I have a question: men are expected (by whom you might ask) to love the great outdoors... until it gets colorful. Green or brown is okay, but vibrant flowers, not so much. Last month I explored Miami Women artists via the LnS Gallery and Oolite Arts exhibitions, and the difficulty women artists experienced jamming a foot in the door with the big boys in NYC and beyond decades ago... where are we now with all that?
Mindy Solomon Gallery “Men Who Paint Flowers” exhibition (Aug. 6 - Sept. 10) seems a natural gender expectation segue for additional discussion.
Reading the title, I pondered how many directions this could be headed. I stood at the metaphorical center of a wheel... thoughts jutted out like spokes around the theme.
Why are there so many parameters on how flowers are perceived?
Flowers are essentially used to express femininity.
Floral fabric and wallpaper are thought to be predominantly “for girls.”
Men are not named Rose, or Daisy or Lily... unless you want to include (Sweet) William. There are some obscure flower boy names but nothing you’d recognize.
Men giving flowers is not only acceptable but earn points. Women are not expected to reciprocate in kind.
The subtext: men don’t care about flowers, while women swoon.
Flowers signify youth, beauty, and pleasure representing fragility and swiftly passing from life into death. Hindus refer to the god Brahma as “lotus-born,” and thought to have emerged from a lotus that was the navel, or center, of the universe.
Enough with generalities, let’s pick through the seeds of the Mindy Solomon Gallery sensibility, its new exhibition, and how it plays into the discussion of art, symbolic communication, and gender roles. Hard lines between what is feminine and what is masculine are being chipped away daily in everyday modern life. Did these chosen artists transcend stereotypical symbolism?
Solomon divided the show into four categories: love, humor, decoration and dystopia. That last category is in full swing with Chase Barney poking into his Mormon upbringing with an artistic satirical search, bringing personal reality into alignment. Barney has an undercurrent playing out below the vibrant playful facade.
There are plenty of bright happy colors in many of the works, but then... there is always... something. Something that lurks. A sadness. An ending. Something unsettling.
This is where the online story of the gallery connects with their follow through: (Mindy Solomon Gallery) “...explores the intersection of art and design through an ongoing dialog between two and three-dimensional objects, while embracing diasporic voices.”
I had questions for Solomon:
Irene Sperber: What was the first spark that created the idea of “Men who Paint Flowers”?
Mindy Solomon: “The exhibition is a very personal response to the previous show 'Hospitality Suite' an exhibition that was all female artists confronting the idea of obligation and perforative giving without passion. 'Men Who Paint Flowers' addresses the issue of male vulnerability and sensitivity in a culture consumed with “manliness.”
IS: Creative projects often have their own direction of what they want to be. Did the exhibition change shape/meaning/message as it matured into the finished show?
MS: “The images definitely began to take very specific directions as outlined in the curatorial statement- love, humor, decoration, and dystopia. This all became evident as the work was submitted.”
IS: Many of the works (to me) have an ominous undercurrent. What main idea or question would you like visitors to take away from "Men Who Paint Flowers”?
MS: That artists continue to be fascinated by nature and flowers specifically. The dystopian perspective is also a reflection of COVID, war, and our overall search for meaning in a sometimes cruel and unfeeling world.
You will not be bored with this exhibition. Contributing artist Famakan Magassa’s work is complicated... part playful, part fantastical. My original impression of lightness with the top character spewing floral epithets gave way to a lower, more otherworldly being... a disembodied head being stabbed in the back by the upper being with a stiletto knife.
I needed some background direction from the gallery: “Magassa navigates between social satire and empathetic portrayals of his subjects.” They are all complex to decipher but give an impression of the layers of human nature being plumbed past a comfort zone. A West African artist, the references are more obscure, ie kourédougas - members of a non-religious community that concentrate on wisdom, righteousness, and humility.
I moved on to a more recognizable theme. Tom Bils' suburban southern upbringing opens up a simpler, more mundane time with his photograph of wallpaper peppered with small pink roses. What could be safer? Oh wait. It was the beginning of opioid abuse in America. Brings to mind the phrase “if these walls could talk”. Sadness mars a lighter theme in this lonely image of...what? Missing humanity?
Taichi Nakamura’s work has a collage-y bent. Its muted green-based colors soothe, but the pieces communicate loss, death, and reminiscence. Add a dollop of myth and meditation into a deeper world of the beyond. Spend some time with Nakamura. I dare you.
In addition to the aforementioned, also participating in the exhibit are Alejandro Pasquale, Benjamin Cabral, Chase Barney, Clifton Childree, Ezra Johnson, Jose Manuel Mesias, Moises Salazar, Philip Gerald, Richard Wathen, Rick Leong, and Shai Yehezkelli.
Solomon “invites a sense of community and aesthetic enrichment”. The gallery opened in 2009, specializing in “contemporary emerging and mid-career artists and art advisory services”. Mindy Solomon is also a founding member of the always diverse group of galleries and artists producing an ongoing Progressive Art Brunch held several Sundays a year, an open house of Miami’s more forward thinking art leaders.
"Men Who Paint" Through Sept. 10
Mindy Solomon Gallery
848 NW 22 Street
Open: Tuesday - Saturday
11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and by appointment