The Art Issue
By Jake Cline
This publication has tested many ideas since its inception as XS eight years ago. Some have been relatively good (The Music Issue, Paul Gailota’s “Diary of an AIDS Worker” series), others were unquestionably bad (anyone miss the Secret Shopper? We don’t).
But our most lasting idea came with the very first issue of XS on Jan. 16, 1991, when we devoted an entire, full-color page to James Swarthout’s acrylic on canvas “Journey #14.” Without fail, every subsequent issue of XS and now City Link has featured the work of a South Florida artist.
As if subjecting artists to a week of public scrutiny were not enough, every fall we round up the previous year’s worth of Gallery Page entrants for a final examination at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale. This Saturday, Oct. 10, the City Link Best of Gallery Exhibition returns, showcasing many of the 55 artists who have appeared in these pages over the past year. Judging the affair once again is Laurence Pamer, former Museum of Art (Fort Lauderdale) curator and present curator of nature photographer Clyde Butcher’s collection. Pamer will dole out one award for Best in Show and several honorable mentions.
As for the artist themselves, they are an impressive bunch this year, including more than a few nationally (and in some cases, world) renowned painters (Huong), collagists (Bruce Helander), computer magists (Laurence Gartel) and folk artists (Purvis Young).
But the majority of the Gallery artists are creative individuals still trying to elbow themselves a place in the overpopulated, ridiculously competitive art world, whether regional or abroad. Mimi Shapiro is one of those artists. Since moving to South Florida from New Jersey 12 years ago, the Fort Lauderdale collagist/assermbiage artist has established herself as both an active participant and an enthused, if somewhat cautious, advocate of the local art scene.
“This isn’t the climate for art.” admits Shapiro, who nabbed Best in Show honors at last year’s Hortt, the museum of Art’s frightfully prestigious annual exhibition. “I think everybody comes here and their brains get foggy from the sun. But artists make art in spite of whether anyone wants it or not.”
Indeed they do. And as you’ll discover in the following pages, they’re creating it in droves. From Jody Brewster’s computer-generated pop art to painter Xavier Cortada’s colorful representations of “growing up Cuban in Miami and of growing up in Cuban Miami” to Lynee Kroll’s unique appropriation of dead butterflies to Don Shearer’s arresting and unprecedented “Positive Heart,” painted with the HIV-tainted blood of an “anonymous stranger.”
Of course many of the City Link Gallery artists will remain as anonymous as the day they first submitted their work for our consideration. Others may strike the proverbial gold mine (provided they abstain from overusing the color in their compositions), finding acclaim, fortune and a rightful station among the art world’s upper eschelon. Or they could all end up hawking sad clown and Elvis portraits at the Swap Shop.
As Shapiro says, if recognition doesn’t arrive today, tomorrow always yields promise. “Who knows, in a hundred years from now when I’m dead, people will say, “Did you see the stuff Mimi did?”
But for now these 55 artists are enjoying a talent surge those of us who render stick figures unrecognizable will never realize. It’s a talent worthy of attention, scrutiny, puzzlement and in the majority of cases, admiration.
Behold. The Art Issue.