Randy Burman selects a black sandal from a heap of shoes in a cardboard box. With a devilish grin, he hurls it across the length of his small studio. It lands on a painting of Rick Santorum's face with a satisfying thwack.
He's demonstrating Vent-o-Matic, a chainlink fence structure on which he's hung his own paintings of Republican politicians such as Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, and Donald Rumsfeld. When it goes on display, viewers will be able to hurl shoes at the conservative visages too.
"The sound is just so -- " Burman gestures enthusiastically. "Originally I got a bunch of squeezy dog toys to put behind the boards so it would squeak. But it really doesn't need it."
Vent-o-Matic is one of dozens of diverse art projects Burman has produced since he returned to fine art a decade ago, spanning painting, sketch work, sculpture, installation, and more. In 2014, the 67-year-old artist collaborated with O, Miami to install lines of poetry on street signs across Miami-Dade.
Aside from graphic design, Burman's longtime day job, it might look like he's never attempted the same artistic feat twice. Burman grew up in the Baltimore area, running in the same circles as film director John Waters. He designed the credits for Waters' classic Pink Flamingos and even played a bit part in the film. "It's a little scene where Divine is shoplifting in a store, and this pervert -- me -- is squeezing some sausages in front of her," Burman laughs. "It's kind of a crazy scene."
After stints running his father's poultry wholesale business and working on an organic farm, Burman moved to Miami in 1976. He worked odd jobs until he had established himself as a graphic designer and focused his creativity on the work that paid the bills.
And for decades, Burman says, that was enough. "It's been very nice -- I have no complaints," he explains, "but I had all this stuff built up inside. I don't want to tell paying clients, 'No, I can't take anymore work,' but at the same time, I have such an urge, so many ideas coming out now."
Poem by Annette Wells
Photo courtesy of Randy Burman
His bayside condo is filled with those ideas. Art of Destruction, a shredder built into a see-through box with instructions for viewers to feed printed copies of famous works of art into it, greets you at its entrance. Wooden shibui box sculptures are displayed around its airy living room. And in the design studio he shares with his wife, Manita, a row of sketches adorned with sayings lines one wall.
"I call them Manitaisms," he says. Each is a lovingly rendered drawing of Manita alongside her own words -- many of which seem to have been said during an argument: "Now you're wasting time talking when I could be talking." "You know, he's a lot like you, he's irritating but his heart is in the right place," and "Why are you raising your voice so I can't yell over you?"
"They're not particularly complimentary," Manita laughs.
Burman has dabbled in dozens of media, which makes his body of work difficult to define. "A lot of what I do is experimentation, just playing with materials," Burman explains. "I think life is an art, really. The whole period when I wasn't doing fine-art work, in essence I had converted so that all acts were acts of art. Everything is worth doing right, worth looking at, worth observation or dialogue. That was a consistent."
This year's three MasterMind Award winners will be announced February 26 at Artopia, our annual soirée celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit newtimesartopia.com.
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