Premiering next week, Rising Tide is a documentary by local filmmaker Andrew Hevia, a member of the Borscht Film Festival crew, that focuses on seven Miami artists, including Jen Stark, whose mesmerizing work with colored paper we’ve featured in the past.
Shot in 2011, with Art Basel Miami Beach approaching, the film delves into the artists’ lives and work as a means of exploring Miami at this dynamic moment in the city’s cultural development. In the lead up to the film’s premier, I asked Hevia a few questions about Rising Tide and what he learned about Miami’s cultural trajectory while making it.
Why focus on these seven artists? Who are they and what did they signify to you in the context of the Miami art community?
AH: I went into the movie with the idea of focusing on a younger generation of Miami artists, specifically those who came of age since Art Basel Miami Beach first opened. With only one exception, these artists are Miami natives and their experience was interesting to me because they are part of a wave of talent that made the conscious choice to stay in Miami rather than pursue careers in more developed art scenes.
From Jen Stark touring the floor of ABMB and attending the Miami Art Museum Ball to Funner Projects’ performance at the De La Cruz Collection and Venessa Monokian’s open studio at Art Center South Florida on Lincoln Road, each artist allowed us to explore a different aspect of the art scene in an organic way. Gallery owner Brook Dorsch took us to Wynwood and gave us a sense of the history of the area and of his gallery in particular, the TM Sisters showed us Legal Art, with its live/work artist studios, and Brookhart Jonquil led us into the Pulse Art Fair.
Your focus on Miami artists amid the frenzy of Art Basel Miami Beach suggests a tension between the local art community and the international art fair. What did you learn about that dynamic in filming Rising Tide?
AH: Art Basel Miami Beach has had an enormous impact on the local art community. While the balance may have been tilted toward the fair mentality initially, it’s coming around. The week of ABMB remains the peak of Miami’s art season and that makes sense — it’s a huge influx of people, money, and attention that the local scene just can’t draw at this point. At the same time, I think Miami artists are developing ways to make work that acknowledges the realities of the art fairs yet manages to do something uniquely Miami at the same time. “Maintain Right,” the Funner Projects performance piece chronicled in the film, is a good example of a work that is not easily commodified yet takes advantage of the crowds and the scheduled art events to build an experience that is both thrilling and memorable.
Thom Collins, Director of the Miami Art Museum, said it best in the film when he said that “the more fairs, the more artists, the more visibility, the more discussion, is only good … a rising tide raises all ships.”
Having completed this project, where do you think Miami is in its cultural development? Which extreme are we closer to: international art capital or cultural backwater?
AH: A trick question! I went into the project with a similar mindset but now see it differently. I think the real question is about the health of Miami’s art ecosystem. This encompasses everything from the strength of our art schools to the gallery sales during the dead of summer. The goal shouldn’t be to somehow surpass New York in per capita art sales or host more art fairs than Chicago but rather to make sure that the events we do have are well attended and that our resident artists are supported. On this end, Miami has come a long way in quite a short period of time. The last twelve years have seen astronomical growth. I hope this documentary is a part of raising the awareness that we have innovative, talented artists working here and if we as a city turn out to support them, we‘ll build a more vibrant and sustainable art culture.
After shooting Rising Tide, what do you think is the biggest misconception about Miami art/artists?
AH: When I started the project, I had a vague idea that there was a hierarchy of art cities — a “Tokyo is better than LA but not as good as Berlin” sort of thing. The deeper I got into it the more I came to see that it’s not really a competition. This is sort of a Miami issue though, the inferiority complex. There’s a segment of the population that has yet to see that there are great things going on here that don’t need to be externally validated. If you enjoy the art and the artists are able to maintain a certain quality of life while creating it, then everybody wins.
What do you think is the biggest challenge Miami faces in its cultural development?
AH: Miami appreciates beautiful things, that’s never been the issue. During an interview for the film, Thom Collins and I had this discussion where he described Miami as “aesthetically oriented,” which I think is a wonderful phrase, and we talked about how right now the predominate focus tends toward the superficial: flashy cars, expensive clothes, and posh condos. But by the same token, flashy cars are astonishingly well designed industrial machines, high fashion is the work of driven and talented artists, and architecture can last for centuries and is a crucial and integrated component of our everyday lives.
It’s only a few steps from these to painting [and] sculpture, and only a few steps more to mixed media performance art. Through repeated exposure and increased awareness to all different types of art and performance and music, Miami will continue to integrate these happenings into the mainstream. The attendance explosion at Wynwood Art Walk is proof of this, it just takes time.
Rising Tide: A Story of Miami Artists will screen at WLRN Studios on Tuesday, November 13, at 5:30 p.m. (tickets are free but limited). The film will make its television premier on WLRN’s Channel 17 on Wednesday, November 14, at 8 p.m. Learn more at WLRN.org. The following film poster is by another Miami artist: Bleeding Palm.