This past weekend, Mona Lisa put on a pair of sunglasses to serve as the banner mascot for the 44th annual South Miami Art Festival. As she swayed above 72nd street, her famously demure smile widened the tiniest bit at the scene below – from vibrant clothing to skydiving sculptures, all kinds of art were showcased at the festival, garnering well-deserved attention for the artists and sponsors there.
At first glance, the festival seemed to emulate any other standard street fair. Lined with white tents, Sunset Drive was filled with free brochures and the always necessary frozen lemonade stands. Yet what was inside each little white hut was a completely different world, manifested through impressionist paintings of flowers, pop art renditions of café signs, and Kandinsky-esque creations, amongst many others.
Some artists even figured out the secret to transcending time, like tinkerer Cheri Kudja and her adorable line-up of “Bitti Bots”. Made from “small found objects, hardware, and jewelry scraps”, these tiny robots looked like the stuff of the year 3000. Each had their own name and style, thanks to Kudja’s affinity for character creation, but the real kicker was their unique designs. A torso could turn out to be a tiny safe or maybe a stovetop, and that thing you thought was just a pressure meter is actually the Bulldog Butch Bot.
Phil Fung, a painter self-described as having “one foot in reality and the other in [his] imagination”, bridged the real world and his own mind by through paintings pop culture and parodies that show his intense attention to detail and a keen sense of satire. Exhibiting both a comic strip style and a pop art aesthetic, Fung showcased vibrant portraits of icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Steve Jobs as well as dense scenes of college campuses, superheroes, and penguins in peculiar places.
Portraiture continued as a theme for many artists, including Marisol Spoon, the spousal champions of creepy and cute. The painter half of the partnership knew how to see into her subjects’ souls – doe-eyed subjects with unicorns in their hair or teapot ships on their head exchanged unassuming yet unabashed eye contact with festival goers from behind hand-crafted frames. The husband and sculptor side of Spoon not only created the unique frames around each painting, but also incredibly intricate clocks that hung on one side of the tent.
The portraits of Hans Feyerabend, however, were more subtly conceptual, yet intense. Feyerabend’s showcased works created relationships between unexpected colors and forms, such as the grand brushstrokes teals, pinks, and light yellows that combined to create a young woman’s face. In another painting, what appeared to be two large cats circled each other, perhaps alluding to the unmistakable shape of the yin-yang.
But of course, portraits aren’t all that should be painted – Patricia Awapara and Lilian Delgado, although in separate tents, shared a passion for impressionism and flowers. Awapara’s style looked like a more striking version of Monet, framing flowers in scenes of bright blues and yellows and oranges. Delgado’s paintings gave more space to the sky, allowing her textured, 3D flowers room to breathe as they piled together.
While painting is often the most thought of form of art, the South Miami Art Fair was awash with talented sculptors, tailors, and photographers. Augusto Sanchez, through multimedia structures of hearts, reminded attendees of the importance of love. Sanchez showcased a small gallery of hearts with different phrases such as “Love Connection”, which featured a heart built out of green circuit boards, or “Life Is Beautiful”, which framed butterflies and paper airplanes in a carved out heart.
Paul Marcellini documented this beauty of life, showcasing scenes of sea and sunset. Under different hues of sky, Florida wildlife was highlighted in Marcellini’s photographs, which often seemed as if they were pulling you in. Visions of North Florida beaches and South Florida mangroves made the South Miami air taste a little saltier that day.
As for sewing, it’s not just your grandparents’ game; it’s the stuff of boundless creativity. Xiao Xia Zhang produced intricate scenes of flora and fauna through “fine Chinese embroidery”. From flower vases to full-fledged forests, Zhang’s artwork took attendees from the insides of their homes to the farthest corners of the Earth, and it was all through intricate hand stitching.
The South Miami Art Festival brought artists and attendees alike from all around the world to experience each other’s realities. Whether they were snapshots of the real world or confessions of the heart, works of art at the festival were grand expressions of what brought the whole event together – humanity.
Photos and Story By Carina Vo