Texas native turned Miami artist highlights environment, experience in ‘Textures of Humanity’
Troy Simmons, “Pearl,” (2023), reinforced concrete, cardboard, wood, house paint, acrylic mix, and powder-coated aluminum, is one of the works included in “Textures of Humanity” at Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami. (Photo courtesy of Fredric Snitzer Gallery)
As a boy, Troy Simmons would spend summers sitting at his grandfather’s feet on a small farm in Texas and watching as he created magic with his hands.
Totem poles were coaxed from hunks of wood and furniture emerged from deer antlers and skin.
Intrigued, Simmons attempted to follow suit and, on that farm, (his very first studio) he fiddled with sticks, experimented with concrete and dirt, and launched his career through the art of play.
“I didn’t go to art school,” says Simmons. “Basically as a kid, I just was one of those kids that liked to experiment with things.”
And while his family encouraged his creative side, they also reminded him to be practical.
“My parents weren’t fans and didn’t really know much about art, so there wasn’t a discussion about ‘Oh, I’m going to be an artist. There was more of like, ‘Okay, you’re having fun playing with that wood, now go get a job, find a career and you could play with that later on.'”
And that is what Simmons did.
His first job opened his eyes, giving him a front-row seat to a whole new universe.
“I got a job working as a lab technician for a water treatment company,” says Simmons.
“It was interesting. It brought me into this world of microbes and really seeing what’s in the water that we’re drinking before we put it back into the environment and the water that’s coming through our tap. All that stuff was cool for me,” he says. But, he admits that he was bored.
“I wasn’t able to be creative . . .” says Simmons.
During his off hours, he made sculptures but it still wasn’t enough. He decided then and there he needed to go in an entirely different direction.
“I went back to school again for architecture. It was one of those things for me that felt like it was checking all the boxes,” he says.
Then working at a design-build firm satisfied some of the yearnings.
“I was able to take a customer’s idea from a napkin and basically put it into the real world…So this was all growing my art practice at the same time, too. So, when I got off from work as an architectural designer, I would come home and do my own sculptures.”
But when his wife was offered a new career opportunity, the couple moved to Miami and it afforded him the chance to wholly immerse himself in his artistic practice.
“We just decided to make that career change. My art practice is pretty mobile so I was able to move my tools and everything Miami and so it was good for us. We were young. We were excited . . . We chose to come and explore Miami. So, when I moved to Florida, I basically just jumped all into the art world.”
It paid off.
His pieces have been featured at numerous events including Art Basel Miami Beach, VOLTA New York, Art Paris and the Cornell Art Museum. He received the Oolite Ellies Creator Award and completed residencies at Artpace San Antonio and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. His pieces appear internationally in private and corporate collections and he has also been tapped repeatedly for permanent public installations. This includes “Janus Portal,” a towering 22-foot concrete aluminum and steel sculpture commissioned by Bombardier Inc. at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport and a building facade in Wynwood commissioned by Goldman Global Arts at the Wynwood 2300 building.
His latest exhibition, “Textures of Humanity,” is on view at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery through Friday, June 30.
“This is our first solo exhibition of his work,” says Joshua Veasey, managing director of the gallery, who adds that highlighting a local artist is important for the gallery.
“The other artists that we’re showing right now are based in Los Angeles yet have lived in Miami for a number of years, but our program is sort of rounded in the sense that we work with a lot of Cuban artists, a lot of Latin American contemporary artists, artists in Los Angeles and in New York, but it’s always important for us to be able to highlight and showcase a Miami artist.”
Veasey says that Simmons offers a unique perspective mostly because of his science and environmental studies and architectural background as opposed to formal visual arts training.
“. . .That he doesn’t come from this structure of visual art . . . it’s pushed his own vernacular and his own voice and what he identifies with on a personal level into work that is very sophisticated and nuanced. And that also feels poetic with the way that he is juxtaposing these different materials together into his own formal language.”
The show consists of five pieces, but one, in particular, has caught Vesey’s eye and, he says, he believes it’s the most powerful work in the show.
” ‘Chasm,’ which is a work done all in black,” he says. “It’s really nuanced and it’s something that you really have to see in person.
Vesey says what draws him to the work are differentiations between the tonalities of the blacks, as well as a play between matte and gloss finishes within the work.
“You can almost see different dimensionalities in that sense,” says the gallery director.
Simmons says that the piece entitled, “Pearl,” reminds him of his grandmother’s jewelry box.
“Just a bunch of old pieces of jewelry all intertwined so that she couldn’t get the knots out. It’s just this stuff sitting in there. I’m thinking about all those colors that I saw. This gold and this green, emeralds, and these little trinkets of rusted tin copper looking stuff that was fake gold. So, all those different things are coming into play as I was completing this.”
Transforming materials in his environment is a theme commonly found throughout his work, which leads to the title of the exhibition “Textures of Humanity.”
“I use concrete as a material because concrete is the most used material outside of water in the world. it’s recognizable. It’s in everything. It’s in your highways. It’s in your streets. So, when you see the concrete facades of my work, that’s just a representation of that thing that you didn’t really know. When it breaks down into the color, that’s that interior buildup of what you can build up over years of who you are inside. It’s more about who you are, as opposed to your exterior. So that concrete again… you see it. You’ll know what it is. It’s humanity. It’s the material that is what it is. But, when you chip away at it, you don’t know what’s inside.”
WHAT: “Textures of Humanity”
WHERE: Fredric Snitzer Gallery, 1540 NE Miami Court, Miami
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday,
INFORMATION: 305-448 -8976 or snitzer.com