Homespun Art

Behind her loom, shoehorned into an area the size of a phone booth, artist Frances Trombly weaves sculptural gems that celebrate the wonders of childhood. Trombly's "studio," a retrofitted closet in her Edgewater apartment, literally spills over with spindles, brightly hued bundles of yarn, and the sundry boxes of media from which she pulls magic. "It's cramped like a shoebox with barely enough room for myself and the loom."

Imagine Trombly's delight when the Museum of Contemporary Art gave her the use of a workspace vast enough to roller-skate across. The museum kicked in technical and curatorial support for her to create a large-scale installation, with a cherry stipend on top to sweeten the deal. The unusual program was designed to give several artists an opportunity to create bigger-than-life works they could not achieve in their studios.

"It has been amazing," says Trombly, one of four MOCA golden ticket winners -- including Kim Brown, Maria Martinez-Cañas, and Salvatore La Rosa -- who participated in a three-week residency culminating in "Trading Places," an exhibit opening Saturday, July 29. "It's hard to believe being offered a museum as a workspace and given carte blanche to achieve your goals," Trombly observes.

For Miami photographer Martinez-Cañas, who collaborated with Brown, the residency provided an opportunity for creative dialogue and a reprieve from working alone in her studio: "The best part of this has been the creative energy between the artists and the support of museum staff."

Martinez-Cañas and Brown worked seamlessly and symbiotically. Using dust swept from the museum's floors over several months, Brown transformed the collected detritus into delicate totemic objects. Martinez-Cañas incorporated Brown's hive-shaped "dust mounds" into startling photograms, onto which Brown later sewed her intricate sculptures. "What's fantastic is the level of trust we have achieved," Martinez-Cañas adds.

La Rosa, a staple of the local scene for many years, chose to construct a provocative environment, tying together his early paintings, collages, and assemblages with recent work, including richly textured pieces he finished for the show. "I usually don't like to plan anything, but when I do, I like planning the experience but not the results," he remarks.

Trombly best encapsulates the exuberance of the experience through her installation Aftermath, an enormous room strewn with crocheted, woven, and embroidered balloons, confetti, and gift-wrap.

Ever pushing the envelope, MOCA also goes postal with "For Everyone and No One," an exhibition of mail art including work from the king of correspondence, Ray Johnson, and artists from the Fluxus movement. Drawn from the museum's archives, the show explores a historical moment in the Seventies when artists disrupted the art market by creating ephemeral works sent through the mail.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus