Metal artist Adriana Carvalho looks back on experiences as an artist-in-residence at Art Center South Florida with a retrospective of her work called 101 Dresses.
Opening September 29, her personal oeuvre will be familiar to many who have frequented the Art Center on Lincoln Road over the eight years she has inhabited the Center. Her work is memorable in its delicate feminine simplicity but, coupled with the harshness of material and execution, the hidden answers as to motivation take some unraveling. The multi-layered information brings us closer to Carvalho’s work, always stunningly and competently implemented. There are exceptions to the delicacy of subject matter; Link, (by Carvalho, David Zalben and George Schroeder) is an aggressive visual. Others project an alternative nuance, as poetry finds it’s way into the work. By the title of this exhibition, you may correctly surmise that female apparel will be suggested in each offering; her signature bodice shape is the common thread as myriad materials mirror the dress form. Carvalho can see the repeating bodice outline in candy wrappers, tin can lids and botanicals.
Adriana Carvalho is not what she appears in demeanor or work. Petite in stature, the artist manages to wrangle difficult material into perfect form by the challenging art of welding...a medium not for the timid. Carvalho moves metal into diaphanous dresses, suggesting fabric wafting on hangers despite the intransigence of material.
The viewer is aware there’s a plethora of mental machinations involved with each piece. Using recycled material, Adriana starts with found objects, most memorable a street light blown from it’s moorings in front of her house became a piece called Katrina, which has one of her metallic mesh dresses squashed beneath the fallen light. Adriana’s mind travels in surprising directions when encountering ephemera of our daily lives. This brain did not suddenly appear in adulthood. As a kid she made dolls from tin cans, steel wires, roots, seeds and clay. When her father gave her a gift of pliers, she considered it a “cherished gift of trust”. Carvalho has expanded on her childhood diversion to the feminine dress shapes of today, fashioned from wire, mesh, tea lights, nails, steel wool and on occasion, copper, aluminum and brass - welding, bending and sewing them into familiar contours. They range in size from an diminutive 1.5 inches to 6 feet. Her Brillo pad pieces are, in fact, entitled Lilliputians. She manipulates these tricky little materials with needle nose pliers coupled with a carefully practiced patience. Her concentration is precise, but she learns from happy accidents. Recently Carvalho stumbled upon a pile of used rain gutters languishing on the street. While some of us might require a somewhat more lofty gift, the artist’s day was made. Hanging in her Art Center studio are three giant articles of clothing. These unmentionables reflect the excitement Adriana encountered seeing the rain gutters with their amazing natural green-tinged patina along with the ravages of age coating edges that in the finished product gave an impression of rows of lace on panties. A leap of thought not all of us could successfully muster upon tripping over construction detritus.
An important factor in her current stopover in the creative journey of life, is a remark a friend made on Adriana’s modus operandi. “ I am very precise” Carvalho states. The friend insisted: ‘You have to crush to get out of yourself.’ “By the process of crushing I could break any neurotic tendencies,” explains the artist. “It is another form of art. Things are beautiful and then they get crushed.” She finally took the advice. After meticulously fashioning perfect bodices with attached skirts out of very breakable metal, she then crushes them, calling the work Roadkill. Carvalho admits that often after days and days of finger breaking work, the crushing process can destroy the beautiful dress and it must be started over, and occasionally then a third time.
Another clarifying anecdote shining a light on her inner life, is close attention to nature. “ I love biology and plants. I fell in love with a flatworm that reproduces when they’re cut in half. I made a dress out of steel wool that gave the impression of the same reproduction of itself. I do a lot of research on my work.” No kidding.
I asked her what she would like audiences to bring away from her exhibition. “The show is about aesthetics. I want to show values and a quality of vision. We need people self-taught and with a vision, and we need to create opportunity.” Carvalho does not speak idly. She has a Foundation in Brazil, her country of origin. Fundaçäo Pau-de-Carvalho “teaches underprivileged children crafts and art history, exposing them to education. We need to teach techniques - to pass knowledge along to other generations. If I can help one kid it is important.”
She also has a business called Pink Bastard here in Miami, collaborating with partner and fellow wire artist David Zalben. “PB organizes shows, showcasing people with vision and quality,” says Adriana. They did the successful inaugural Wynwood Art Fair last year, along with Lotus House, winning Best Booth with their installation. “Pink Bastard puts the space, arts and decoration together creating something that connects.” She will participate in the Art Live Fair 2012 as well.
The exhibition will combine work both new and old. Visit Adriana daily in the Arts Center South Florida studio. Studio #111 800 Lincoln Road.
101 DRESSES by Adriana Carvalho
Richard Shack Gallery
Art Center South Florida
800 Lincoln Road
On view September 29 - November 11, 2012
Wednesday, October 3rd, 6-10 pm
Saturday, October 6 & November 3rd 7-1
Art Center South Florida
Richard Shack Gallery
photos by David Zalben