Art walks, like all festival-type events, demand much from attendees, who must find a parking spot, wade through crowds that may or may not contain awkward acquaintances and extend their attention beyond themselves to take an interest in others.
Sigh. Such outdoor events in Florida’s sweltering June heat tax the body as much as the mind. Although I’m a fan of the existence of such events and would like for them to increase because they are evidence of meaningful culture in Broward – and we need evidence to silence haters and retain would-be cultural emigrees – you typically couldn’t drag me by my hair to one of these things. The forecast for such an event is exhaustion with the potential for misery.
So, FAT Village’s Art Walks, which take place on the last Saturday of the month in downtown Fort Lauderdale, had a tall order for this visitor: to deliver delights and intrigues compelling enough to compensate for the anticipated and occurring discomforts. And it did.
(I do want to mention that I prepped for the event, and had my interest in visiting particular exhibitions – Snapped, Modded – sparked by the thorough preview on Colleen Dougher’s blog, Arterpillar.)
Having strolled through and had my senses overwhelmed by the heavily-trafficked craft fair at C&I Studios at the northern end of the Art Walk, I decided to start my exploration of the evening’s offerings at the quieter, southern end of the festival on Fifth Street. (This is not to disparage the evident sonic and visual delights offered there, it’s just that the calmer end was a good choice for me.)
Julio Green is constantly moving, and his energy is contagious. He circles studio mate Francisco Sheuat’s soda-can flamingo sculptures, which are the centerpiece of their shared gallery space, as he mingles with friends and visitors. When the crowd thins, Green takes a moment to discuss “Portal X,” one of several large-scale mixed media pieces he makes from found materials, industrial dyes, and oil paints. The striking abstract piece (pictured below) is indecipherable without his explanation. He laughs with delight as he describes how he flattened out a Bud Light Lime bucket, following up with the secret story of how he obtained a metal panel from a street barricade.
Green’s Portal series touches on themes of being an immigrant to the United States. Green, who’s from Honduras, says, “As a foreigner, you have small expectations. You knock on doors, but sometimes you knock on doors and then there you are.” The takeaway is that Green, who says he loves working in the FAT Village area, is happy with the doors that have opened for him. I will knock on Green’s door again. Hopefully, next time studio mate Sheuat will be present so that we can discover the root of his obsession with soda cans.
Alfred Phillips sits quietly in his studio with a friend as festivalgoers, streaming in and out of his studio space, uniformly express approval of his work. The body of his work on display varies from rural and urban landscapes to human figures in various poses to tools weightlessly crossing a canvas like fish. But most of the pieces have narrative content and are easy for observers to digest. Paintings like “Out of the Picture,” in which a camera that points at a group of people eliminates one from the shot, offer simple amusement.
Phillips’ Kentucky accent emerges as he chuckles through his narration of a tale about how women, who have caught on to the fact that the urinals in Louisville’s contemporary art museum/hotel 21C are behind a one-sided window, pretend to see in and evaluate male patrons. He talks about how overwhelming it was in 2004 to receive death threats and a huge wave of negative backlash when his portrait of W. in a compromised position with a sheik was mentioned on The Daily Show. He perks up when he discusses recent awards for his series of urban paintings of Fort Lauderdale. The series came about as Phillips, who lives in the relatively quiet northern beachfront of Fort Lauderdale, started to notice the seediness and beauty of the downtown Fort Lauderdale neighborhood where his studio is located. The paintings present Fort Lauderdale’s beauty on a large scale, but if you look closely there are tiny images of crises (such as muggings) and evidence of crises (such as corpses) that add dimension.
In person, sculptor Donna Haynes betrays none of the delicate weirdness evident in the pieces on display in her studio. Immediately, her desk fountain captures the eye, ear, and imagination. A stack of cracked books, stained red in places, bleeds black ink through an irregular groove that runs across the desk. No typewriter is in sight, but the tapping of keys can be heard, creating a ghostly effect like a playerless piano. On a nearby shelf, a tooth fairy-themed lightbox has a peephole where you can spy the winged creature popping out from behind a tooth-lined pillar. She has several other pieces on display, but I am already charmed with these two sculptures and cannot extend myself further into the interior of her work on this visit. I return three times throughout the night to show my friends the fountain desk. They like it, too. Further exploration of Haynes’ work, which is worthwhile, will require a future visit.
Modded at The Projects
Couple Peter Symons and Leah Brown, who met during their freshman year at Rhode Island School of Design, curated the Modder exhibit at The Projects art space. The most grabbing piece was Symons’ towering wood construction “Piggyback,” which caught my attention because it seemed monstrous at first, but revealed itself, upon closer examination, to be quite a charming image of Symons and Brown in the playful pose indicated by the work’s name. The couple posed for a piggyback, and pictures were taken of them. Symons created a 3-D image and sliced it up in the Rhino design program to create the digital model for the sculpture. “I’m interested in exploring processes,” he says. “It’s a way of exploring a new way of seeing and making things.”
Other works on display at Modded included Ryan Farrell’s “It Takes a Community” in which those festivalgoers who could muster the energy in the heat pedaled bicycles to illuminate headlights. It’s a community thing. We dug the concept, but did not want to increase the sweat that had already been broken. Leah Brown’s work, a foam sculpture of a woman’s head, that she’d previously displayed face up in a body of water, was recast as a piece about the subconscious. The face looked downward from the ceiling, and its flat backside formed a platform for a lounging mannequin. The food for thought at the Modded exhibit was appetizing – much more so than the condiment-drenched, potato chip smothered chorizo that I later made the mistake of ordering from a food truck.
Twenty-five-year-old Digi Dave poses in front of a portrait he took of graffiti artist and friend YNOT (pronounced “Why not”), who, Dave says, was killed in front of a strip club on his 21st birthday. Dave points to a photo he took of other artists’ graffiti in which they’ve tagged YNOT’s name in tribute, and compliments a passing guest for wearing a YNOT shirt. Dave indicates that he has much more to say about his deceased friend, but he says that he’s “waiting for his killer to be charged” so that the public can “make their decision” about the incident before he speaks about his friend.
On a brighter note, the June 30 Art Walk is a special evening for Dave in that it is the realization of one of the goals he set for his 25th year of life. “I said when I was 25, I either wanted to make a documentary film or have an exhibit.” Photographs featured in his Snapped exhibit include candid shots of rapper Rick Ross at Café Iguana Pines, posed portraits of graffiti artists, urban landscapes in various states of decay, and close-ups of pit bulls. Despite the variety of photos presented, Digi Dave says that his main focus is graffiti photography and that it’s his relationships with the artists that distinguish his coverage from other photographers in the genre.
Possibilities glimpsed, but not taken.
The back door of Rolling Stock Gallery opens on an L-shaped patio, where there was much more to experience. One side led to a live exhibit of graffiti artists spray-painting beneath a DJ, while the other side led, through a tented bar area, to a theater studio where the front woman of a live band was singing about the life of “the other woman” in an adulterous relationship. The back patio seemed to be a nightlong hangout for some, but the abundance of work presented at the FAT Village Art Walk demanded that this attendee make choices before exhaustion set in.
Having already made several good ones (apart from that chorizo nightmare), I opted to give myself a rest and headed to Maguire’s Hill 16 with Salty Eggs editor and friend Erica Landau for some air conditioning and food from a built-in kitchen. Good choice.
I was partially converted by the FAT Village Art Walk. I will visit again as an appreciator, and perhaps, one day, a patron. However Basel 2012? Seems like a lot of energy.
–By Courtney Hambright