Unlikely Portraits

"Sometimes you go into the studio and it works well. The first seven times it didn't work," says mixed-media artist Annie Wharton about the eventually successful project she made from cement, wood, pigments, and photo transfers for the exhibition, The Art of Work, the Work of Art, which goes on display Saturday at ArtCenter/South Florida.

The show, which paired fifteen visual artists with local professionals in the community and required them to create portraits of each other in their respective media, is based on a program developed by Working Arts Group in Washington, D.C. ArtCenter board chairman Richard Shack had heard about the project during a report aired on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. He teamed up with local arts supporter Lou Ann Colodny to organize a Miami version of the exhibition.

Aside from Wharton the duo recruited painters Fenol Marcelin and Tony Chimento, sculptors Carolina Sardi and Daniel Fiorda, collage artist William Robb, mixed-media artist Nina Ferre, and several others in the art world. Members of the community enlisted to become temporary artists included PR guru Charlie Cinnamon, real estate maven Esther Percal, plastic surgeon Dr. Gilbert Snyder, attorney Juan Loumiet, television newsman Michael Putney, and ad executive Teri Harris.

Over the course of five months the artists and their partners got to know each other by meeting three times: once each in their respective environments, and once in a mutually agreed on location. They exchanged information about themselves and then began writing short essays about each other and creating their portraits. Artists worked in their medium. The nonartists did as well. Ad exec Harris concocted an ad campaign for her partner Marcelin, attorney Loumiet wrote a legal brief about artist Ferre. Publicist Cinnamon indulged in performance art, hosting a press luncheon for his cohort Chimento.

"It was really a great idea because it brought together people from inside and outside the art world and gave us a unique perspective into each other's occupation or metier," says Wharton, who was matched with Troy Abbott, a computer specialist who works in digital video and creates Websites and corporate identities. Abbott's portrait of Wharton (a Web page featuring her spinning, smiling head) can be viewed not only in the show but on the Internet at www.interactivearts.com/annie. When pressed to describe how the work describes who she really is, Wharton grapples: "I don't know how it relates to me exactly, but it's nutty and brilliant. It's not like the Exorcist. It's just totally wack!"

-- Nina Korman

The Art of Work, the Work of Art is on view from Saturday, January 9, through Saturday, February 20, at ArtCenter/South Florida, 800 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach. A reception takes place Saturday evening from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Admission is free. Call 305-674-8278.

 
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