Mushrooms, Man

Get high on mushrooms as high art

A free truffle giveaway? No. Then why did people get so happy about fungi recently at the Sagamore Hotel? Two doors south of the Delano, the joint's jam-packed with groovy contemporary art. The owners, Cricket and Marty Taplin, are big collectors and their newest acquisition -- a permanent installation by artist Roxy Paine -- is both cool and novel. Or so thought the massive turnout that celebrated this mysterious three-dimensional mass of plasteresque mushrooms protruding from a wall. "They create quite a curiosity," said Cricket Taplin.

One question the crowd pondered: Why mushrooms? Everyone had an opinion. "Art is to give people something to think about," said Barbara Gillman, owner of her eponymous gallery. "When they [hotel guests] check in, they will certainly notice them." "Only in Miami would an event be held over mushrooms," noted observer John Thornton. The overall consensus: very interesting.

But what was the inspiration? That mystery could only be solved by Roxy Paine, the New York City mushroom man himself. Over the years, in addition to fashioning realistic depictions of the natural, the internationally acclaimed artist has whipped up clever mechanical inventions that make unique works of art. They include "SCUMAK (Auto Sculpture Maker)," a machine that extrudes sculptural blobs onto a conveyor belt, and "PMU (Painting Manufacture Unit)," a computer-driven device that churns out paintings.

Fungus fun at the Sagamore
Steve Satterwhite
Fungus fun at the Sagamore

Details

Admission is free. Call 305-535-8088.
Can be seen daily in the lobby of the Sagamore Hotel, 1671 Collins Ave, Miami Beach.

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But back to the mushroom question: Why? "I try to understand nature as a language," Paine explains, "to learn the elements and rule of species by which they grow -- maximum size, minimum size, and how they decay. Then I can make mushrooms not cast from existing mushrooms. I create sculptures true to the species."

So true that they appear good enough to eat. But resist the urge to take a bite, or an artist of another kind -- a dentist -- will have to sculpt you new teeth.

 
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