Miami New Times' Mastermind Awards honors the city's most inspiring creatives. This year, we received more than 100 submissions, which our staff narrowed to an elite group of 30. We'll be profiling those honorable mentions, and eventually the finalists, in the weeks to come. This year's three Mastermind Award winners will be announced February 28 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit the website.
Filmmaker, artist, and talent manager Cat Del Buono began drawing and filming at an early age, making her first Super 8 film when she was 11 years old. She received a BA from Boston College, an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and attended the graduate film program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In addition to gallery showings around the world, she's received numerous awards, including Winner of the Baang & Burne New Works Grant, NYFA Strategic Opportunity Stipend, Best in Show at The Art Place Wynwood Miami, and the SVA Alumni Association award.
Del Buono now focuses on creating performance projects and video installations that include viewer interaction and challenge long-held gender and social norms. She hopes to encourage moving beyond society's obsession with beauty, especially its acceptance of plastic surgery. Del Buono uses inflated balloons and big candy lips in her videos to illustrate the practice's garish nature. She's got her work cut out for her in the Magic City.
Cultist: What's the first memory you have of recognizing gender or social inequality, or an incident that stands out from others?
Del Buono: One of the first things was when I was a kid, realizing the boys were able to do a lot more than I was able to do, even within my own family. If my sister and I had to clean, my brother didn't have to. My brother got to choose what we watched on television; we didn't really have a say. Seeing things like that already made me aware that there was inequality. The last thing I wanted to do was to be a girl, really, until I realized OK, that's not the way to go. It's not about being a girl, it's about changing the inequalities that exist. So that's why, once I got older, I started doing works that sort of exaggerated what's in reality and trying to point out what I think is obvious, but it doesn't seem like a lot of society sees it that way.
Cultist: Has this message always been a part of your artwork?
No. It really started when I did a residency at the ArtCenter in Miami Beach in 2009, and I started seeing so many women with plastic surgery, I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to do something with my work to comment on this, and just to point out the absurdity. So I think that was the springboard for the rest of my "feminist" works.
What's it like doing projects like "Vanity Unfair" (a flash mob with "physical enhancements") in Miami's plastic beauty culture? Have you noticed any change?
No, I think it's still there. When you're in a society and things are going along in a certain direction, people tend to get wrapped up in it and don't even realize what's going on. What I wanna do is help people step out of that situation and look at it with a new set of eyes. I'd love to do a bunch of projects, one after another, and bombard people until they wake up. I don't know if New Yorkers hide it better, but I feel like it's much more relevant to do these projects in Miami. Wouldn't it be interesting to do projects that were just as much in your face as all that advertising, to counterbalance that, and to put something out there as equal or more horrible than all that plastic surgery advertising? How cool would that be?
What inspired your idea for poster campaigns?
A woman here in Brooklyn (Tatyana Fazlalizadeh) was doing a poster campaign against cat-calling. It was a pretty cool idea and that kind of triggered me to want to do the same, just plaster it all over the place. The small boobs campaign, Stay Small, My Friends, there will be images of celebrities who have small breasts but have not gotten surgery. Since we're so obsessed with celebrity culture and everybody's trying to be like [the] stars, if you put out images of women with small boobs hopefully that will influence women (and show) that they don't have to go out and get plastic surgery, because they're so surrounded by it, like in Miami.
Women changing their last names when they get married, that's a whole other hot topic. The percentage of women in America that change their last names to their husbands' names is so high that I'm totally shocked, 'cause it's not a practice that happens in a lot of other countries. My whole family's from Italy and they don't do that there. So why is it that in America, and I think United Kingdom as well, women are so quick to just throw away their identity and take the name of their husband, the man? Don't they realize that's a practice that comes from when women became property of their husbands? How is that we're still doing this? Isn't that WEIRD? I refuse to call it a tradition. I call it a horrible practice. I know I offend a lot of people when I say my opinion on this, but I'm hoping to change that. That's what I wanna do with a billboard campaign, to state the obvious, make it so obvious that you can't get away from the fact.
What does your family think of your work?
Believe it or not, even though my mom was kind of the housewife type and my dad was king of the castle, she liked to give me some ideas. Even as a kid, she would say stuff that made me start thinking. She was one of the first people to make me aware of the last name thing in America. She got a letter one time and it was addressed, "Mrs. Luigi Del Buono." And she was like, "Where's my name in this? I don't have a name, this is just your Dad and I'm not in here at all." She would say little things like that that would make me more aware, which is weird since I grew up in that household where she wasn't an equal with my Dad. My mom loves what I do, she's very supportive.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The wheat-pasting poster campaign will be text and image; the text is going to be the most important part. Is that illegal in Miami? Miami seems to be a bit of a lawless town, honestly, so I'd probably be able to get away with more there.
Wanna see more MasterMinds? At Artopia, sponsored by Miracle Mile and Downtown Coral Gables, you can check out work by 2014's ten MasterMind award finalists and watch as the three Mastermind Award winners are announced. And that's just the beginning. Artopia will also include live entertainment by Bottle & Bottega, CircX, and Flamenco Puro; local art by Tesoro Carolina, Trek 6, 8 Bit Lexicon, Hec One Love, Ivan Roque, and Jay Bellicchi; and DJ sets by Main Event Productions, Phaxas, Golden San, Skinny Hendrix, and DJ Supersede. Other sponsors include Rums of Puerto Rico (Official Rum sponsor), Car2Go, El Palacios de los Jugos, Beck's (official beer sponsor), and Vero Water (official water sponsor). Early bird tickets are available through Feb. 2. Visit the official Artopia website.
Send your story tips to Cultist at firstname.lastname@example.org.