I had not been to a Collective 62 studios and gallery exhibition until the opening of the "Belt Of Venus show in February. It was worth every minute of my Sunday, meandering at the spot of Miami that arose from a vision of artist Nina Surel. Collective 62 consists of a grouping of three intimate renovated buildings housing 15 working artist studios nestled in a natural courtyard. The vibe is quiet and comfortable — a space for thought to accommodate “a group of diverse women artists working in an independent art space devoted to creating art outside of the traditional circuits.”
Including artists for exhibitions from in and out of Collective 62, Surel explains: “This is the dynamic we are exercising. We know each other but we always invite (for gallery shows) two or three people from the outside to resonate and expand.”
"Belt of Venus" is comprised of in-house artists Alex Nunez, Veronica Pasman and Capucine Safir augmented by two invited artists Patricia Schnall Guiterrez and Nereida Garcia Ferraz. Each of the five artists displays a thoughtful dedication to their work and a vision to push their own boundaries as each progress through the business of living through art.
I got just what I want/need from visiting an opening … stimulated by the conversations prompted from visuals laid out before me.
The name of the show, “The Belt of Venus,” refers to a pink glow above the horizon opposite the sun at sunrise and sunset. The name is inspired from the girdle that is said to be worn by the goddess Venus.
First up was Veronica Pasman, an Argentinian mixed-media artist living in Miami for the past decade. Three 10-meter-long rolls of paper unfurled from ceiling to floor with swatches of ebullient acrylic exciting the viewer's eye with color and form.
“My work is inspired by three elements, water, air and earth (each piece represents an element). Working a lot in relationships, some may look like landscapes but they are all about relationships,” Pasman says.
She reveals that her career in Argentina was in graphic design.
“ I just needed to start painting big. I am trying to break this judgy (approach I required) as a graphic designer. I like to be able to work the whole body.”
“Does the expansiveness reflect your life now?” I asked the artist.
“Moving to a new place I had to find my new self. In Argentina, I had a name, here I had to start over. I always painted as a hobby, but I never did it as a serious thing. Now I’m doing it every day. I had studied in Argentina.”
From Pasman, I pivoted to discussing the work of artist Capucine Safir and discovered a similar motivation…to express in a more expansive mode, larger, with freer movements. Artists cannot allow themselves to stay in place — perimeters must be continually explored.
“This is a new series called ‘Let Go,' says Safir. "I’m originally more into sculpture. This was not easy for me because I am actually trying to let go. My sculpture is very smooth, very delicate and very detailed. My work here (in this show) is letting go of my gesture. I started in small scale because it’s already a battle for me. I’m trying to do as simple as it gets…because ‘less is more’ defines my work in general.”
I had to ask: “Do you have a background that explains where you began?”
"My background is interior design. It’s more being a super control freak in general, and again, my sculptures, even if they are very organic and sensual they are very smooth. It’s not about therapy, but as an artist I want to do different things.”
A large multi-media piece loomed next on the wall as I meandered the pleasant gallery space. I needed to know what went into the work of Cuban American artist Alex Nunez, born and raised in Miami.
“Photo backdrop paper, with acrylic, chalk pastel, oil pastel, glass mirrors on the top, and a bit of archival ink. Traditionally these (are the) elements that I use in my practice, Nunez says.
"I usually work on multiple pieces at once and it allows for that kind of impatient layering, and immediate gratification of pairing accidental stained larger pools with the automatic drawing of these personal hieroglyphics. I’m inspired by Miami marine life…nature, sea monsters, leaves, palm trees…that are kind of scattered throughout. (It’s) about capturing that frenetic energy that’s in wind, and water, light...”
The vibrant palette of Miami is an inspiration, too.
“. . . The gaudy glitz paired with the dirty remnants of movement. So I like to have the works as graphical as possible, almost like a documentation of the movement, inspired by abstract expressionists and stained painters of the past, and putting my own spin on it with my layering techniques.”
I inquired, “Have you always worked large?”
“Yes. My thesis at Hunter College was 70 ft by 19 ft. I’m also inspired by theater backdrops.”
Special invited artist Patricia Schnall Guiterrez discussed one of her pieces in the show:
“It’s very atmospheric because I have a thing about being in the clouds, and I love darkness. I’m not exactly sure why. There’s this melancholy feel to it. People always say ‘you seem like such a happy person but your work is very melancholy.’ I met an artist years ago that said ‘don’t be afraid of the darkness’…and I was (then) afraid of the darkness.
“Everybody has this part of them… occasionally I get into color because it's fun. A lot of what I have is the interior space in my head,” says Schnall Guiterrez is an accomplished multidisciplinary artist who relocated to South Florida in 2007 from New York.
Cuban born artist Nereida Garcia Ferraz was not on site when I arrived at the gallery, but after searching for visual information in her pieces I electronically sought her out and we spoke through email.
“What was your vision of what this exhibition needed to extract from your creativity?"
“The strength of working together thinking, planning, questioning and exhibiting together is not only a rewarding but strengthening experience. I think our works create a dialogue not only among us but also with viewers.”
Ferraz is right about that synchronic excitement the group generated. There’s something about this gallery that resonates. I conversed with artist/founder Surel to find out what the “glue” is that binds Collective 62. I was stimulated and impressed by the breadth of Surel’s work and vision.
“When did you start the Collective?”
Surel says: “2017. In those days Vicki (Pierre) and Christina (Pettersen) were invited artists to (the first exhibition), ‘The Reform of Consciousness’ curated by Florencio Noceti (professor of philosophy, University of Buenos Aires). I invited them because I bought these properties (3 buildings), had my studio and wanted to have an inauguration, but it turned out that everybody thought it was a gallery and not (only) studios. I left a space open so when we installed the (subsequent) show, I invited another round of artists, and then it begin to be an ongoing program.”
Her own work involves murals and ceramics, which are worth every gaze of the eye, artistically complicated, and a great story in each piece.
"I started to work in ceramic three yrs ago. I came across the medium in a conceptual way; I got into performance pieces, and exploring with the clay and then the pandemic came. You could only use whatever you had (referring to the supply chain situation). I recycled the ceramic from my performance piece and did my first mural with one of the images projected on the wall.”
I got waylaid at this point by a wall full of large glass jars of buttons lining her studio, which started life as a church. I couldn’t help myself and dragged the artist/founder off topic and into the buttons.
“This is my previous work related to the buttons and notions. “ The photographs (included in this work) are from Argentina, where I am from, and the photos are made in a studio, it’s like a collage,” she says.
They are gorgeous, sumptuous, very complicated, and other worldly.
“There is a lot of European in tradition of the bas relief. I was lately thinking on how people, and seeds, migrate and how landscapes are created. I start with images… images come to me from things I’ve made. “The idea of the collages overlapping; images, ideas and concepts is what defines my work. Once you have the moment to understand nature…with ceramics, everything is so organic,” she says.
I will absolutely be visiting Collective 62 for future exhibitions, may I suggest you put this one on your calendar.
Collective 62, 827 NW 62nd. St., Liberty City neighborhood of Miami.
"Belt of Venus" on view through March 30.
Info at thecollective62.com