As a youngster, Myra Wexler was something of a Coral Gables socialite. Her father, Irving, was president of Muzak South Florida. Her mother, Reva, was a community leader involved with the National Council of Jewish Women and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
“I had a standing appointment at J. Baldi’s hair salon on Miracle Mile when I was on the bar mitzvah circuit,” says Wexler, who later owned Red Road Kids Club in South Miami, a boutique that sold fancy clothes and fancy toys for fancy little people.
Fast-forward a few decades and Wexler, 64, finds herself part of a very different posse. She rolls with a crew of Wynwood-area artists. She defaces public property with stickers bearing an image of her face covered by a bandana. Go on Facebook and you’ll see photos of her throwing up gangsta signs.
In the ’hood, she’s known as Yo Momma. And when her babies go tagging or “weed bombing,” which involves turning overgrown patches the city won’t mow into Day-Glo gardens with spray paint, Momma doesn’t lecture. She gives props.
“I’ve never gone tagging or weed bombing. But the morning after, I’ve gone out with my peeps and taken pictures of their work,” says Wexler, an artist herself. She keeps a studio on Biscayne Boulevard and 69th Street, where she does collage work.
But her greatest role, perhaps, is as an art world gadfly. She’s a fixture at every art walk and gallery opening in town. She devotes her Facebook page to promoting the artists she befriends. And during season, she hosts a monthly networker for artists at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar called Musings with Myra.
Momma has become enough of an icon to warrant a show of portraits, caricatures and other renderings of her likeness by 25 Miami artists. A collaboration with photographer David Siqueiros, Yo Momma in the House is scheduled to open Sept. 19 at 12345 West Dixie Studio and Gallery.
“It’s never too late too have a happy childhood,” says Wexler, who retired from visual merchandising about eight years ago and lives in Hollywood with her 92-year-old mother. “When I’m home, I watch my mother in her La-Z-Boy all day and I think, ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ I didn’t want to be retired and just sitting there.
“That’s what drives me to come down to the ’hood most days. That and the fact that I’ve always believed in building community. I was born at St. Francis Hospital in Miami Beach. My parents met on New Year’s Eve, 1946, at the Orange Bowl Parade. I love all that I have witnessed Miami become.”
In December 2009, during Art Basel Miami Beach, Wexler got herself a ringside seat outside of Joey’s Italian Café at 2506 NW Second Ave., ground zero for the just-stirring art scene in the neighborhood, to report on Basel-related gallery shows, satellite fairs and general goings on for SocialMiami.com. The gig led to regular Jammin’ at Joey’s sessions, to which Wexler invited artists, gallerists and art patrons.
“I remember sitting there outside of Joey’s in 2009 and thinking about the colorful picture that was being painted. There was such an international array of people in the ’hood for Art Basel. I was so excited by what I saw as the start of a renaissance for Miami. It was clear that this was just the tip of the iceberg. That just fueled my imagination.”