Miami New Times' Mastermind Awards honors the city's most inspiring creatives. As we approach Artopia, our annual arts soiree where we'll announce the three Mastermind winners March 8, we're profiling each of our nine 2012 finalists. For tickets and more information about Artopia, visit the website.
In perhaps the most peaceful "bombings" ever, Argentine/Miamian/cosmopolitan artist Agustina Woodgate's "poetry bombings" find her in local thrift stores, sewing labels containing lines of poetry into articles of clothing for the buyer to stumble upon. That is, until disgruntled shop attendants step in to debunk her lyrically subversive behavior.
The visual, conceptual, and site-specific artist does not come from a long line of creative types. In fact, she says her grandmother, who exposed her to the world of creation and craft, was the only artist in her clan. Still, she felt the artistic drive from the time she was a child. "And I was very involved in the music scene in Buenos Aires," Woodgate says, "and that had an influence on me also, just being around those types of things and friends."
Woodgate likes to allow her environment to shape her work; for example, for her project titled Last Supper, she used only the objects that were already in an apartment to set a makeshift dining room for a dinner for 12. A briefcase, a television, and a stack of books became chairs; two ladders and a board became a bench.
For If These Walls Could Talk, the artist, who is also an art teacher, painstakingly "remodeled" an abandoned kindergarten classroom, sanding down its walls to a ghostly blankness and piling the dust into the chalk holders beneath an empty chalkboard. In doing so, she applied the same approach she had used in creating Sooner Than Later, a student's globe that she sanded down, erasing its surface entirely. The larger project took place in a former Family Christian Association of America School in the Design District after its acquisition by Dacra Realty.
The piece was part of a larger exhibition which gave three artists their own classrooms as showrooms. "Each of us reacted or responded to the space in our own way. My reaction was site-specific, so I found these two chalkboards in the classroom and basically sanded the four walls of the room. So it's called If These Walls Could Talk, so as you enter the classroom it's as though the architecture contained all the lessons," she says. "It was a very specific reaction to the site itself, but also a continuation of a conversation that I was already starting to explore."
She also works in fabrics. In her series of Skin Rugs, she uses the furs of stuffed animals to create colorful kaleidoscopic tapestries.
She uses only donated stuffed animals to create these rugs. "People come by the studio and drop them off. It's very important that they're used, the fact that they belonged to someone, and all the symbolism around the memories and childhood. Teddy bears are a strange object, because people want to get rid of them, but they don't want to throw them away or give them away. But they seem to feel okay about giving them away as long as they're going to become something else," the artist says. "It's a very funny thing. I am the same way; I still have my own teddy bears, I'm 30 years old -- how strange!"
Her latest, and largest project is her Kulturpark, a multi-dimensional undertaking in an abandoned theme park in Berlin. It started when the artist, curator Anthony Spinello, and two other team members received a research grant from Art Matters, New York. They traveled to Europe together to investigate a potential art space and to draw up a proposal for an art project.
"The park was built by the GDR in 1969, and when the wall fell down it was in East Berlin. Then it was bought privately and later abandoned in 2001, which created a totally different landscape. We went to research it historically, socially, on the politics of leisure, how entertainment changed depending on political systems," Woodgate says.
In their investigations, they grasped that the park had the potential to become an epicenter of creation. So their multi-phase project will bring in 25 visionaries, as well as exchange students from American art schools, to use its space in a variety of creative ways of their choosing. The park will open to the public from June 28 to July 1. "And then who knows?" the artist says.
Agustina Woodgate is the first finalist profiled in this year's Mastermind series.
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