that Locust Projects gave to artists to experiment.

“Now, 25 years later, our intent is the same and even though we’re getting a larger space, it will just allow us to let artists do even more with their practice. I can’t speak for every artist, but I think it is a place that really excites and invigorates them to continue to try different things. That’s the core of Locust Projects,” says Debra.

The new space with its 17-foot-high ceilings and access to an outdoor courtyard will allow more “room for artists to roam,” says Mertes.

One of the most confining hindrances in the current Design District location, she says, is that the size of the space has kept public gatherings small, and interactions limited. The executive director would like for people to see what is happening inside Locust Projects and to be part of the process.

“This move enables us to do that and to invite the public – to have them be involved in a more significant, hopefully, impactful way,” says Mertes.

Inside the new Locust Projects’ space at 297 NE 67th St. in Miami’s Little River neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Wazzan)

While Locust Projects has plans to purchase an exhibition space of its own one day, the new location in Little River is a five-year lease with an option to renew for an additional five years. A John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant in 2019 was “a transformative $1 million spread over five years,” says Mertes, strengthening the organization’s focus on “space, people, and programming.”

Locust Projects Board Member Diane “Dede” Moss made a matching leadership grant towards the move to the new space, according to Mertes, adding that it is meant to be a catalyst for launching a 25th Anniversary Campaign over the next year.

“We are here for the artists and the public’s good, which means that we remain free of charge. In terms of funding, that will always be part of the core value of the organization to make sure that we are accessible, equitable, and inclusive,” says Mertes.

Locust Projects will continue exhibitions in its Design District space with new exhibitions opening Nov. 19 and running through Feb. 4.: Ronny Quevedo: “ule ole allez” and T. Ellion Mansa, “Room for the living/Room for the dead.”

Currently, three exhibitions are on display through Nov. 5.

WHAT: Leo Castaneda: “Herramientas (Levels & Bosses)”, Zac Hacmon, “Mia,” and a group exhibition entitled “Sound, Stories.”

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday until Nov. 5.

WHERE: Locust Projects, 3852 North Miami Ave., Miami.

COST: Free

INFORMATION: 305-576-8570 or locustprojects.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Bogota’s Ledania brings street art indoors for Mu...

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Under-represented artists explore personal legacies in ‘Depth of Identity’

Written By Jenna Farhat
August 11, 2022 at 1:49 PM

Michael Elliott, “Seeds of the Last Tide (Clotilda),” acrylic on canvas, 33 in X 52 in, is part of the exhibition “Depth of Identity: Art as Memory and Archive” at Green Space Miami through Oct. 20. (Photo courtesy of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator)

Longtime Miami art curator Rosie Gordon-Wallace says while trauma may be part of the immigrant experience, “Depth of Identity: Art as Memory and Archive” takes in that component while looking at the legacy of the African, Indo, and Caribbean diaspora in American cities.

“The trauma is a part of our lives, and it’s a part of our stories,” says the curator, explaining that the exhibition at Green Space Miami examines the artists’ interactions with their own identities. Gordon-Wallace says the artists she worked with, who represent Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Suriname, Haiti, Kenya, and Korea, stand for “this really complicated, hyphenated definition of race.”

The exhibition on display from Aug. 11 to Oct. 20, organized by Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, will feature visual art, music, film, and performance art from 19 artists.

Kurt Nahar, “Wake up and listen,” mixed media on canvas, 299 cm x 157.5 cm. (Photo courtesy of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator)

While there are numerous themes in the work that tap into national political conversations around racism and critical race theory, Gordon-Wallace says there’s a more personal twist. She says curation for the exhibition was about “asking (artists) to look at their particular identity through the lens of art, memory, and archive.”

That identity is evident in “how people turn up in their communities, how they walk, how they talk, the cuisine, the music, the dance, the memories that they have,” she says.

Gordon-Wallace is the founder and president of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (DVCAI), an arts space dedicated to emerging Caribbean artists and artists of color in Miami, which has existed for 26 years. Some of the artists featured in “Depth of Identity: Art as Memory and Archive” have worked with the curator through DVCAI for years, according to Gordon-Wallace.

Stephanie J. Woods, “Shake EM,” 1 of 3 photographs, 24 in X 36 in. (Photo courtesy of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator)

“My methodology in curating is that I will work with artists over extended periods of time,” she says. “The goal is to take them from emerging to mid-career (artists).”

One of the featured artists, Asser St. Val, emigrated from Haiti to Fort Lauderdale at age 14. He said coming to the United States forced him to reckon with his race in a way he never had to do as a teenager in his native country.

“I realized I was different, that I was Black,” St. Val says. “And now, I have to defend myself. Because of that, I became very interested in identity and in studying the self. What is this obsession with my color?”

To understand, he began reading about the biology of melanin, the pigment that makes a person’s skin, hair, and eyes darker in color. The research informed his mixed-media paintings, St. Val says.

“He’s having this dialogue around what melanin promotes, what many people think they understand from just the color of our skins,” Gordon-Wallace says. “He tricks you into looking at the body and then plays with your mind as to what you think these folks can and cannot do as well.”

St. Val says the reckoning with his identity went on to inform his artwork.

“I started reading on Afro-centric information history,” he said. “I went down a rabbit hole in researching melanin and I found out so much. I wanted to explore those (ideas) in art and paintings. My work is in-depth research on melanin.”

Asser St. Val, “I3AGU6NTM9,” 48 in x 80 in, mixed media on Masonite. (Photo courtesy of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator)

St. Val’s three-part painting series, titled “Magical Entities,” is included in “Depth of Identity: Art as Memory and Archive.” Each painting in the series features a bright orange figure with exaggerated feminine or masculine features. Their bodies are set against surrealist, otherworldly dreamscapes. Their faces are obscured by alien-like forms which suggest lives of their own.

“I’m basically trying to master my subconscious mind, and I’m sure people will respond to it,” St. Val says. “They will. . . personalize it in their own way. I hope someone who looks at (the paintings) can identify a spiritual entity there.”

The exhibition will take the featured artists from the emerging stage of their careers to mid-career designation, Gordon-Wallace says.

Autumn T. Thomas, “Lift Every Voice,” Paduak wood, wenge wood, resin and copper, 56 in X 62 in X 3 in. (Photo courtesy of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator)

In addition to St. Val, other artists included in the show are Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Samo Davis, Michael Elliott, Yacine Tilala Fall, Grettel Arrate Hechavarría, Caroline Holder, Kim Myung-Sik, Izia Lee Lindsay, Suchitra Mattai, Bruno Métura, Mazola Wa Mwashighadi, Kurt Nahar, Julian Pardo, DhiradjRamsamoed, Autumn T. Thomas, René Tosari, Stephanie J. Woods and Kim Yantis.

For St. Val, emerging as a mid-career artist means that creating art is a full-time career rather than a part-time endeavor. “That was the ultimate goal from the start,” he says.

WHAT: “Depth of Identity: Art as Memory and Archive”

WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 11 through Thursday, Oct. 20. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7  p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday by appointment. 

WHERE: Green Space Miami, 7200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami

COST: Free 

INFORMATION: 786-306-0191 or dvcai.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Bogota’s Ledania brings street art indoors for Mu...

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Diana Ordóñez, known artistically as Ledania, is a street artist based in Bogota, Colombia. She brings her work inside for a solo exhibition at the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood.

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DJ’s pandemic street photography subject of HistoryMiami’s ‘Capture’

Written By Jonel Juste
July 28, 2022 at 4:34 PM

The photograph “Racism is a Pandemic” is one of the works featured in “CAPTURE: A Portrait of the Pandemic” opening at HistoryMiami Museum Center for Photography on Friday, Aug. 5. (Photo courtesy of Rahsaan Alexander)

Many people lost their jobs during the pandemic and DJ Rahsaan “Fly Guy” Alexander was no exception. As South Beach clubs closed and the entertainment industry practically grinded to a halt, the professional deejay had no choice but to stay home. Yet, he refused to stay idle.

He grabbed a camera and began snapping pictures. He relentlessly chased images of a time fraught with confinement, joblessness, and protests, but also of love and change. “CAPTURE: A Portrait of the Pandemic” exhibits 60 photographs at the HistoryMiami Museum opening on Friday, Aug. 5.

The pandemic photography was a catharsis for Alexander, he says, and a way of lifting his spirits during a difficult time and showing future generations how life can go on in the face of tragedy.

“Mom Dukes,” a photograph of the artist’s mother, is one of more than 60 works on display in “CAPTURE: A Portrait of the Pandemic.” (Photo courtesy of Rahsaan Alexander)

“I think that is something that should be immortalized, and people should be able to look back at it for the years to come,” says Alexander, who has become one of the city’s most sought after DJs in the past 15 years.

“As you can imagine, when the industry shut down in the city and the world, I didn’t have a job to go back to for four months. And during that time, there was a lot of racial injustice happening with the murder of George Floyd, a lot of protests and riots,” he recalls.

While idly at home watching television and being inundated with images of tragedy, he felt the need to step out of his comfort zone, go out into the streets, and capture history.

He also felt there was a lack of coverage of the events happening in Miami.

“I would see things occurring in Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, D.C… but I didn’t really see much coverage or focus on Miami. I felt like I needed to photograph those images,” says the Guyanese-born artist.

“CAPTURE: A Portrait of the Pandemic” is an exhibition that Alexander says gives a visual representation of the events that occurred in the city of Miami since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He says the display is anchored by three of his favorite photographs, “Racism is a Pandemic,” “Listen to Her,” and a photo of his mother, “Mom Dukes,” taken during quarantine.

Rahsaan “Fly Guy” Alexander took to the streets to photograph the life-altering year of 2020. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Anderson)

Alexander’s passion for photography started when he was young, he says, and he describes himself as an artist who tried different things before turning his attention to the turntables.

“I had photography classes in fourth grade and it was something that I wanted to pursue. But when I went to university, I got sidetracked, and I never really had the opportunity to be in photography,” he regrets.

Fast forward decades later and he became one of the more high-profile deejays in Miami, being photographed, and recorded on video for so many years in the clubs.

“When the shutdown happened, I heard that voice inside telling me to take my camera again. It was like an instant reconnection, and I felt like a 17-year-old kid in high school again,” where he says he was doing a lot of photography while a senior at Miami Killian Senior High School.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed having the camera in my hand,” he admits.

Locals in historic Overtown are captured in the photo “Towners,” part of Rahsaan Alexander’s exhibition at HistoryMiami. (Photo courtesy of Rahsaan Alexander)

During the anti-racist protests, the photographer took images throughout Miami at the risk of catching COVID, he says, taking pictures while in a crowd of protesters. He confesses that he was anxious about getting the disease, but it was something that he was willing to risk.

“Thousands of people felt the need to go out and express themselves and be a part of the voice. And here I was out there.”

Also included in the exhibit are images of homelessness, something the artist says he nearly experienced himself. “In 2020 I was threatened with eviction two times. I did not have an income and I couldn’t pay my rent, so I had to enroll in a rental assistance program, otherwise, I could have been on the streets.”

Although day-t0-day life has mostly returned to normal, Alexander does not want people to forget that the world and Miami have been forever changed.

His pandemic experience led to the publication of a book of his photographs entitled “Miami with Love” and the documentary “Pivot: a 2020 Story,” an introspective look at how he rekindled his passion for photography during the exhibition.

A homeless man sends a message to police in Alexander’s “He Can’t Breathe.” (Photo courtesy of Rahsaan Alexander)

“CAPTURE: A Portrait of the Pandemic” is Alexander’s third exhibit and the first to be shown on a large scale at HistoryMiami Center for Photography. The exhibit will open to the public with a VIP event on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 4 and to the public on Friday, Aug. 5.

“Rahsaan is a talented, multifaceted artist,” says Chris Barfield, HHM’s curator of exhibitions.

“He came to us a year ago with his book and we immediately recognized that he not only documented the upheaval and change Miami has experienced since 2020, but he also lived it,” says Barfield, adding that Alexander’s work is telling Miami’s stories, which is at the core of the museum’s mission. “Capture is a personal story, it’s Miami’s story.”

Barfield hopes that museum visitors recognize that much of what Alexander photographed is still ongoing. He cites the ever presence of racial injustice and economic disparity and the continuing public health concern of COVID-19. “These issues today are all a part of what makes Miami, Miami,” he concludes.

As for Alexander, he’s back in the deejay booth but isn’t putting down his camera.

“Photography’s an extension of my artistic career. I’m an artist whose artistry comes out in different mediums. I did rap music before I started deejaying. I wrote stories before I started rapping. Being an artist is the foundation of it all,” he says.

WHAT: “CAPTURE: A Portrait of the Pandemic” 

WHEN: Friday, Aug. 5 to Monday, Jan 8, 2023. Opening reception, Thursday, Aug. 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. is free, but registration required. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

WHERE: HistoryMiami Museum, 101 West Flagler St, Miami

TICKETS: Free for members, $10 for adults, $5 for children

INFORMATION: 305-375-1492 or historymiami.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

latest posts

Bogota’s Ledania brings street art indoors for Mu...

Written By Vanessa Reyes,

Diana Ordóñez, known artistically as Ledania, is a street artist based in Bogota, Colombia. She brings her work inside for a solo exhibition at the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood.

Alternative Art Space Locust Projects Turning 25 With B...

Written By Michelle F. Solomon,

Miami's alternative art space gets ready to celebrate its silver jubilee with a move out of the Design District and into a space that will double its size.

Under-represented artists explore personal legacies in ...

Written By Jenna Farhat,

'Depth of Identity' at Green Space Miami, organized by Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, explores the impact and legacy of the African, Indo, and Caribbean diaspora in America and the hyphenated definition of race.

YoungArts exhibition in Miami co-curated with NYU explores Black visual narratives

Written By Sergy Odiduro
July 25, 2022 at 11:12 PM

Phylicia Ghee’s “Grandma / i am accused of tending to the past. Portrait of my Grandmother” (2020), is featured in the YoungArts exhibition “Home: Reimagining Interiority,” on view through Monday, Aug. 1.

A man and a woman walk together on a dirt path. He leads the way with a determined gait, balancing several items on his head.

The woman is carrying items too. On top of her crown sits a wrapped bundle. She trails behind as a child straddles her hip.

The scene is from Mozambique and it is presented by lens based artist Glenn Espinosa.

It is a common sight from a place that he calls home.

“That particular body of work came from street photography,” says Espinosa. “It is the magic of the ordinary.”

His series “Patria Amada/ LovedFatherland” is part of an exhibit entitled “Home: Reimagining Interiority,” which features the work of 20 YoungArts winners who explore Black visual narratives.

It will be on view through Monday, Aug. 1 at the YoungArts Gallery, 2100 Biscayne Blvd in Miami.

Luisa Múnera, associate curator at YoungArts, says that the exhibition came out of a  collaboration with New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs.

Dr. Joan Morgan, cultural critic and feminist author, as well as Dr. Deborah Willis, an artist, photographer and curator, are both directors at the institute and signed on to spearhead the event.

” ‘Home: Reimagining Interiority’ was an idea that both co-curators, Dr. Joan Morgan and Dr. Deborah Willis had been investigating at NYU,” explains Múnera. “While working with researchers at the Center for Black Visual Culture, they began exploring this idea of home and how it has been changing because of the pandemic. They also asked artists and scholars to think about what home means to them.”

Múnera says that launching the exhibit together was a perfect match.

“When I asked them if they would be interested in co-curating the show, they immediately said, ‘You know, we’re investigating this topic at the university level, but it would be really interesting to prompt the artists at YoungArts that are of a different generation and who maybe look at home in a different way.’ And so it’s wonderful to see lens-based artists and writers come together and show their work around home through different mediums,” says Múnera.

Daveed Baptiste, “How we found it” (2017). (Photo courtesy of YoungArts)

Viewers of the exhibit will see the work of Priscilla Aleman, Phylicia Ghee, Cornelius Tulloch, Catherine Camargo, Carlos Hernandez and Jessica Kim. among others.

Eli Dreyfuss’ piece entitled, “A piece of Me” tackles the theme of home through a discussion of patriotism. In it, stars and stripes serve as a backdrop for the image of a young man who is posing on his birthday. His eyes are closed, perhaps deep in thought.

“What I found unique about that portrait was the fact that he was at peace with himself in that very moment,” says Dreyfuss. “Despite all the chaos in the world, he’s just standing there in my studio.”

The piece is but just one example of Dreyfuss’ ability of capturing the souls of his subjects as he pulls their essence through his camera lens.  “I call myself a creative storyteller with the ultimate goal to connect with other people,” he says.

It is through this connection achieved with the original portrait that ultimately evolves into something else – something that for him was as equally as poignant.

“Two months later, during the Black Lives Matter protests, I felt very affected,” says Dreyfuss. “It moved me to do something, to make a statement. Obviously with COVID, I couldn’t go out and shoot any pictures of people. That photo stood out the most because the whole world was in shambles and he’s standing there looking at me through my screen. So, I decided to blend it with the American flag,” explains Dreyfuss. “It was at that point in the world when everyone had questions about freedom. And you had to ask yourself, ‘What does freedom mean?’ I wanted to showcase the beauty of that peaceful moment, because there’s that juxtaposition with the chaos.”

Carlos Hernandez, “Savannah in Her Bedroom” (2021).
(Photo courtesy of YoungArts)

Following the Miami showing, the pieces are scheduled to move on to the Department of Photography and Imaging, Tisch Gallery at New York University. There, it will be on view through the fall semester.

This will be the first time that a YoungArts exhibit will travel to New York. Múnera hopes that it will open the door to future opportunities.

“Thinking big picture, we would love to be able to partner with educational institutions or other galleries in New York, Miami or Los Angeles to take on shows that we have produced here. So that is something that we are hoping to expand within our exhibition program but (we) feel quite lucky that ‘Home: Reimagining Interiority’ will be the one to make that first round.”

Testimonies on how young artists view their individualized concepts of home are what make the exhibition so captivating, according to Múnera.

“There is a lot of power in their storytelling,” she says. “I think that these young artists have their finger on the pulse of what is going on and the way that people are speaking about certain things. So, in that, I think that this exhibition really highlights the difficulty that everybody was experiencing during the pandemic. In that sense, I think that it reaches many audiences and their individual stories are also quite beautiful.”

WHAT: “Home: Reimagining Interiority”

WHEN: On view by appointment through Monday, Aug. 1.

WHERE: YoungArts Gallery, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

COST: Free

INFORMATION: youngarts.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Surfside resident and Design District gallery owner takes Champlain anniversary to heart

Written By Elisa Turner
July 8, 2022 at 4:30 PM

Side-by-side figures in McLean Fletcher’s painting depict a prayer vigil soon after the Champlain Towers South collapse. (Photo courtesy of Swampspace Gallery)

In times of grief and loss, art speaks the compelling language of solace. Consider the many millions who’ve visited possibly the most profound work of public art in the past century, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

We’re living among moments of crisis, from mass shootings to war in Ukraine. Reasons to grieve bombard us daily. Art can offer a respite, an opportunity to console the soul.

It’s no surprise that in recent years more public art memorials are being created and planned to honor lives lost to gun violence.  In 2020 at the Bakehouse Art Complex, Chire “VantaBlack” Regans began her large-scale mural “Say Their Names: A Public Art Project,” commemorating lives taken by many forms of violence and abuse.

On Monday, June 20 the $2.3 million “Curtain of Courage Memorial,” in undulating bronze and steel, opened to the public in San Bernardino, Calif. It honors families and a community scarred by mass shootings there in 2015. Other memorials are planned in Orlando, Las Vegas, and Charleston, South Carolina.

Ruth Burotte portrays a wide-eyed young woman in hard hat and boots in “CHAMPLAIN in memoriam.” (Photo courtesy of Swampspace Gallery)

The first anniversary of another catastrophic tragedy, the collapse of Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside on June 24, 2021, recalled a daily unspooling of horrific news as we learned how 98 people were killed. It’s considered one of the deadliest construction failures this country has witnessed.

Surfside resident Oliver Sanchez took the first anniversary of the tragedy to heart. He mounted an affecting one-month exhibit, “CHAMPLAIN in memoriam,” at Swampspace, his Design District gallery and studio space.

It pays homage to first responders and a community’s need for comfort following a stunning disaster. Calling on talents of his close network of artists, some of whom he has previously exhibited, Sanchez curated a selection of painting, poetry, photography, and installation art by 12 visual artists.

On the opening night of the exhibition, on Friday, June 24, plaintive, soothing strains from a flute and harmonica played by Surfside resident Marcos Winer filled Swampspace, reprising what he did after the collapse. Winer would go to the site almost daily, recalls Sanchez, playing on the beach “for the lost souls hovering there. He did this for the dead, not for the living.”

Wanting to recognize the first anniversary but unsure at first if the exhibit was a good idea, Sanchez remembers some discouraged him by saying, “We’re moving on.” A veteran figure in Miami’s art community, he decided to mount it anyway.

“I hope it helps people process their grief on whatever level they are experiencing it.  Grieving is a part of life,” he says. “Art is healing because it brings our feelings to the surface.”

Sanchez points out a large painting by New World School of the Arts grad and faculty member Reinier Gamboa, who’s created murals in Wynwood and Little Haiti. “It’s really the anchor for the show. It’s so prophetic.”

Reineir Gamboa’s “Ruins of Miami” is the anchor of “CHAMPLAIN in memoriam,” says Oliver Sanchez, who curated the exhibition. (Photo courtesy of Swampspace Gallery)

Gamboa’s 2021 “Ruins of Miami” shows an angelic statue reaching out in a gesture of benediction amid piles of concrete rubble. In the background, glimmers of silver light may evoke slim but determined hope as they pierce darkening clouds over the ocean. Flying ibis, as graceful as ballerinas, elude a snarling dog. Dwarfing the statue in the foreground is a massive piece of earth moving equipment.

A smaller, less imposing painting from 2020 by Kiki Valdes also employs Christian imagery. It shows a crowd gathered around a crucified Christ, their distraught expressions somewhat in the style of Otto Dix, whose art was shaped by the trauma of World War I. “I painted this during COVID in Wyoming. I was painting all about spirituality,” Valdes says.

Other artists acknowledge first responders. In her gouache illustration on a digital print background, Ruth Burotte portrays a wide-eyed young woman in hard hat and boots. Eddie Arroyo, painting from a photograph taken by Sanchez, renders green-uniformed responders viewed from behind as they walk toward their shift at the site. Their no-nonsense professionalism is clear; their facial expressions must be imagined.

Some artists convey the tenor of those days in the immediate aftermath. Photographs by Tina Paul and Arhlene Ayalin record a community coming together to support each other. People contemplate a make-shift memorial on Harding Avenue. They gather in prayer when it was announced operations would shift from rescue to recovery.

“I was trying to get a sense of the beauty and sadness, not really to concentrate on the horror,” Paul says.

Resembling spirits themselves, intimately side-by-side figures in McLean Fletcher’s painting depict a prayer vigil soon after the collapse.

As a self-appointed historian of the disaster, Sanchez contributes an approximately 15-minute slide show, with 100 photographs presenting early history of Surfside, pivotal moments of June 24, 2021 and continuing to the present.

Eddie Arroyo, Champlain Towers Surfside, 2021, 18X36-inches, acrylic on linen, inspired by a photograph by Oliver Sanchez in “CHAMPLAIN in memoriam” at Swampspace Gallery in the Miami Design District. (Photo courtesy of Swampspace Gallery)

Art by Sharif Salem honors the memory of his father Nabil Salem, a longtime Miami resident and advocate for Lebanese immigrants, Sharif explains. Nabil died of cancer on July 4, 2021. Together the two watched television news about Champlain while Nabil was hospitalized. For the son, losing his father and the Champlain collapse are intertwined memories.

“At that time of the search for people, we were going through my dad’s last days. He was very concerned about the other people,” Sharif says, recalling how his dad, despite deteriorating health, fretted that the search was too slow.

Sharif has enlarged scans of his father’s official ID document in Beirut, showing a black and white photograph of his father at age 16, with notations in French and Arabic. In this context, his art may only seem tangential. It is richly telling for multi-cultural Miami.

“CHAMPLAIN in memoriam” is presented in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission, a disaster relief nonprofit based in Doral. Some works are for sale and a portion of the sales will be donated to GEM.  “If people want to support their efforts, they can give directly to Global Empowerment Mission,” explains Sanchez. “They’re really doing the hefty lifting.”

WHAT: “CHAMPLAIN in memoriam”

WHEN:  noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment through Friday, July 22.

WHERE: 3940 N. Miami Ave., Miami

COST: Free

INFORMATION: swampspace.com or 305-710-8631

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Public art exhibition on billboards in Miami makes a statement about jail system

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
June 29, 2022 at 1:55 PM

Six artists’ works, including the above billboard by Faylita Hicks, are featured in the Art at a Time Like This public art exhibition ‘8X5: Artists Against Mass Incarceration, Calling for Judicial Reform’ throughout Miami. (Photo courtesy of Fred Vogel)

Public art brings art to people where they are. That’s the purpose of a billboard and bus-stop billboard exhibition throughout Miami. The nonprofit Art at a Time Like This commissioned six artists for “8X5: Artists Against Mass Incarceration, Calling for Judicial Reform,” to create public artwork meant to create awareness and spark conversation about the United States’ criminal justice system. Not just awareness, however, but more a focus on the inequities of mass incarceration.

The more than two dozen billboards have been strategically placed throughout the city near courthouses and government offices, according to Anne Verhallen, the co-founder of Art at a Time Like This, who curated the exhibit with co-founder Barbara Pollack. The title of the exhibition, “8X5” refers to the size of an average prison cell.

“The billboards can have up to 350,000 viewpoints a week,” says Verhallen. “It’s important to bring politically and socially engaged works to the public and make them easily accessible. . .to influence one person’s thought, to trigger someone’s mind, to make an impact with an artwork versus an advertisement.”

Barbara Pollack, left, and Anne Verhallen, co-founders of Art at a Time Like This, are curators of “8X5: Artists Against Mass Incarceration Calling for Judicial Reform.” (Photo courtesy of Dana Buckley)

Art galleries and museums, Verhallen explains, can be intimidating by design and, to many, not available whether it be because of economic constraints or a feeling of not belonging at a museum or inside an art gallery. “They might be intimidated in a sense that they don’t know if and how they can interact with an artwork or if they feel they aren’t an ‘expert’ on art. If you bring these works into the streets, you remove that element of access,” she says.

Art at a Time Like This partnered with SaveArtSpace, another nonprofit whose sole mission is to replace advertising spaces with public art. Both are based in New York.

The works included in “8X5” are by Guerrilla Girls, a collective of feminist activist artists, Shepard Fairey, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Sam Durant, and two artists who have themselves been incarcerated, Sherrill Roland and Faylita Hicks. There are no Miami artists included in this iteration of Art at a Time Like This. Verhallen acknowledges that is something that is missing in the Miami “8X5” project. Time constraints, she says, prevented an open call to Miami artists. Moving forward, they will include artists selected from an open call.

Strategically placed by the Freedom Tower and FTX Arena is the Sam Durant billboard as part of the public art exhibition ‘8X5.’ (Photo courtesy of Fred Vogel)

There are messages, however, that are Florida-centric. Guerilla Girls’ billboard cites statistics: “Floridians are sentenced to prison at a higher rate than 37 other states and every nation worldwide. Black Floridians are imprisoned at a rate 4 times higher than others. Florida prosecutes more children as felons than any other state.”  Sherill Roland’s Florida facts are displayed by poking fun at the cheeky “Did You Know?” way of presenting information.

Guerilla Girls also have a public art billboard in Spanish at two locations: ¿Por qué ee uu tienne el 5% de la población mundial pero el 20% de sus prisioneros?

With the project next traveling to Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and ending in New York City, Verhallen says billboards in other cities will have some of the text-based art specific to those areas, such as the ones in Miami that accented Florida’s inequities.

The dates of the display in Miami are dictated by the contract with the billboard companies. Many of the billboards throughout the city will be on display through July 6. One, near the FTX Arena by Durant, however, will remain until July 20. Verhallen says that depending on the billboard company’s (in this case Clear Channel) schedule, some of the art may remain longer.

Guerilla Girls also addresses Spanish speakers in one of its billboards in two locations in Miami. (Photo courtesy of Fred Vogel)

Hicks, currently based in Chicago, born in California and raised in Texas, is one of the featured artists. (She identifies as a non-binary femme person and prefers a gender-neutral pronoun.) They spent 45 days in a Texas jail for a $25 check that bounced at a grocery story. It was May of 2010 when Hicks was homeless and living in their car. Because they had no permanent address, a warrant was issued and was never received, so when they failed to appear in court, they were found and arrested.

Hicks’ billboard, which, like the others appears in multiple locations throughout Miami, features a photo of a person smiling with an American Flag placed over their eyes. The text reads: “Hold these truths to be evidence, all are created equal endowed with rights, among these: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.”

Faylita Hicks spent 45 days in a Texas jail whose billboard in the ‘8X5’ project features an ‘erasure poem.’ (Photo courtesy of the artist)

“I released an essay entitled ‘The Lineage and Language of a Liberation.’ In that essay, I mention that the conversations that impact us regular (folx) the most are not the ones being held via major television stations and political campaigns—it’s the ones being held at the bus stop or train station, the ones being had while sitting at the kitchen table or in a bar. A billboard is a conversation starter—and it’s one that desperately needs to be happening,” says Hicks.

Hicks is currently a writer in residence for the Texas After Violence Project, a nonprofit curating an oral history archive for people impacted by mass incarceration and people on death row.

“Before my arrest, I was a spoken word artist and writer whose work often focused on the rights and protections for marginalized communities both in and out of the US, including the performance pieces created to highlight human trafficking in Texas,” says Hicks.

Artist Sherill Roland spent 10 months in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. His work is part of the Art at a Time Like This 8X5 billboard project in Miami. (Photo courtesy of Fred Vogel)

In the decade after their arrest, they began to integrate music, photography, digital art and film into their work. Being included in the Art at a Time Like This project is vitally important, Hicks says, especially right now.

“My billboard is the opening of an erasure poem that will reimagine the Declaration of Independence,” says Hicks. “If the U.S. Constitution, the one that has been so mercilessly abused by our Supreme Court Justice over the last several months, is based on the principles put forth by the Declaration of Independence, then it feels only natural to evaluate the quality and weight of the language used  . . . and to consider if it is perhaps time to revise or start a new draft . . . one that prioritizes the inclusion of ideals and values of the historically marginalized.”

WHAT: “8X5: Artists Against Mass Incarceration, Calling for Judicial Reform,” Art at a Time Like This and SaveArtSpace

WHERE: Throughout Miami. See Google Map of Locations

WHEN: Through July 6, one through July 20

COST: Free

INFORMATION: artatatimelikethis.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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MOCA extends monumental ‘My Name is Maryan,’ then it goes to Tel Aviv

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
May 27, 2022 at 12:15 AM

Maryan, “Two Personnages,” (1968), oil on canvas; 52 x 64 in.  (Photo courtesy of Venus Over Manhattan, New York)

He shed his real name to reinvent himself from the person who was persecuted by the Nazis. While much of his work was born of the atrocities he suffered, the artist known as Maryan was firmly against being labeled a Holocaust artist. His wife, Annette, fiercely guarded his work for the same reason after his death at the age of 50 in 1977.

This aversion to what could be a rigid classification of his art explains why, after viewing the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami’s comprehensive and prolific exhibition, “My Name is Maryan,” you are left with the feeling that Maryan might just be one of the most overlooked artists of the 20th century.

The exhibition is all-encompassing – “holistically” examining the chapters of the artist’s life and work, according to MOCA guest curator Alison M. Gingeras. Four decades of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and his 90-minute black-and-white film take up 12 galleries inside. In addition to 176 of Maryan’s works, there are 36 pieces by his like-minded contemporaries included, and 29 ephemera.

“My Name is Maryan” opened on Dec. 2 during Miami Art Week and was set to close at the end of March. It has been extended through Oct. 2, 2022. It needs to be seen.

“My Name is Maryan”  originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA), and will travel to Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami)

“It’s been three years in the making,” says Chana Budgazad Sheldon, executive director of MOCA about the large undertaking. After it closes at the North Miami museum, “My Name is Maryan” will travel to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for a five-month showing beginning in December.

Gingeras explains that while Maryan’s widow physically preserved his work, she was also known for being “overprotective of his legacy.” She says Annette “thwarted the work of art historians and researchers,” especially those who were interested in the works that explicitly addressed his Holocaust experience. “This certainly was an impediment to his legacy,” she says.

For MOCA, Sheldon says the museum’s mission perfectly aligned with an exhibit of Maryan’s oeuvre.  “The work that we do is both focused on connecting with the community, lifting up diverse voices and stories, and featuring unexplored art and artists.” Based on the scholarship and a selection of never-before-seen works from the artist’s estate, the intent is to cast a new light on Maryan’s contributions. “As comprehensive as this exhibition is, it really is a new beginning for understanding the artist,” says Sheldon.

So, who is Maryan? Born in 1927 as Pinkas (sometimes written as Pinchas) Schindel to Abraham Schindel and Gitla Bursztyn, the first 12 years of his life were unremarkable in Nowy Sącz, Poland. But in 1939, his Jewish family was captured by the Nazis, placed in forced labor camps, and Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. He was imprisoned under his mother’s maiden name of Bursztyn and survived several near-death encounters. Injuries inflicted upon him made it necessary for his leg to be amputated. The rest of his family perished. He was 18 years old when Russians liberated the camps in Germany.

He then went to Israel to begin his art training and after that to Paris, where he adopted the name Maryan, a common Polish first name, according to Gingeras.

Maryan, “Personnage,” (1963), oil on canvas; 60 x 60 in. (Photo courtesy of Spertus Institute, Chicago)

The story of how “My Name is Maryan” was born at MOCA comes from a personal encounter.  Sheldon joined MOCA in January of 2018 and recalls that she had only recently been appointed director when she was touring Art Basel Miami Beach at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was the first year that New York gallery Venus Over Manhattan was exhibiting. There, in booth S5, were a group of paintings depicting wildly garish, cartoonish figures, yet sinister in their slyness. These were Maryan’s “Personnage” paintings.

“I recognized the work from catalogues that used to sit on the bookshelf of my mother’s house that I remembered from a young age,” Sheldon says.

Sheldon’s grandmother was one of the Hidden Children of the Holocaust. “She was hidden in a convent in France with the woman who ended up married to Maryan,” Sheldon recalls.

She says she didn’t meet the artist before he passed away, but she had met Annette and knew that her husband was an artist. “When I started working in the arts in my 20s, Annette invited me to her apartment on the Upper East Side. It was basically a trove of paintings and like a time capsule of all of his works. His paintbrushes, his journals that she had been protecting for years were there. At the time I thought, ‘Someone should archive this,’ ” she says.

After connecting with the Venus Over Manhattan gallery and reaching out to Gingeras, a writer and curator who is based in New York and Warsaw, the journey of “My Name is Maryan” began.  “It’s been quite the adventure,” Sheldon says.

One of the last works of the Polish-Jewish artist included in the exhibition is the 1975 black-and-white film shot on 16mm, “Ecce Homo,” which took a year to make. He is sitting in his Chelsea Hotel studio in a straitjacket, a Star of David drawn across his chest. He reenacts Holocaust memories, giving first-person accounts. The sketchbooks that preceded the making of the film are also included in the exhibit. The film and the books are compelling accounts offering a deeper understanding of the artwork on display.

Guest curator Alison M. Gigneras recreated Maryan and Annette’s Chelsea Hotel apartment-studio. It is the first gallery in the retrospective. (Photo courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami)

Gingeras traveled to Maryan’s hometown of Nowy Sącz. Back in New York, she visited friends and neighbors of Maryan’s from his days living in the Chelsea Hotel. That storied apartment-studio is re-created in the MOCA exhibition. It is, in fact, the first gallery in the retrospective.

“I wanted the viewer, especially one who had never heard of Maryan, to walk into the ‘Chelsea Hotel’ approximative installation and be immersed in his visual universe, to be saturated by the optical power of his painting when he was at the height of his artistic powers,” says Gingeras. She reconstructed the Chelsea Hotel studio from photographs from his time there in the 1970s.

And, it was in New York where he once and for all changed his name to Maryan S. Maryan.

For the exhibition at MOCA, Gingeras was definite in her decision to not follow a conventional linear chronology.

“If we began with Maryan at the start of his artistic life, we would have immediately overwhelmed the viewer with the harrowing tale of his childhood under Nazi occupation and imprisonment,” says the guest curator. “It was important to me that viewers be able to read his work on multiple levels and not just through the lens of his trauma and survival.”

Maryan in his New York Chelsea Hotel apartment-studio, 1974. (Photo courtesy of Susan Wiley)

The curator says it wasn’t easy to select what works would be included. “Maryan was a prolific artist. By all accounts, when he painted or drew, he would work in permutation and produced a lot of work in one go. It was challenging to edit down the work, but I attempted to give an overview of the range of his oeuvre,” says Gingeras.

She highlighted key themes in his paintings, while also going into depth about his groundbreaking film and drawings he made while in therapy for his Holocaust-related trauma.

There is excitement about the next chapter of “My Name is Maryan” as the retrospective heads to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Gingeras is working with Noa Rosenberg, Tel Aviv Museum’s Curator of Modern Art.  “She has unearthed new information about his time in Israel, which will be an important part of the Tel Aviv version of the show,” says Gingeras.

When it opens at the museum in Israel, Rosenberg, speaking from Tel Aviv, says it won’t be a carbon copy of MOCA’s exhibition. Rather than an all-out retrospective, there will be more emphasis on the three years the artist spent in Israel and a larger conversation, including but not limited to, how Israel received Holocaust survivors.

“His time spent here is unfortunately a reminder of how difficult, how detached, and how misplaced he was. When you talk about this artist here, there are few people who know the work, and not many know who he is still,” says Rosenberg.

Maryan, “Personnage in a Box,” (1962), oil on canvas; 60 ¾ x 60 ¾ in. (Photo courtesy of Venus Over Manhattan, New York)

She remarks that she was surprised to discover that there were more than 20 pieces of Maryan’s works that had been donated to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

“It is unbelievable in doing the research that we found so many works that he did while he was here, and they are very different from the ones that he made later on,” Rosenberg says.

Rosenberg says those works will be added to “My Name is Maryan” in Tel Aviv along with letters discovered. She says there will be two questions that will be part of the discourse: “Where does Maryan belong in art history? And to talk or not talk about the Holocaust?”

Her hope is that the exhibition can travel after its Tel Aviv stop to Poland and Germany, although she emphasizes, nothing has been decided.

“It is very moving to me that his work would return to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art where he had a major exhibition in 1977, opening just months after his untimely death. The Tel Aviv project will contribute to our effort to tell as much of Maryan’s story as possible,” says Gingeras.

WHAT: “My Name is Maryan”

WHEN: Through Oct. 2, 2022. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

WHERE: Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA), 770 NE 125th St., Miami

COST: $10, general admission, $3 for visitors identifying as disabled. Free admission for MOCA members, North Miami residents, and city employees. Other free admissions available. Contact the museum at info@mocanomi.org.

INFORMATION: 305-893-6211 or mocanomi.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Bogota’s Ledania brings street art indoors for Mu...

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Miami Beach native Michele Oka Doner leaves footprint on upcoming ‘Aspen Ideas: Climate’ Conference

Written By Elisa Turner
May 3, 2022 at 10:10 PM

Miami Beach native and artist Michele Oka Doner will visit the “Aspen Ideas: Climate.” Her artistic legacy has long been inspired by Florida’s fragile eco-system. (Photo courtesy of Don Freeman)

Whether or not she’s in sight of the sea, artist and designer Michele Oka Doner has the soul of a beachcomber, ever curious to comb her imagination for paths linking art and science. Those paths have taken this New York-based artist and Miami Beach native as far as China. In 2021 her “Velocity of Light,” inspired by clusters of stars, was installed at the Shanghai Astronomy Museum.

Growing up in Miami Beach, Oka Doner recalls how much she loved to play on the beach, obsessively sorting through sand to collect fragments of coral and shell. To her, they resembled an alphabet, a calligraphic record of natural history.

Those calligraphic fragments would one day find their way into her widely exhibited body of work melding art and natural history – work that now spans five decades. The upcoming conference, “Aspen Ideas: Climate,” from Monday May 9 through Thursday, in Miami Beach, recognizes that our coastal region is seriously threatened in this era of climate crisis. It will also pay homage Oka Doner’s various contributions to public awareness of the natural history of Miami Beach and South Florida, interlacing the history with her art.

Her artistic legacy, long inspired by Florida’s currently at-risk eco-system, now seems prescient.
For “Aspen Ideas: Climate,” the City of Miami Beach published a new edition of the book Oka Doner co-authored with fellow Miami Beach native, Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr. The book is “Miami Beach: Blueprint of an Eden.” Mining their families’ extensive archives, they detail the city’s cultural and political history, its distinctive plant life and geology.

“We’re going to give (the book) to sponsors and speakers because it tells such a beautiful story about Miami’s rich history,” says Michele Burger, the chief of staff for the City of Miami Beach.

Lauren Shapiro’s large sculptural intervention will be on display at the Royal Palm South Beach during the “Aspen Ideas: Climate.” The work, entitled Site-R16 Transect 1, refers to a now-extinct coral population. (Photo courtesy of Shireen Rahimi)

Conference attendees will also see subtle reminders of Oka Doner’s “A Walk on the Beach,” the stunning bronze and terrazzo concourse extending over a mile through Miami International Airport and commissioned by Miami Dade County Art in Public Places. The concourse is embedded with nearly 9,000 unique bronze forms, echoing the biodiversity of South Florida aquatic plants and creatures.

An image of one of those bronze forms adorns tote bags, water bottles, and staff and volunteer T-shirts at the conference. The image is inspired by a colony of star coral where each cell in the colony is a separate living creature but interconnected with the others in order to survive and thrive.

As Oka Doner explains, “Like star coral, our human species can join together and function as a colony in order to navigate a rapidly changing environment.”

The May conference is the first time the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Aspen Institute has addressed climate change, where it is bringing together local and international policy makers, scientific experts, corporate leaders, and other stakeholders.

According to Jon Purves, associate director, media relations and communications for “Aspen Ideas,” more than 70 to 80 educational programs at venues, both held in- and outdoors are in place to engage those attending with ideas about ways to address the dramatically altering climate. Attendance is expected to exceed 800, Purves says.

In synch with an ambitious event that promotes creative thinking about a momentous global challenge, there will be daily offerings of public art, film, and performances at Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach Botanical Garden, and Soundscape Park, adjacent to New World Center. South Florida artists taking part include visual artist Morel Doucet, ceramic sculptor Lauren Shapiro, and performance works by artists Dale Andree, Brigid Baker, and Michelle Grant-Murray.

Morel Doucet’s “The Ocean Dances Over Sun Buttered Mountains,” Porcelain, Ceramics and Slip Cast (2019). Doucet will create a piece for “Aspen Ideas: Climate.” (Photography courtesy of the artist)

Burger says Oka Doner inspired her to include artists in the event. Deeply involved in the planning of “Aspen Ideas: Climate,” Burger notes that while individuals may have their own definition of climate resilience and sustainability, some may be inspired by art or design, food or fashion to ponder their own environmental footprint.

“We are suggesting using art as one of those vehicles to inspire people,” Burger says. “So, we’ve engaged about 15 artists to participate in some kind of visual art and performance art program.”

Oka Doner plans to attend the conference. She says she is curious to see how it will address the “monumental shifts” Miami Beach is facing, commenting that the area is threatened by both rising waters and winds from storms that are stronger than in previous generations.

And there’s the issue of South Florida’s incessant building on vulnerable land that is cause for concern, she says.

Performances at “Aspen Ideas: Climate” will include work by Michelle Grant Murray. Pictured is Rose Water Dance by Olujimi Dance choreographed by Grant Murray. (Photography courtesy of the artist.)

“It’s a cultural issue. We live in a culture that if you overeat too much you can take a pill. If you have too much sugar, you can go to the doctor for insulin. There’s been a pill for everything. And we have not taken personal responsibility. The planet is not here for our use and that’s how it’s been perceived.”
Oka Doner believes that developers are looking to big tech to solve the problem, or as she says, “deliver the pill.”

She continues: “They’ve sold that you can build up, and that things will evolve. Well, perhaps they could evolve but the problem is nobody knows when a Katrina-like moment will come.”

Pondering where we are today, Oka Doner says that the culture has shifted from where we were even a decade ago.

“I think the values of zero sum, winner take all, are much more apparent.” She expresses disappointment by “the inability of adults of grown adults to sit in a room and do what’s best for the community not for their constituency.”

How to move toward solutions?

She does not mince words.

“We need a council of elders. We need everyone working together.”

WHAT: “Aspen Ideas: Climate”

WHEN: May 9-12 with programming, receptions, field trips, performances, and art activations.

WHERE: New World Center, 500 17th St, Miami Beach; Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach; Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, and other venues across the city.

COST: Outdoor art activations and Wallcast evening programming is free. Full day tickets, $150-$250.

INFORMATION: aspenideasclimate.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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‘Forest: Ancestry and Dystopia’ is homage to the Amazon

Written By Sergy Odiduro
April 4, 2022 at 10:06 PM

Luciana Magno’s “Belterra” is featured in “Forest: Ancestry & Dystopia” at Miami’s Fundación Pablo Atchugarry. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Now’s your chance to step into a hidden world filled with fragile ecosystems, breathtaking natural resources and ancestral communities.

An exhibit titled, “Forest: Ancestry and Dystopia” — a lens-based homage to the Amazon tropical rainforest — is running through July 16, 2022, at Miami’s Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, 5520 NE Fourth Ave. Presented by The55Project Art Foundation, it features the work of 16 Brazilian artists who are known for capturing the heartbeat of the Amazon, reflecting the essence of its people, and sounding the alarm so that others can work together to  protect it.

“We want to create clarity and an awareness when it comes to this topic,” said Flavia Macuco, executive director of The55Project. “We want people to know that we have indigenous cultures. We have the forest that we need to preserve. We have deforestation, and we also have a mining problem. It’s very important that we bring this message to Miami.”

As part of this messaging, the exhibit includes a range of activities aimed at educating a new generation of informed citizens, including workshops, school field trips and a sensory-friendly exhibit tour for those with autism spectrum disorders.

“Falling Sky/The end of the world” is from Claudia Andujar’s Yanomami Dreams series. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

For Macuco, the exhibit and related activities perfectly align with the goals of her organization.

“The55Project has a mission to bring cultural history and cultural projects from Brazil to create an exchange with local American communities,” she said. “People enjoy it because sometimes they can only see the Amazon forest or indigenous people through the news, so when this exhibition started, we felt that we are doing our job in creating this opportunity to exchange ideas, and to create educational programs for the kids, and to open their minds to the problems that they will face in the future.”

Eder Chiodetto, former curator of photography at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, carefully selected each piece for the show.

“I looked for artists like Claudia Andujar, who opens the exhibition showing the deep wisdom of the Yanomami indigenous people,” said Chiodetto in an email. “It is one of the most touching works I know, because Andujar is an artist who makes very original use of photography to show the dreamlike universe of a unique and complex culture that is not her own.”

Walda Marques’ “Comigo ninguem pode.” (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Another featured artist: documentary filmmaker Lalo de Almeida, who poignantly captured images of the arson fires that wiped out 30 percent of South America’s Pantanal wetlands.

“Curating this exhibition is a political and poetic gesture that aims to sensitize hearts and minds,” he said. “It shows the wisdom and the transcendental nature of the forest vis-à-vis excessive capitalist ambitions that exhaust resources and murder indigenous people …

“Even the illegal burning of forests and the pollution of rivers in Brazil are largely sponsored by the demands of First World countries, avid for wood and ore. This attitude goes back to the colonization process that seems to have changed its features, but follows the same logic of the expropriation of other people’s territories.”

Chiodetto believes the exhibit is one way to inform people today while also addressing the concerns of tomorrow, serving as a visual reminder that each person has an important role to play: “It is high time for everyone to use their full potential to create awareness of the world we will leave for future generations.”

 

WHAT: “Forest: Ancestry and Dystopia” exhibit

WHEN: Through July 16, 2022

WHERE: Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, 5520 NE Fourth Ave., Miami

COST: Free

INFORMATION: email info@the55project.com; visit the55project.com or fundacionpabloatchugarrymiami.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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‘Aerial Vision’ at Wolfsonian-FIU coming to a close

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
March 10, 2022 at 4:20 PM

The Eiffel Tower, created for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, was the tallest structure in the world at one point. This drawing study from 1937 is by Andre Grenet, who was married to the granddaughter of Gustave Eiffel. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)

“Aerial Vision” at The Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach is all about point of view.

Or, as curator Lea Nickless puts it, “how you look at things from different perspectives and how that has an impact…

“The idea of the exhibition is how the early 20th-century technologies of skyscrapers and airplanes provided a previously unavailable platform to see and interpret the world.”

On display through April 24, the exhibition utilizes paintings, prints, drawings, magazine covers, postcards, sheet music, collector plates and other objects to show how these inventions gave birth to a new era that was born practically overnight.

A chandelier (1937) by architect Kjell Westin for The Norma Restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, has transportation images etched in glass. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)

“This new view affected everyone … artists, architects, urban planners and designers,” Nickless says, adding that it sparked creativity and introduced novel approaches for living, working and traveling. “Everything in the exhibition is a result of an interpretation of this new view by a visual thinker.”

In effect, the exhibition is a result of Nickless’ ever-evolving views of the pieces in The Wolfsonian collection, which she says today numbers 200,000 items and counting. It’s not a stretch to say that Nickless has an encyclopedic knowledge of the collection. She began working as an assistant at Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr.’s first gallery in 1984, at what was then known as Miami Dade Community College.

“It was called the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts,” she says.

In 1997, Wolfson gifted his Mediterranean Revival-style Washington Storage Co. building on Washington Avenue to Florida International University. The gift included about 70,000 items, which Wolfson had amassed from his expeditions throughout the world. There’s also a library with about 50,000 rare books, periodicals and other reference materials.

Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr. at The Wolfsonian-FIU. (Photo/Roldan Torres)

Many times through the years, Nickless says she kept encountering items from The Wolfsonian’s collection that reflected a point of view, such as classic airline posters that showed the view from above and other pieces with a perspective from below.

“Suddenly you are looking at the world in a different way,” Nickless says.

In tandem with how Wolfson himself views his objects – he’s interested in what he says is the “narration of the pieces” he collects, not just the individual items – Nickless kept returning to the concept of creating a perspectives exhibition.

Together with Richard Miltner, exhibition designer at The Wolfsonian, they arranged approximately 165 works from the collection into nine chapters: Aerial Art, The Sky’s the Limit, Urban Heights, Selling the View, Portraits of Power, Every Roof an Airport, Heightened Anxiety, A New Domain, and Free Falling.

This anti-war painting by Virginia Berresford, titled “Air Raid II” (1937-1938), depicts a woman’s outstretched hand gesturing skyward in defiance of incoming bombers. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)

“Aerial Vision” pays close attention to detail including Miltner’s design of the space.

“For me, I like to say it’s not about my design, but looking at the objects and interpreting it that way,” Miltner says. “I did pick up on how there are specific shapes that are used [in the works], such as the architecture.”

The exhibition showcases some of The Wolfsonian’s one-of-a-kinds, including Art Deco bronze elevator doors from a Boston hotel circa 1929; a copper spire from the 29th floor of The Woolworth Building, which was the world’s tallest skyscraper from 1913 to 1930; an oversized beer glass with skyscraper imagery promoting Ohio’s tallest glass of beer; and two realty-scape paintings, one of which was commissioned by the Greater Miami Development Co. to promote land sales in South Florida.

One of the most important pieces, Nickless says, is a 14-foot-tall watercolor rendering, circa 1929, of The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel: “We have never shown it before because of its dimensionality.”

The exterior of The Wolfsonian-FIU, in the building that formerly housed the Washington Storage Co. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)

Almost 100 percent of the pieces are from Wolfson’s collection. (At age 82, he says he continues to collect every day and has no intention of stopping.)

Three pieces are from Wolfsonian staff members who are also collectors: two vintage photographs of Miami by Richard B. Hoit from development director Michael Hughes; and an 1955 aerial map of Miami and Miami Beach from accounting coordinator Larry Wiggins.

Selecting the pieces for “Aerial Vision” was a difficult task, Nickless says, and the exhibit features just half of what was on her original checklist because of space constraints, among other issues.

“The material is rich and deep. There is so much,” she says.

With expansion plans underway at The Wolfsonian, there would eventually be triple the space to show off the massive and continually growing collection. The new space is expected to add 35,000 square feet by late 2026 or early 2027, according to Casey Steadman, director of The Wolfsonian-FIU.

More space means more opportunities to display what’s now kept in storage as well as any of Wolfson’s new finds – pieces that he says “each are a part of a great chapter in this book of objects.”

 

WHAT: “Aerial Vision” exhibit

WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays, through April 24, 2022

WHERE: The Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

COST: $12 for general admission; $8 for seniors, students with ID, and children age 6-18; and free for Florida residents and students, faculty and staff of the State University System of Florida. Free Fridays weekly from 6-9 p.m.

INFORMATION: 305-531-1001; wolfsonian.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

 

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Purvis Young art featured in his beloved Overtown

Written By Sergy Odiduro
February 24, 2022 at 5:10 PM

The Purvis Young exhibit is on display in the Premium Lounge at the MiamiCentral Brightline Station in Overtown. (Photo courtesy of Brightline)

Purvis Young’s artwork was a running commentary on his surroundings, a window into the concerns of his soul.

Originally from Miami’s Liberty City, the late artist was a well-known neighborhood fixture in Overtown and chronicled life there.

Now, in time for Black History Month, some of his pieces are on view in his beloved Overtown — thanks to a partnership between the Brightline intercity rail system and The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida.

The free exhibit features 19 original pieces inside the Premium Lounge of the MiamiCentral Station, 600 NW First Ave., with a QR code video showing Young describing his artwork and his creative process. Both the art and videos were supplied by The Black Archives, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve materials that reflect the African-American life, experience and culture in Miami-Dade County.

“Purvis Young was a modern-day griot in terms of how he documented the Black experience through his eyes and what he saw in his environment,” said Timothy A. Barber, executive director of The Black Archives. “All of his artwork was created from what many people would consider trash that was thrown out: carpet, metals, telephone books. He took that trash and made it into a treasure through his artwork.”

Young, who died in 2010 at age 67, was a prolific, self-taught artist. His interest in art reportedly was sparked while imprisoned as a teenager, during a three-year sentence for breaking and entering. After his release, he was readily found at the library, where he spent his time devouring art books and studying greats such as Cezanne, Rembrandt, El Greco and Van Gogh.

When he wasn’t at the library, he was most likely puttering around in Good Bread Alley, so-called because, at one time, residences and bakeries were said to sell bread there. But the construction of Interstate 95 in Overtown brought a downturn to the area.

Young refused to give up hope, most days hard at work, urgently attempting to transform the alley into an artistic oasis. Through his vision, Young ultimately took the art world by storm.

“Here is a man that was considered crazy and homeless. He painted on wood, metal, whatever he could find, and hung them outside of abandoned buildings,” Barber said. “Now this is the same artwork in museums across the world.”

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Keon Hardemon speaks at the launch of the Purvis Young exhibit. Brightline president Patrick Goddard is pictured at far right. (Photo courtesy of Brightline)

Nationally, Young’s pieces have been featured at institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Young’s passing did little to lessen his impact. One of the reasons Young’s artwork is so important, Barber said, is because he looked beyond blight and focused on aspects that most would readily overlook.

“He drew people with a halo above their heads because he saw the good in everything that was happening in the community,” Barber said. “Showcasing his work allows for people to dream big.”

Barber hopes those who view the exhibit will be inspired to explore the artist further by visiting The Black Archives, which is headquartered within Overtown’s The Historic Lyric Theater and is home to hundreds of the artist’s works.

“We want people to know that The Black Archives is a repository for Black history from 1896 to the present. We’ve been around since 1977, and we are certainly happy that we have been given the opportunity by Brightline to showcase what the Black Archives are,” Barber said.

Brightline has also made a $5,000 donation to the organization.

This is the first time that we have done an art exhibition in conjunction with Black History Month,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. “We are always looking for an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our communities …

“Overtown is a destination that has a lot to offer, and there’s a lot for all of us to learn.”

For those who haven’t experienced the art of Young yet, Goddard said it’s something that must be done in person.

“I’m not an art curator, but I find that Purvis Young’s artwork is the type of art that you have to see in person,” he said. “It’s so much more impactful that way.”

 

WHAT: Purvis Young art exhibit

WHEN: February 2022

WHERE: Brightline MiamiCentral Station, 600 NW First Ave.; accessible to riding public as well as from outside the lounge

COST: Free

INFORMATION: gobrightline.com/offer-details/307

 

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Bogota’s Ledania brings street art indoors for Mu...

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