In the age of information, when everything moves at the speed of smartphones — it takes skill to sit still.
Miami's Daniela Viotti is the master of not moving.
A living statue, artist, sculptor, costume designer, and Lincoln Road icon, this singular entrepreneur has created an artistic niche all her own.
Far from the standard still-life street performers in every tourist destination, Daniela's characters, including the Queen of Hearts, Carmen Miranda, and Archangel Gabriel, come to life through elaborate apparel and painstakingly practiced poses.
Viotti has been all about art since she her formative years in Argentina. As a child, she designed her own dolls, wrote award-winning poetry, and, later, took up sculpting. She studied fine arts in Argentina before traveling to the United States and eventually settling in Miami.
In 2001, she created her first living statue. It sought to represent the universal struggles of those who endeavor to start new lives elsewhere. "Even the costume itself, weighing nearly 60 pounds in total, represents in a sense a form of struggle to overcome, and it gave the living statue a sense of authenticity and texture that helped bring his work to life," Viotti says.
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Since then, she's portrayed about 50 characters at more than a thousand events, parties, and occasions. She serves as her own cast and crew. "I develop, design, and fabricate everything that goes into my costumes, including footwear and props," she says. "I view my creations... with the eyes of a sculptor."
She's honed her craft to the point that she needs to blink only twice per hour. Viotti learned these skills through modeling for renowned Argentine painter César López Claro, starting when she was 20. She spent eight years studying Bhakti yoga in a monastery. "My service is to spread happiness," she says. "I've never been the type of performer that you can hire to repeat a line or action like a lifeless robot."
When she has time, Viotti sets up on Lincoln Road, across from Victoria's Secret at Lincoln and Jefferson, usually on weekend evenings. If you're passing by, this uncommon woman is hard to miss.
"The secret is in the eyes of each individual. It's not about wearing a costume and looking at the clock hoping the time passes quickly," Viotti explains. "When you look deeply into a person's eyes, you are looking directly into their soul."