Art Basel

Young local artists focus on Art Basel crowd

With Art Basel Miami Beach opening this week, Juan Fernando "Buddah Funk" Gomez is in overdrive. The artist has been busy affixing his gold and black oil-based butterflies, flowers and lizards onto galleries, restaurants, bars, carefully brushing them with wheat paste to stick to the high-profile walls.

He has been doing this for eight months, from Miami Beach to Wynwood to the Design District.

It’s important “to be seen in the art community,” said Gomez, a Los Angeles native who moved to Miami 20 years ago to attend Miami International University of Art and Design.

As collectors, dealers, and curators descend here for Art Basel, aspiring artists like Gomez are getting creative in self-promotion. They’re starring in videos, publishing magazines and plastering their artwork on the sides of buildings near the galleries, satellite fairs and Miami Beach Convention Center.

“Art Basel is a gift to the Miami art community,” said Antonia Wright, 32, a performance artist who uses her body, sculpture and costumes in videos to explore topics like the BP oil spill and Fidel Castro’s regime. “There has always been art in Miami, but it has never had exposure on an international arena like it does today.”

During last year’s Art Basel, the Cricket Taplin Collection displayed one of Wright’s videos at the Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach. A collector from Belgium spotted it, and shortly thereafter she was on a plane to Brussels for an exhibit.

On Tuesday she will perform near two of her videos, valued at $3,200 each, which will be on display at the Spinello Projects in Wynwood, 2930 NW Seventh Ave.

“You never know whom you will meet. I have an audience and there is a demand for my work,” said Wright, daughter of Cuban author Carolina Garcia-Aguilera and a graduate of the New School in New York, where she studied poetry. “I have been really lucky. I’m living my dream.”

Other artists are hoping for similar success.

In Wynwood, next to an old car repair shop, there is an industrial warehouse where Jacqueline “Soir” Rios works. Rios manipulates photography to evoke a chiaroscuro painting and sculpts with clay in her windowless studio. On a quiet day, homeless men, crack users and the occasional prostitute walk near the warehouse, but this week thousands will pass by to explore the Wynwood art fairs.

Rios, a University of Florida and New World School of the Arts student, is not looking forward to the “chaotic traffic.” As a baby, her mother fled with her from the civil wars of Nicaragua, where her dad, an artist and poet, lives. She grew up with her mom in Kendall and lives in Wynwood.

One of her photographs named “Alienation,” which depicts a trapped distorted figure, is part of the Cricket Taplin Collection, which will be on display at the Sagamore Hotel’s lobby in Miami Beach.

“I will be attending an invitation-only brunch at the hotel and I also have a VIP invitation to a satellite fair,” said Rios, 33. “I want to spark interest in my work, so I invested some money on a self-published magazine to hand out to the people I meet, so that I can put my work out there.”

Fellow New World art student Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo, 26, is banking on work he has at two hotels in Miami Beach. On display at the Sagamore Hotel is his mixed-media mural –– made out of stained glass, mirror mosaics and spray-paint –– which climbs up a five-floor stairwell near the pool and beach. His video project will be featured at the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) fair at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach.

The video is “a dream state kind of thing and it started with a desire to make a stain-glass window out of ice and record the way it deteriorates,” said Duncan-Portuondo, who grew up in Coconut Grove, and now lives in Edgewater, just east of Wynwood.

In a studio nearby, the smell of turpentine announces oil painter Kathleen “Nicole” Burko. She has displayed her paintings at Panther Coffee in Wynwood, but aspires to be a part of a local collection like the Rubell or the Margulies.

Solitude inspires her. As a child Burko played alone in the forest of Caledon, Canada, and moved to Fort Lauderdale as a teen, where she picked up free diving. She uses sable brushes to apply a neutral palette and she is generous with cobalt blue.

“I try to convey the feeling I get when I am underwater,” Burko said. “Free diving is exhilarating. But it is also like a meditation, as time and space slows down, and you get close to having an out-of-body experience.”

During Art Basel, she will be working on a large painting named “Crevasse” valued at about $3,000 for a January group exhibit at the Young At Art museum in Davie. She doesn’t expect to be invited to fancy parties or VIP lounges, so she is using social media to network, sending images of her work to potential collectors via Facebook.

“A referral can make a difference. I would hope to meet a passionate collector –– someone who takes the time to understand my work,” said Burko, 25. “I do sell my paintings. I use oil on linen, so they are archival, which means that they are made to withstand time. I’m pretty good at living cheap, and I’m breaking even on what I spend on materials.”

Meanwhile, Gomez, 36, said he knew people appreciated his work, the day he put up one of his gold owls on a mailbox and it was stolen. Over the past eight months, he has put up hundreds of his black-and-gold icons.

The inspiration for his elegant designs comes from a childhood visit to the Gold Museum (El Museo del Oro) in Bogotá, Colombia, where pre-Hispanic goldsmith treasures from indigenous cultures are kept. Some of the curves in the designs have been haunting him ever since.

“It’s about the mystery of a lost civilization and knowledge,’’ Gomez said.

“How did they know how to manipulate this material? It’s about exploring my roots.”

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