Family Affairs

If you've ever beat up your little sister just for fun, dyed your hair purple to annoy Dad, or bickered with your spouse over what color shower curtain would look best in the downstairs bathroom, then you understand. Families are weird. They are groups of people who share the same blood, usually live under the same roof, yet manage to clash in spectacular ways.

In an exhibition at ArtCenter/South Florida called "Family Size," Shirley Henderson, Robert Thiele, and Kristen Thiele -- mother, father, and daughter, respectively -- use their artistic skills to show they're no exception. Members of the creative clan display their work in the same space, producing a study in wildly contrasting styles. It's a tantalizing mixture of Minimalism, Surrealism, and the Cartoon Network. “This is enlightening not only to the public but also to us,” explains Henderson, now divorced from Thiele.

Occupying most of the wall space are daughter Kristen's humorous portraits: cartoon cats dressed as a cast of zany characters -- including a caped superhero, a priest, and an angel -- all exhibiting nervous, beady-eyed expressions. Henderson's intricate, dreamlike landscapes prove a bit jarring. Multicolor lines radiate like tangled jungle vines, hiding wispy human figures in the background.

So busy are these labyrinths that when you get to Robert Thiele's simple wood and glass sculptures on the adjacent wall, you wonder: Is this it? The square and circular cases, covered in canvas and painted in different colors, resemble mirrors or portholes and invite the viewer to peer inside. Especially palpable is the tension between Thiele's cleanly geometric sculptures and Henderson's landscapes, which are organic chaos. “It's kind of ying-yangy,” Henderson says. As for the kitties, the influence of pop culture points to the generation gap between daughter and parents.

Despite such differences, the three related artists maintain a curious aesthetic connection. They all play with window motifs. The cats are painted in reverse on old windowpanes, while the landscapes and sculptures incorporate reflected images. “We discovered that after the fact,” the younger Thiele says. “What it points out is that even though we're totally different, we have things in common. Families always come together.”

Then there's the other theory Thiele has formed as a result of the show: “Sometimes I think I'm adopted.”

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alex Salinas