Despite the weather threats, Friday night in Miami Beach was as hot and humid as ever, without a torrential downpour. The outdoor patio of the Freehand Miami hostel was humming with people enjoying a night under the stars and string lights, and sharing a cocktail or two. Friday night also marked the beginning of a monthly art exhibit called "The Drawing Room," which will take place every second Friday of the month at the Freehand.
The Drawing Room is all about bringing together, and celebrating, art and alcohol. The inaugural artist for the event was Johnny Laderer, who collects random things he finds on the streets with the hopes of turning them into art. The phrase "One man's trash is another man's treasure" could not ring more true here. The materials Laderer used for the pieces on display at the Freehand were collected over a couple of years, and some were found in his own home.
When Eunique Fowler, creative director of The Drawing Room, first told Laderer about the idea, he knew that his work would be a perfect fit at the Freehand: "Instantly I knew my work lent itself well to the space and I knew exactly how I could work things in well," he explained, noting how the Freehand has a very bohemian and Florida feel to it, much like his work.
The themes for the evening were Florida and leisure. "Leisure is something that intrigues me very much," Laderer says, pointing at the displayed artwork as an example. "Beach, pools, water skiing, tennis balls; all these things that kind of embody this idea of Florida, a perceived ideal -- like postcards."
Laderer created the artwork specifically for The Drawing Room, and site specific for the Freehand; because of this, his pieces blended in seamlessly with the existing décor at the hostel. Of the handful of pieces he created, the coolest has to be the Faux Citrus. Molded using tennis ball halves, Laderer painted the dried cement to look like colorful -- and edible -- citrus limes, lemons, and oranges. The Faux Citrus was inspired by something he found at an abandoned produce stand in central Florida; "They had been using these concrete oranges as a display so they didn't have to carry the citrus in and out...it's a kind of idealized eternal fruit."
Other memorable artwork included the Skimmer Totem poles, and a plastic beach sign with the words "Nude Beach" spray painted in red. "The Miami Beach sign is moreso reclaimed than found," Laderer says with a smile.
Laderer is very much inspired by progress in the shape of construction or development, and he believes development is very much connected with nature. One of his favorite materials to work with is concrete; "it is one of the several materials I use in my sort of vocabulary," he says.
Another word that is prevalent in his vocabulary: rum. "I love rum," he says, "and knowing that I was doing something involving citrus [in the artwork], I wanted to involve citrus [in the specialty drink]." Laderer calls the Hemingway "an iconic Florida drink" and the Broken Shaker's rendition is a kind of poetic reinterpretation. Ernest Hemingway also has a history here in Florida, so that really brings everything together, says Laderer.
The atmosphere created at The Drawing Room was very relaxed and casual. Guests could walk around the patio area and play board games, table tennis, or even dip their feet in the pool, all while looking at art that is an instant conversation starter. With the Viva la Flora drink in hand and staring at the Skimmer Totem poles with holes in their nets, this great peninsula of ours really starts to make some sense.