MasterMind 2014 Honorable Mention: Gonzalo Fuenmayor

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 27 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit the website.

Bananas. The long, yellow fruit with a suggestive shape is making a comeback in the art world thanks to Gonzalo Fuenmayor. Once made popular by Andy Warhol with his pop-art movement, the potassium-filled fruit holds a special place in the images created by this photographer.

A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, Fuenmayor has lived in Miami for over six years (and in the states for about 15 years) but his roots continue to inspire his work.

"As a Colombian artist living in the United States for over a decade, I once felt the responsibility to make art that commented on the social events happening back at home. Feeling detached from the tacit burden to address drugs and violence, I started drawing bananas instead," he says. What came about after that is a collection of images part of his Papare Series that tell a story so layered, and yet so beautiful.

Cultist: You work with both photography and illustration - do you have a preference between the two?

Gonzalo Fuenmayor: I do not have a preference. The photographic process is very different from my drawing process, and both complement each other. The dialogue between the two mediums - going back and forth between them - has helped and enriched my creative process.

In your latest series, you photograph Victorian chandeliers with bananas. What does this stark -- yet poetic -- juxtaposition mean to you?

The recent body of work examines ideas of exoticism and the complicit and amnesic relationship between ornamentation and tragedy. Opulent Victorian chandeliers and other elements, reminiscent of a decadent colonial past, proliferate from banana bunches, alluding to a tragic and violent history associated with Banana trade worldwide. I am interested in how ornamentation with its grace and excess has the capacity to camouflage and overshadow questionable circumstances of all kinds.

In the latest series, several Victorian chandeliers were attached to banana bunches in the midst of a banana plantation, lit at night and then photographed. The theatricality and dramatic nature of the imagery, subordinate the contradictory into a delicate and imaginative order, evoking a certain kind of reconciliation or tense harmony between two disjointed realities. As the past, the present, the exotic and the familiar collide, absurd and fantastic panoramas arise.

What is your ideal setting to take photographs and/or draw?

There is no ideal setting for photographs or drawings, or anything...

Has living in Miami, as opposed to your native Colombia, influenced your work in any way?

I've been living in the U.S for about 15 years (almost 6 of them in Miami). Being in Miami has enabled me to distance myself from my own history while allowing a whole new perspective of Caribbean and American culture.

Would you ever do a series with chandeliers and maybe mangos -- or some other Miami-centered fruit?

No. Bananas, as well as Victorian chandeliers, have a specific historical, cultural, political weight to them. By juxtaposing them, a specific narrative and story is activated. In my mind, they only make sense together.

Wanna see more MasterMinds? At Artopia, presented 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.

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