In honor of our People Issue, which will hit newsstands and computer screens November 25, Cultist proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes in random order. Have suggestions for future profiles? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
90. Kyle Trowbridge
For artist Kyle Trowbridge there is no topic -- including sex, violence, pornography, the internet, religion or politics -- that he can't deconstruct, tear apart, and otherwise expose as hypocrisy. Amidst the glossy veneer of superficiality that cloaks much of Miami, Trowbridge is an artist who forces Miami and the world at large to look at its decrepit underbelly.
The University of Miami professor focuses much of his work -- exhibited in Toronto, Santo Domingo, New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Vienna -- on the pitfalls of modern existence. Not that such hostility is immediately apparent upon viewing his work. "It's easy to render something extreme or shocking, but the truly scary stuff occurs when I just set a suggestive stage obscured in humor and allow the viewers to fill in the blanks with their quelled baggage. They always laugh at first and then their expressions slowly change from one of amusement to concern. I love (exploring) those moments," Trowbridge says.
But his work (sculpture, mixed media installations, video, and more) is more than a condemnation of society's afflictions, it's an exploration of why humans behave as they do. "I'm a social critic. I've never offered solutions. I'm just hoping to provoke thought." His latest work, a video titled The Divine Comedy, enlightens the nuances of human behavior in a ballet of underwater theater. You might have caught it flashing across the American Airlines Arena's mega screen recently as part of a curated project for the Miami Art Museum.
Just as surprising as the discomfort that seeps into your being after seeing a Trowbridge sculpture, installation, or video, which he hopes hits observers like a "delayed sucker punch to the back of the head," is that the man behind the art is actually quite jovial. He's a good-natured soul who married his high school sweetheart and is a doting father to a five-year-old daughter. So what gives? How does Trowbridge balance the beautiful and the ugly? "Art is an outlet for me. It allows me to experience and explore those weird backroom, dark things that life is full of. But at the end of the day I find solace in my students and family."
Lucky for him. And lucky for us.
1. List five things that inspire you.
- The less fortunate
- Mexican beer
- And, of course, my wife and daughter
2. What was your last big project?
I just finished editing a video piece entitled The Divine Comedy for
the Miami Art Museum's current exhibition New Work Miami 2010. It was a
play off of Dante's epic poem by the same name. It essentially consists
of swimmers I filmed from the underwater observation windows of an
olympic size swimming pool. In the editing process, I've flipped the
footage so it broadcasts upside down. By doing so I've been able to have
the bottom of the pool read as a ceiling line. This playful change
boxes these swimmers in as they appear to struggle in a beautifully
awkward manner, back and forth, towards the pool's boundaries in a
seemingly endless and futile effort.
I've always been interested in dualities (the in and out, top and
bottom) and how our perception can be changed by a slight skewing of our
relative perspective. Repetition is also something that seems to run
throughout almost every video piece I've ever made. I don't know what it
is, but like my swimmers in the The Divine Comedy, I can't seem to
escape it. Maybe it's the heavy influence music has on me. I guess my
video is like a good punk rock song, all you need is the repetition of
those three chords buzzing and you've got someone's head bobbing.
3. What's your next big project?
Besides continuing to produce work for future shows, which at this stage
seems to be mostly sculptural, I am currently in the throws of trying
to start another band with fellow local artists on the scene. I haven't
written or played music since I lived in San Diego years ago and am
looking forward to seeing what we can come up with. All I can say is if
it's anything close to what I'm envisioning ... Miami beware!
4. Why do you do what you do?
Well they say those that can't do, teach! And since I'm a professor at
the University of Miami that may just preclude the question. Seriously
though, I don't know if I can answer that. I am a creative type and gain
pleasure through creating. I really don't think it's any more
complicated than that. Ultimately the production of art makes me happy
and I generally try to do things that achieve this.
5. What's something you want Miami to know about you?
Oh, so you're looking for some dirt? Okay, story time. Well, before
cable television, when skylines were scattered with odd metal
constructions commonly referred to as antennas, picture reception was
very poor. Particularly bad in the Trowbridge household due to a
woodpecker that insisted on pecking away at our antenna during prime
time viewing hours. At age ten, I decided to fix this problem forever.
With the aid of a black olive tree near the south side of the house's
roof line, speaker wire, garden hose and six lantern batteries, I was able
to access the roof and electrify the antenna. Needless to say The Fall
Guy was never interrupted again. I think it was then I knew I was
either going to be a soldier of fortune or an artist.
What's something you don't want Miami to know about you?
In public I've been mistaken for River Phoenix and Ryan Seacrest but
never Ricky Shroder of Silver Spoons fame. What gives? I think I'd
secretly like that. Concerning, what I affectionately refer to as the
"Phoenix Incident," on a flight to California, three individuals kept
buying me beers. It wasn't till the seventh beer that they finally asked
"what's it like acting in movies"? And with my puzzled response of "what
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movies?" Happy hour ceased. The "Seacrest Episode" involved a wedding
and some drunken bridesmaids. Seacrest out!
The Creatives so far: