When a Dream Comes True – My First Museum Gig!

Not gonna lie, my first rollout at a major museum has me walking on sunshine!!

Only took 17 years. What fills me with glee is how it’s happening … with an idea brought to life with friends and fellow dreamers. A project that celebrates excellence and fearlessness. And shines light on my birthplace, a city I ran from in my late twenties and returned to in my forties, only to find it utterly transformed – from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. So, next Thursday, June 22nd, I’m raising a glass to my town, to my collaborators and to myself, modesty be damned. Join the party live next week at the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) or watch the show on your own time right here:

Meet Your Makers, in collaboration with the rainbow unicorns at The New Tropic and PBS, spotlights the fearless, razor sharp creative minds that populate South Florida. My friendship with these fellow makers affords me a unique and intimate perspective on their practices, what they’ve done and what they’ll do next. Together, we tiptoe into the kitchen and get a lil taste of the secret sauce, as these artists share their motivations and aspirations. The latest episode features Rob Lee, founder of the wonderful open mic, Speak Fridays. Check it out next week on the big screen at PAMM or hit the link above and tell me what you think.

Keep running at your dreams. But remember to stay hydrated … because it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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Other ONGOING Exhibitions – Hit me up for a private tour:

America’s Moral Dilemma – thru June 2017 – Downtown Miami – Historic Dupont Bldg lobby

 

Best Books Ever Written – thru September 2017 – Northern Trust Bank – Aventura, FL

Go Find Yourself, Go Fund Yourself

My father at my Bay Area opening 2015. Standing before the piece he inspired - BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN - THANK YOU DAD, acrylic, inkjet book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x136", 2015
My father before the Best Books Ever Written piece he inspired – Thank You Dad, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x136″, 2015

My dad represents what is right about America. Born to immigrant parents, he grew up poor in Miami, attended state college for a pittance, served in the Army, then started his climb up the professional mountain. He eventually started his own construction company, Florida Fill, and made a decent living until Florida’s whipsaw economy got the better of him. But it was this “failure” that exposed what I consider one of his great successes. As he shuttered his business, he faced a difficult choice: make his final payroll or tell all his people who’d been with him forever and who’d toiled to earn that check, sorry, but the till is empty (which it was). Though he had no legal obligation to do so, my father cashed in his own retirement to make that final payroll, leaving him with very little as he faced a dark and uncertain future. He searched his soul and found himself … in lieu of funding himself. 

America's Moral Dilemma, Mixed media site-specific installation, currently on display in Miami's Historic Dupont Building lobby, 2017.
America’s Moral Dilemma, 2017, Mixed media site-specific installation, currently on display in Miami’s Historic Dupont Building lobby. Come to the opening Monday, March 13, 5-7pm. Email me for details. 

In my most recent site-specific installation, America’s Moral Dilemma, stacks of literary criticism text books invite us to spend some time pondering how our nation’s story shifted so drastically, to one of profit at any cost.

IMG_3371Just last week, the new regime at the EPA voted to relax clean water standards. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; dumping industrial poison into our drinking sources is a basic human health issue. I’m all for minimizing bureaucracy and maximizing profits, but let’s not commit suicide in the process. Back in the 80s, I was actually there, as part of the Wall Street guys selling his casino bonds, when our current president used every trick in the bankruptcy book to get out from under his bad business decisions. All of it was legal. But was it right? What would my dad do? What would you do?

On a lighter note, it’s been a busy week. In collaboration with my good friends at The New Tropic, my series, Meet Your Makers, debuted on PBS as a segment in the show Art Loft. This episode features my soul brother and art beast, Typoe. Check it out above and tell me what you think.

One of the new flag works debuting at my opening this week at the Miami Beach JCC. The Artful Activist The Artful Activist is a blog where artists, activists and gallerists can express their views on social and environmental issues. Articles/story ideas can be submitted to theartfulactivist@gmail.com or the Submit link. His work is making resistance irresistible. AN INTERVIEW WITH MIAMI ARTIST & WRITER STUART SHELDON 3.6.17 | By Melanie Oliva I first stepped into Stuart Sheldon’s “whorled” world at Fancy Nasty two years ago during Art Basel. Stuart and his collaborators transformed a soon-to-be-demolished house in Morningside into a gold-gilded art installation. image My husband and I talked about it for days. It was one of those experiences that made an impact on how I viewed art, collaboration and their limitless potential when combined. I didn’t expect my path to cross with Stuart’s again, but thankfully it did. The winding road I traveled when forming The Artful Activist was complete with signs telling me where to go. I know enough now to follow them without resisting. Funny that this path of least resistance led me to Stuart and others whose work is most about resistance. One sign on my journey was so large it was a billboard. Through a mutual connection, I was led to artist Michele Pred, who created a powerful set of thought-provoking billboards last November. They were sponsored by For Freedoms, the first artist-run super-PAC. Several weeks later, while walking through Wynwood on a solo stroll, I found myself in front of Stuart’s mural, also sponsored by For Freedoms. Finally after ending up in Macaya Gallery’s space at SCOPE, where his I’m With The Banned series was featured, I decided to connect with Stuart. I’m so glad I did. image It’s not only Stuart Sheldon’s work that is so inspiring, but also his work ethic. He seems incredibly driven to expose the truths that many cannot see, via his artwork and eloquence. Many communities are lucky to benefit from Stuart’s generous, collaborative spirit, including The Artful Activist. ***** How do you describe yourself & what you do? Metaphorically, I’m a chef who finds deep pleasure in the cooking and even greater satisfaction knowing others find meaning, provocation and nourishment in the eating. What inspired you to get involved in political art? What was your journey like? My friend, the poet Aja Monet, said it best recently, “It is the duty of artists to make revolution irresistible.” My art has always been intention-based, aimed at manifesting specific outcomes in my personal journey. Early on I painted to find a soul mate, then to have a child. Now, the pitiful state of humanity weighs so deeply on my heart and mind, that I no longer feel compelled to save myself as much as to save the world. What specific issues do you address with your artwork? My issues are truth and fairness. My fight is to perfect democracy so that equality becomes implicit. My recent exhibition, I’m With The Banned, focused on the corrosive power of false narratives in political discourse, specifically relating to: The Myth of Voter Fraud – which has been used to disenfranchise millions, and though statistically non-existent, is believed to be a problem by 40% of Americans Censorship – books have changed my life and when we ban profound works of literature, we stunted progress and wisdom in our society Gun Sense Laws – how do we dispel the baffling notion that any safety-driven restriction of access, no matter how reasonable, is a violation of our 2nd Amendment rights? image image Have you witnessed your work change or open minds? I’m With The Banned opened purposely two weeks before the 2016 election – lot of good that did. I do believe my work fuels respectful conversation. The challenge now is getting it out of the echo chamber of my reality and in front of those who do NOT share my worldview. That’s when the work can move the needle and hopefully build bridges. You’re extremely prolific and determined. What keeps you going? I revel in the making process, watching something evolve from a revelation to a sketch to an actual thing with layers of meaning. I feel privileged to wake each day able to explore my thoughts in a variety of media, be it painting, installation, magazine columns, my blog. I slogged it out for a long time, as a sales guy and an aspiring artist, so now that people are actually paying attention, my appreciation level is red-lining. I just installed a site-specific work in the lobby of the Dupont Building in downtown Miami. I’m eager to do more of this type of work, that responds to events in real time. My newest project is a TV series called Meet Your Makers coming out this month on PBS. Watch for it on the show Art Loft. image image Who have you collaborated with (individuals, collectives and/or organizations)? Harry Truman really nailed it when he said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” My practice has always been rooted in sharing strengths. I love the genius unicorns at The New Tropic who are my co-conspirators on Meet Your Makers. I was honored when For Freedoms, America’s only artist-run Super-PAC, invited me to join their 100-foot mural activation in Wynwood for the election. I had a blast making Fancy Nasty with my good friends at Primary Projects and The Fountainhead. I’m off to Berlin in May to join forces with a group of cutting-edge digital philosophers called re:publica to present my gun-sense installation and video, “How Was School Today.” And the pipeline for some yet-to-be-announced collaborations is full. Tell us about your experience with finding gallery representation. It’s easy. Just toil in obscurity for fifteen years. And the moment you stop giving a shit, and your work matures, galleries start calling you. What advice do you have for artists? Activists? Gallerists? The only advice I have for a creative person is to be true to what lies in the deepest part of you. THAT is your truth and that is the most interesting, inspired and inspiring thing you have to say. Say it loud and unapologetically. What is your biggest fear about the next four years? How do you respond to that fear & what would you like to tell people who may also be fearful? Life in America is Orwellian right now. Up is down. Black is white. Just this week, the new regime at the EPA voted to relax clean water standards. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; it’s a basic human health issue. And it’s emblematic of the wave of false narratives gutting the soul of America, in this case that “regulations” are inherently bad and profitability trumps poisonous water. I’m all for minimizing bureaucracy, but let’s not commit suicide in the process. Let’s be clear, I am afraid … that our country has been hijacked by bad actors who lack compassion and have mastered the game of messaging. Whoever controls the message controls the future. image image Tell us about your show opening this Thursday, March 9th. What do you want viewers to take away from it? Who do you most hope it reaches? In the work I’m exploring right now, I cut American flags to shreds, deconstruct and then reconstruct them into beautiful new forms. This is both a call to folks to take action, any action, which makes them part of the solution to our current crises. And my wish for our country – that we survive these dark times and come out the other side with an even brighter future. In addition to these flag works, select pieces from both my recent series, I’m with The Banned and The Best Books Ever Written, will be displayed. So you get a juicy taste of what I’ve been cooking up the past two years. The exhibition opens March 9th, 7:30-10pm and runs through March 30th - Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140. For more info, contact gallery director Karen Sepsenwol karen@mbjcc.org, 305.534.3206 x214.
One of the new flag works debuting at my Miami Beach opening Thur, March 9th, 7:30-10p! Thru March 31th – Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140. For more info, contact gallery director Karen Sepsenwol karen@mbjcc.org, 305.534.3206 x214.

I also have a solo show opening tonite (March 9th) in Miami Beach. It features American flags cut to shreds, deconstructed and then reconstructed into beautiful new forms. This is my wish for our country – that we survive these dark times and come out the other side with an even brighter future. 

MiamiBchJCCInvite

My friend, the poet Aja Monet, recently said, “It is the duty of artists to make revolution irresistible.” I must admit I am angst-ridden trying to figure how to do this – to Find Myself AND Fund Myself simultaneously. To build bridges … and light a fire under others to do likewise. For starters, a percentage of my art sales this month will be donated to the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League. Hopefully, that still leaves money for me to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

While that alone is clearly not enough, I believe that’s what my dad would do.

All-star year?

Smart People Being Smart

Peay Vineyards July 4 2008I’m generally a happy guy. Cute wife. Bouncy kids. Fuzzy dog. So it’s hard to wake up each morning to something like this:

“How does a lie come to be widely taken as the truth? The answer is disturbingly simple: Repeat it over and over again. When faced with facts that contradict the lie, repeat it louder.”

This NYT editorial from earlier this week discussed the remarkable success of the voter fraud myth. Despite being statistically non-existent (31 cases in over a billion ballots), this false narrative has convinced nearly half of registered voters that voter fraud is a problem that justifies making voting more difficult for many (read brown people). While this makes me want to throw up in my mouth and this mass deception is being created almost entirely by one party, I’m not going all political diatribe here. 

The artist Hoxxoh at work
The artist Hoxxoh at work

Instead, to keep me from walking into a Dairy Queen and punching everybody in the face, I will pivot to something utterly joyful. I’m thrilled to introduce my newest project, MEET YOUR MAKERS, a collaboration with the phenomenal editorial team at The New Tropic. 

For each episode of MYM, I sit down with creative geniuses and pick their brains about their process and what makes them do their thing. Our first episode features uber worldwide muralist Douglas Hoekzema aka Hoxxoh. Here’s a little taste (the main event is at the bottom of this post).

Over decades, Hoxxoh developed an instantly recognizable style based on his dedication and fascination with a particular mark and its infinite variations. His work graces the far corners of the globe, and he’s currently painting (as you read this) the largest commission of his life, a 25,000 square foot wall on a gorgeous beachfront high rise. 

Hoxxoh 25000sf wall
Hoxxoh’s largest wall ever. You’re looking at just 1/6 of what it will be.

Through these delightful artist-to-artist interactions I, and hopefully you, are reminded that our world is not just a giant shit-storm of hate and lies. And that our best impulses can and are being put to their right uses by many. And that magic dust is real and is being sprinkled daily by makers and thinkers who cannot and will not be influenced by anything but their own inner compasses. 

Hoxxoh mural at Miami Marine Stadium

Meet Your Makers honors the good guys. The fearless. The heartbeats. Those on an endless quest to express the truth for the greater good, whether that truth hurts or not. We fight the spineless who cheat via falsehoods, paying attention only to their personal benefit without caring one iota for what is fair or just or globally harmful.

Voter Map of Shame
In these dark times when politics often ruins my days before they begin, I am tingly all over to be a part of something solely aimed at celebrating smart people being really smart. 

Hoxxoh Process

Ladies & Gentlemen…it is my distinct pleasure to present to you the inaugural episode of Meet Your Makers!