Miami Art Week 2015: Subverting Nature

Works that warp source inspiration or materials, found across multiple fairs and exhibits

Nature stands as the earliest form of inspiration and natural components found within became the tools of early artistic creation. In the ages since and amidst developments and extinctions, loss and discovery, artists continue to be inspired by the wonders of the natural world. And from their imaginations to their mediums, the art world is richer for it. The following six pieces were all seen during Miami Art Week, across multiple fairs and exhibitions, and each work subverts either the source of inspiration (like marijuana or birch) or their source material (like bird feathers, flowers and poppy pods).

While resembling the small, nuanced growth of birch tree, Eric Serritella‘s “Swinging Birch Teapot” (2015) is actually a hand-carved trompe l’oeil sculpture. Seen at the Jason Jacques Gallery installation during Design Miami, the illusion of birch is subverted the source material and its accompanying fragility. Together, it’s a wondrous (usable) piece made in the Chinese tradition of Yixing.

An assortment of tempura fried flowers are beautifully arranged on Plexiglas in “Life Serves Up the Occasional Pink Unicorn” (2013) by New York-based Korean artist Anicka Yi—evoking, to us, the pastime of pressing flowers into scrapbooks. Behind the large clear sheets, silver dumbbells rest on their individual stainless steel shelves. Created for her 2013 solo show “Death” at Cleveland Museum of Art, this piece juxtaposes the fragile and ephemeral (though coated with resin, the flowers will eventually rot over time inside the epoxy) with the hard, heavy and unchangeable. It’s on view through 28 May 2016 at the showcase “No Man’s Land,” featuring works from more than 100 female artists from the Rubell Family Collection.

Though not for the trypophobic, Mayme Kratz‘s “I Think I Grow Tensions 6” (2015) is a large-scale wonder of resin and poppy pods. Seen at Lisa Sette Gallery‘s Art Miami booth, the piece preserves the natural material’s shape, lending it asymmetrical structure within. The resin, however, attempts to subvert the fleeting life of flowers while also modifying its natural coloration. There’s something almost scientific to the piece, and yet it’s a powerful piece when seeing it in person.

“Baby Ghettobird Tunic” (2006), seen at The Dean Collection + Bacardi’s

No Commission Art Fair (where artists received 100% of the sales made from the show), isn’t a fashion statement but a political one. The bubble jacket covered in feathers was made in three sizes, which range from toddler to a full-length one for adults. Raised in Los Angeles, Sanford Biggers recalled helicopters (aka “ghetto birds”) frequently patrolling specific neighborhoods; the tunic would camouflage and protect young black American men from the cops and allow them to survive to manhood.

Fur has long been stripped from animals to provide warmth and comfort to humans. At the NADA Art Fair, Estonia artist Kris Lemsalu complicates the emotions behind this process and practice with “Father is in Town” (2012). Seen within Temnikova & Kasela Gallery‘s set up, the sculpture has ceramics affixed to furs sprawled along the floor, united in a loving embrace, that bring bits of something even more animalistic back to the piece.

Curitiba, Brazil’s SIM Galeria presented only one piece at the Art Basel fair—though it was a composite of many individual works. Occupying an entire wall in their booth, Romy Pocztaruk‘s “Instalação Le Carnaval des Animaux” (2015) consists of a series of glass chemical beakers grouped in two and connected by a tunnel at the neck. Each tube functions as a tiny fish bowl and contains one Beta fish. In one tube, swims a male Beta. A female swims in the other. They are visible to one another, but unreachable. Oftentimes, when mating, female Beta fish die. Here, Pocztaruk address the idea of breeding and trying to co-opt that which is natural, while also demonstrating a desire to protect and preserve.

Images by Cool Hunting