July 18--Woody Othello's disfigured creatures rest on pedestals in the back room of Fort Lauderdale's ArtServe gallery, each bald, scowling and with red noses, enlarged craniums and swollen stomachs. Othello calls these nameless figures "festers," or grotesque beings who represent internal conflicts prompted by anxiety, stress, financial hardship, relationship problems and other common human foibles. On one pedestal stands a female fester, a gray tank top barely containing her beer gut, as she glowers at a seated male fester, whose green-streaked face has flared up with eczema.
"The festers are rotting away because of external forces," the 23-year-old North Miami Beach artist says. "I turn this stress into these otherworldly figures as a way of dealing with bad jobs, trouble paying rent, deadlines at school. It's the personal drama that everyone has, but I also think these creatures can be mirrors for everyone else's stress."
Othello's festers, to be unveiled during Saturday's lowbrow-art party Red Eye, is part of a project created with Boca Raton graffiti artist Nick "CHNK" Mattioli. In the same room that will house the festers is a recurring figure in CHNK's comic-book-style canvasses: a fat ginger cat he's named Catnip, who clutches a mug of beer and flashes a gap-toothed yawn.
"I only draw ugly people and ugly animals, and Catnip is really ugly," says CHNK, pointing to several wrinkles on Catnip's stomach on a recent tour of the duo's installation. "Woody's grotesque art and mine blend well together."
Rebranded "Red Eye Reboot" for its ninth edition, curator Byron Swart's provocative mashup of multimedia art, graffiti, music and pop culture will clog up ArtServe and its parking lot with food trucks and local bands. Swart's event, created in 2006, suffered an identity crisis last year as graffiti artists began flooding FAT Village, the popular hub of warehouse galleries out west, for an alternative creative outlet.
"What we were getting was more contemporary, commercial art, and the graffiti and steampunk artists were being left out," Swart says. "The Red Eye is popular, and graffiti artists wanted anonymity. So I wanted to do something different and remake ourselves [this year]. I invited big graffiti names like Ruben Ubiera, Marvel and Jay Bellicchi, and added more urban decay."
The first of 170 works by 120 artists to greet visitors is an animated video projection by Sri Prabha, described by Swart as "a spinning wheel of molecules" that will plaster the east facade of ArtServe. Weston-based graffiti artist Ubiera, whose gorilla painting "Sapien Experiment #10" and spray-painted Fiat will appear at the gallery, will partake in Cans to Canvas. The graffiti program pairs mural artists with troubled teens to tag canvasses on ArtServe's Sunrise Boulevard-facing lawn. Meanwhile, filmmaker Michael Chasin will head up a screening of short films; CHNK, Todd the Painter, Jacklyn Laflamme and Sunrise's Sergio "Surge" Quinonez will do live performance art; and bands Octo Gato, Wilton Drive and Speaking Volumes will perform.
To capture her trio of photographs printed on metal, Nancy Goldwin of Fort Lauderdale visited Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in California, which lost 78 acres when a wildfire scorched its property, destroying a herbarium and a century-old library. "Organized Chaos," taken while Goldwin stood amid the library wreckage, shows a charred filing cabinet that once housed card catalogs. Found in "Paper Wasteland" is a big pile of ash-covered pages, blackened and ripped from the library's herbology section. "Wheels of Progress" zooms in on the rusted-out gear sprocket of a bicycle found nearby.
"When I first started shooting, I was so overwhelmed, because I was standing shin-deep in the remains of a house. I could've stayed with these books for eight hours," says Goldwin, a photographer who also co-owns the Wilton Manors restaurant 13 Even with partner Carol Moran. "Destruction is horrible, and wildfire threatens lives and the earth. But when you really look at it, what's left behind is something that's remarkable and beautiful."
In another of ArtServe's side galleries, nature overtakes Erin Bassett's installation "Represent/Re-present," where silk cloth shaped to resemble coral reefs stretches across the walls. Using the embroidery technique known as shibori, Bassett twists the fabric to form the shape of three-dimensional mushrooms and fungi. In Julio Green's nearby wall installation "Traffic Life," the artist spray-paints and slaps "Flammable" stickers across traffic signs. And in Francisco Sheuat's "Pop Flock," a half dozen flamingos are built from shredded cans of La Croix, Coca-Cola and Sprite.
Red Eye gets confrontational with Digi Dave's "Girl Power," a black-and-white photograph of a woman in sunglasses striking a defiant posture while pointing a handgun at the viewer. "A Condom in My Salad" depicts Rosalia Curbelo's "reasons for not using condoms in the '80s, '90s and 2000s" on a paper-towel canvas. Tabatha Mudra's interactive installation "Line Up: Stereotype Me" occupies most of ArtServe's lobby with a police-lineup-style row of people holding up cards that read, "White," "Black," "Latino" and "Terrorist." Since the exhibition opened, Mudra has asked visitors to contribute personal examples of racial stereotyping, leaving out sheets of paper bearing the question: "People think I'm [blank] because I'm [blank]."
"So people would write, 'People think I'm cheap because I'm Jewish.' Then, people stopped taking it seriously, and say, 'People think I'm an alien because they saw my spaceship,' " says Mudra, a Fort Lauderdale activist who also operates the LGBT nonprofit Drag It Out. "There's not a single person that doesn't feel stereotyped on one occasion, or judged by others. You don't have to think very much about it. It kind of slaps you in the face, the rawness of it."
Red Eye Reboot
When: Through Aug. 15 (party: 6-10 p.m. Saturday, July 19)
Where: ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Cost: $8-$12, $60 for VIP
Contact: 954-462-8190 or ArtServe.org
(c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services