The refrain “support local” often applies to small businesses, but Miami Art Week is a perfect time to double down on our support of local artists. While Art Basel Miami Beach shines a spotlight on the international art community, it also presents an opportunity to get to know Miami’s most promising emerging artists.
Supporting our local artists allows Miami’s cultural capital to flourish, ensuring that radical dialogue, creative innovation and an exciting spectrum of artistic exploration continue for decades to come.
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With that in mind, INDULGE highlights four Miami artists whose work is must-see during Art Week and beyond:
Visual artist Morel Doucet’s ceramics practice is steeped in the artist’s personal experience, from his Haitian heritage to his observations of climate change as a lifelong Miamian.
Doucet, who received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, returned to Miami in 2013 because he “wanted to have a real impact on the community in which I was raised.”
Doucet’s heavily researched work deftly layers multiple themes at once. He will often mold quotidian items, such as vases or teapots, and affix clay sculptures based on local coral and sea life in an effort to illustrate our role in the destruction of the planet.
In another series of works, White Noise, Doucet considers the practice of skin bleaching and coral bleaching, representing these two practices with stark-white, headless figures sprouting shells, polyps and starfish.
In addition to his ceramics, Doucet works frequently works with illustration. He is currently sketching a series of portraits designed to draw awareness to climate gentrification.
A third-generation Floridian, Lauren Shapiro remembers her mother’s stories of walking along South Florida’s beaches, finding hundreds of sand dollars, colorful coral reefs and tropical fish.
In the time she’s spent living in Miami, Shapiro said she’s noticed a decline in those environmental elements. It’s given her an anxiety about climate change that she believes is a response that “we all feel from being so disconnected with nature.”
This existential tension has seeped into her practice, which opts for a methodical, almost painstaking approach to sculpture. Working primarily with ceramics, Shapiro re-creates geometric forms found in nature, often stacking these shapes into spiraling, curvaceous towers that appear as delicate as the environment they’re designed to represent.
Shapiro, who received her MFA in ceramics from the University of Miami, is inspired primarily by global warming — melting ice caps and near-extinct foliage frequently inform her work.
A recent residency in the Amazon rainforest inspired Shapiro’s latest series, which will reference ancient dark-earth trash piles — found anywhere humans have lived — in works cast in concrete, charcoal, ceramic, and glass.
Though he was born in Manhattan, Derek Hunter calls Miami his true home. Moving to Golden Beach when he was 2, the artist is entirely self-taught and claims that his father’s hobby — building cars from the ground up — rendered design and building “part of my genetic makeup.”
His practice inevitably came to be an homage to this very inclination; even on canvas, Hunter’s paintings have a remarkable way of coming to life. Inspired by architecture and mineral formation, and questioning how these two themes intersect to shape our lives, Hunter’s geometric abstractions are illusory, shape-shifting works that frequently draw on his South Floridian color palette.
With support from his friend, fellow artist Emmett Moore, Hunter evolved the form and structure present in his acrylic works into sculpture, using programs like SketchUp to build life-size, hollow shapes out of wood and steel.
A new project in collaboration with artist Paula Kelley, debuting next year, will bring awareness to Miami’s transit woes by installing large-scale sculptures at bus stops around the city.
Michelle Lisa Polissaint
Michelle Lisa Polissaint’s sensual photographs and intimate portraits often draw attention to what’s missing from the frame.
A sense of longing is communicated through quiet, shadowy rooms, where bed sheets are often haphazardly strewn, their wrinkles shifted into focus. Frequently self-referential, Polissaint uses photography as a means of processing her own experience.
A first-generation American and studio art graduate from Florida International University, she describes her upbringing as sheltered, and credits a 2014 monthlong stay in Haiti as a defining moment in her practice.
One of her most poignant photography series, Dancing with Myself, depicts the artist alone at a home. Injecting melancholy and introspection into mundane settings, Polissaint says that the series helped her process leaving her parents’ home while making her “hyper-aware” of her own body.
While she primarily shoots with film, she will sometimes incorporate other elements, such as hand-sewn drawings that spring from a series of photographs exploring loss and broken relationships.
Soon, she’ll begin incorporating song — Polissaint grew up singing in a choir — in a series titled Moonshine Moanin’, a performance project inspired by black, queer jazz singers from the South.