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Shroud for Soul Murderers, Carrie Sieh, openwork embroidery on burlap; video, dimensions variable, 2014 – ongoing

Notes from the Artists' Studios Ombretta Agró Andruff While I was struck by the diverse nature of the work at ArtCenter/South Florida as I moved between the two floors at 924 Lincoln Road, I was particularly intrigued by three artists whose work share similar sensibilities. Having been obsessed by patterns and the correlation between mathematics and the visual arts for several years, I was enthralled by the artists' use of geometrical motifs and design repetition. Carrie Sieh creates quilts and other types of wall works with unexpected materials such as plastic, encaustic and magnetic tape that in some cases hide, and in others, emulate the more traditional use of fabric and yarn. It is the themes that Sieh explores that make the work all the more engaging: from the role that technology has played in our recent history of evolution and the way it is shaping our everyday lives; to the exploration and questioning of genderrelated issues. To get her message across, she sometimes uses highly recognizable and popular

imagery, such as the legendary pro wrestler Hulk Hogan while other times she employs more obscure, yet equally significant symbols, such as the “spermatorrhea ring,” a device that was used at the turn of last century to prevent young men from ejaculating in their sleep. One of the pieces that captured my imagination is a work the artist envisions carrying out for several years. It consists of a 35-foot length of burlap on which Sieh is embroidering what at first look may seem like small white flower-like symbols. As the artist explains, the resemblance of the patterns to flowers is a far cry from what each embroidery really means: they are in fact, the “translation” of the names of sex offenders and individuals accused of domestic violence she abstracts by using specific codes. Sieh has an intriguing and unusual way to approach issues of domestic and sexual abuse. Another artist who employs quilt-making techniques and motifs, achieving very different visual results, is Dona Altemus. Her work is defined by a DIY approach fueled by an insatiable curiosity that pushes the artist to create from scratch many of the materials she works with such as dyed fabric and hand-made paper. While all of the works in the studio were unfinished, many of the sources of inspiration that inform her practice came across quite clearly. They range from the artist's interest for the quilting tradition, inherited from a grandmother Altemus barely met, who nevertheless seems to have quite an influence on the young artist, to a deep love for architecture, especially the type that usually goes unnoticed, documented in hundreds of pictures of various neighborhoods from Little Haiti to Little Havana and Allapattah or that of buildings that are disappearing in front of our own eyes. The series of photographs documenting the slow and painful disintegration of Miami Herald’s iconic headquarters is a touching testament to her concerns.

Untitled, Dona Altemus oil paint, fabric, canvas, 48” x 48’, 2015

Prosecco. Botelho creates mostly medium to largescale geometric paintings which she makes using an interesting technique. Instead of applying color directly on the canvas, the artist cuts several pieces of plastic in square and rectangular shapes of various sizes, then paints these plastic fragments and while the oil is still fresh, she applies them to the canvas. Once the color transfer has occurred, she removes the plastic achieving a very textural and uneven finish which, combined with her acute sense of chromatic combinations, allows unexpected results to emerge. Works from this series, The Invisible City, can be seen in the 924 Vitrine through September 20th. However, the work that mostly fascinated me is a “quilt” created by stapling together old tubes of oil paint the artist cuts open once empty. The “tiles” are grouped by colors and create vivid arrangements. What makes these works magical are the stories behind each grouping: from the tubes that were given to Botelho by a dear colleague who fell too ill to paint; to those a journalist friend, who lived through the transformative years of the Perestroika, brought her from Russia. It was incredible to see how many lives can be held in a small tube of oil paint. For a curator who cherishes every moment spent in an artist's studio, the two afternoons spent with the residents at ArtCenter/South Florida were a true gift. I look forward to many more in the months to come!

Lastly, Brazilian Heloisa Botelho, captivated me with her wonderful stories told while sipping Forsaken Darkness (detail), Heloisa Botelho acrylic on metal, 16" x 16", 2015

small format vol 4  

small format Vol. 4 with essays by Susan Caraballo, Roc Laseca, Claire Breukel, Lucas Arévalo and ArtCenter/South Florida calendar of events...