Inside her sun-drenched Morningside studio, Agustina Woodgate reclines in a swivel chair. A wall clock missing its hour and minute hands hangs like a broken halo above her head.
"I call it my waiting clock," the artist says. Dazzling Florida sunbeams land on her desk, where a collection of glass beakers and plastic bags filled with multicolored dust casts tiny rainbows. Some are labeled, "stars," "very tall mountains," and "cities."
Agustina Woodgate at Art Basel Miami Beach
The meticulously organized display is the result of months of Woodgate's painstakingly laborious work, part of a solo project called "New Landscapes" that's set to propel the 31-year-old to new heights this week. Woodgate is among the few locals featured at Art Basel Miami Beach, a slot that's catapulted other Miami artists — including Hernan Bas and Friends With You — to national prominence.
Woodgate, a finalist earlier this year for a Miami New Times' Mastermind Award, could be poised for a similar leap with "New Landscapes." To create the work, the artist and two assistants spent nearly half a year erasing maps off a world atlas and then cataloguing the dust, corresponding each pile to topographical illustrations: mountains, oceans, countries.
"I think of it sort of how the Tibetan monks intricately create their sand mandalas over a short, intense period only to destroy their creation once completed, she says. "[It] reminds us of the ephemeral nature of time and life."
As a child, Woodgate, who was born in Buenos Aires, dreamed of becoming an inventor. "I used to do my own little experiments trying to discover how things worked," she recollects. "Around the time I was 14, it dawned on me that what I really wanted to do was be an artist... because it allowed me to continue experimenting."
She arrived in Miami at the end of 2004 with her husband, Sebastian, who moved here for a graphic design job. "It was supposed to be for a year or two. But he has since opened his own freelance design studio, and Miami has become home for us."
Soon after arriving in Florida, Woodgate connected with art dealer Anthony Spinello through a Craigslist ad. Woodgate submitted works she'd created in college using her own hair as a medium.
"Immediately I knew we needed to work together and booked her debut exhibition, 'Organic,'" Spinello says. "However, trying to convince [the gallery owner] that an artist working with hair was a great idea... was not an easy endeavor."
The exhibition was a success, though, and the two have been working together since. In fact, Woodgate was the first artist Spinello officially represented. "Basically we grew up together, as did our careers here in Miami," the dealer says.
Through the years, Woodgate has continued to experiment with diverse media. Her projects range from a soaring watchtower created from 3,000 bricks of human hair, to a "poetry bombing" project in which she clandestinely sewed tags inscribed with verse into thrift-store clothing, to creating kaleidoscopic tapestries with the pelts of donated teddy bears.
Her works have recently gone global, with pieces exhibited at venues such as the Montreal Biennial, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin, and El Museo Nacional del Grabado.
This past summer, Woodgate and Spinello were among a group that transformed Spreepark Berlin, an abandoned Cold War-era German amusement park, into a multimedia wonderland. Their project, called "Kulturebahn," was two years in the making. At its conclusion, the duo found inspiration for Woodgate's new show.
"We discovered these billboards that had two circular maps of the planet's hemispheres superimposed with the words 'There is only one Earth, one world' on it," Woodgate says. "We cut out the circular maps with an Exacto blade and left the billboards with a circular void that actually worked better to convey the message."
That project dovetailed into her current fixation: sanding down maps and creating new representations of the world.
In her studio, Woodgate stands at a table behind her desk where the ghostly, gray remnants of part of her project are taking shape. A layer-cake-like outline replicating the form of her erased atlas rises about an inch from the surface.
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Asked how her Basel platform might transform her career, Woodgate pauses thoughtfully. "I am really excited about this opportunity, but I won't lie to you. [I] am feeling a little scared, but in a good way. It's like the feeling you get when riding a roller coaster, sort of like a huge adrenaline rush."
Woodgate still hasn't priced her works but says she's more focused on how her reputation might change. Unlike Bas, who moved to Detroit, and Friends With You, now in L.A., Woodgate says she's committed to staying in Miami.
But she does hope new global projects will be one payoff from this Basel week.
"Once you pull up your roots to see the world as your home, as I have, it makes you want to experience different cultures. What I would really love is having a studio everywhere I visit. But Miami is now home."