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Aileen Quintana's Performance Art Brings Miami Neon to the Stage

As she sits at a table inside a Wynwood coffee shop, Aileen Quintana projects an otherworldliness. Though she's dressed mostly in black, she seems to radiate the colors that characterize her vibrant art projects, such as her vaporwave mall installation, Sunset @ Noon, which recently showed at this year's III Points festival.

"I got sad this last weekend because I finally put everything away in a warehouse," Quintana says as she sips her tea. "But it's OK, because I got a new project."

From a young age, the now-32-year-old makeup-guru-turned-multidisciplinary-artist has always been on the go. Born at Hialeah Hospital and raised in la saguesera, Quintana says she was always "fucking crazy."

"My earliest memory was stealing my mom's cosmetics and putting them on my dad as he was asleep on the couch... and [when he woke up] he was just like, ¡Ay, mi niña! He was so proud."

The first-generation Cuban-American was encouraged by her parents, who supplied her with crayons and paint. She was accepted to an arts magnet program in elementary school, but her parents couldn't afford to transport her there. So they enrolled her in private painting lessons.

"They tried to make it up to me somehow and give me some other activities to do," she says.

At G. Holmes Braddock Senior High, she founded a club so she could put on fashion shows. Although she excelled at her studies, she dropped out of Florida International University after one semester. At age 19, Quintana took up working at an advertising agency while doing makeup on the side and posting the results online.

"I would just take a ton of pictures and put them up on MySpace," Quintana says.

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Quintana learned along the way from photographers, other makeup artists, and stylists. She soon began helping produce fashion shows and even worked for Project Runway Latin America.

But she grew tired of working on others' artistic visions. The next step was bringing her neon-and glitter-filled visions to life. She found a partner in III Points.

Sunset @ Noon is easily her most ambitious work to date. The mall and performance art space encapsulated everything Quintana incorporates into her work: fashion, commerce, music, design, and the surreal. Throughout the course of the festival, thousands stopped into the space, which felt like a 16-year-old's Tumblr page come to life.

"I have no idea how I have this energy or how I have the capabilities," she says, "because I come up with a concept and then throw it out into the world."

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