Miami is in for a treat when Nude Nite hits town November 9 through 11 in Wynwood. The nation's largest nude art show specializing in the human form will elevate the conversation about nudity in the sun-kissed city where revealing fashions, scantily clad people, and bare butts on plastic-surgery billboard ads are everyday normal.
Only one institution has been devoted to nude art in Miami: the World Erotic Art Museum, founded by collector Naomi Wilzig in 2005.
The debut of Central Florida's Nude Nite in Miami this year heralds a fresh round of more than 200 contemporary works for Miami art lovers and curious adults interested in exploring the deeper impact of nudity as a social construct — or who maybe simply enjoy the frisson of gawking at naked bodies. Whatever their reason for attending, Nude Nite exceeds the bounds of a typical art fair via live entertainment that includes burlesque, aerial performances, circus and body painting, a licensed bar, and interactive, thought-provoking installations.
One of them presents eight large-scale works by Orlando photographer John Burke, who has given new meaning to Norman Rockwell-esque, classic Americana paintings in the Transgender Project. “Rosie the Riveter” — an icon of women’s strength during World War II — is part of the series. In Burke's interpretation, a trans model from Central Florida sits on a wooden crate above a sign that reads, “No men in girl's bathrooms.”
The Transgender Project invites viewers to think about the gendered body politic — naked or otherwise — through an accompanying installation. Four glittery gold toilets, hinting at Donald Trump’s penchant for gilded objects, provide seating for contemplation of the Rockwell-inspired works in the era of discriminatory anti-transgender bathroom bills. The toilets draw attention to the right to use the bathroom, a private space at the center of America’s public culture wars on equality.
Nude Nite’s founder, Kelly Stevens, is no stranger to challenging the status quo. The Alabama native says she’s a rebel who doesn’t like to follow the rules even though she grew up in a conservative Southern state and was a debutante in her teen years.
In 1996, she held the first Nude Nite at a pizza parlor in Orlando “as a joke” after being involved in the Central Florida art scene and noticing how her artist friends weren’t selling work at galleries with “a lot of bad wine and cheese.”
“I decided to throw some nudes up on the wall. ‘Sex sells’ is accurate,” Stevens recalls. “There was a need to transform the gallery and museum model.”
The event grew from 100 attendees to 10,000 in a large warehouse space. She took the show to Tampa in 2009 and added Miami this year. The majority of artists are based in Florida. All will be present at the event to engage guests in conversation.
“This show is not a lifestyle or erotic show. It’s also not a stuffy art fair with champagne," Stevens explains. "It’s an art fair on steroids. The live entertainment is not what Miami is used to. Our models are natural, not enhanced. Fifty percent are men."
Stevens hopes Nude Nite will open minds about the value of nudity in art. “I’ve been told that since I’ve been doing the show, the stigma [of nudity] is still alive and well across the U.S.” she says. “The artists that find this show need a place to show... They often end up in the backroom of galleries.”
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Stevens laughs about the times when her mom would stick Post-it notes on the genitalia of framed nudes above her fireplace and tell her grandchildren she had to do it “or Santa wouldn’t come.” At Nude Nite, Stevens encourages guests to have fun but also think about the purpose of relevant artistic nudity.
“We are all the same,” she says. “The body equalizes all of us. Money doesn’t. Sex doesn’t.”
The show also presents difficult subject matter, including works inspired by stories of rape and cancer. “People become comfortable talking about these issues,” she adds. “It’s empowering. We can’t heal until we tell the truth. America has a new story to tell. ”
Nude Nite. 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday, November 9, through Saturday, November 11, at 2400 NW Fifth Ave., Miami; nudenite.com. Tickets cost $25 to $30. Ages 21 and up.