As a kid growing up in Miami, there really was no better place than Vizcaya to blast our young impressionable minds into the past and out of the realm of reality. The romantic mansion and manicured gardens inspire fantasies of lives never lived, wayward minotaurs, and renaissance love affairs.
Miami native and artist Naomi Fisher
is taking her own childhood memories of this magical place and turning them into a performance piece. This Wednesday, she's recreating a Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble performance she saw as a teenager in 1994. We talked with the artist about her Vizcaya memories and this timeless project.
Fisher was recently commissioned by the Contemporary Arts Project, which
asks artists to create site-specific works at Vizcaya Museum and
Gardens, establishing a physical and cultural connection with the space.
The performance will take place this Wednesday during the final hour of
daylight. And as the audience will be used as extras, they ask everyone
to bring and wear large scarves over their heads.
How'd you get the opportunity to work on this Contemporary Arts Project?
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In 2007, I was invited to create a project there for their Ball of Artists during Art Basel: this was the first time I staged a public performance. My whole practice expanded, I felt compelled to create more movement based work with the amazing group of women I have been collaborating with.
After receiving a Knight Arts Challenge grant to fund these performances, I explored developing projects at places in Miami that have resonated in my psyche while growing up. Vizcaya, having a history with commissioning contemporary art through their Contemporary Art Program (CAP) really understood what I was trying to do. I feel so fortunate that they invited me to be a part of their program; it truly is a dream project.
Did you spend a lot of time at Vizcaya as a child?
Not a lot, but each trip was impacting. Art class field trips were a big part of that. I still have a hand colored black and white photo of the gazebo ceiling that I made in 5th Grade. I have 8th Grade sketchbooks filled with drawings of dancing girls in Grecian gowns inspired by Vizcaya-based fantasies. I remember a childhood trip to a Renaissance fair and seeing a lady dressed only in chain mail.
How much of the performance is imagined and how much is from real memories?
A lot of reinterpreted memories are incorporated into the script of the video that will be filmed there. During the April 13th performance, the only factual memory is seeing a performance by the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble there in the early '90s. My dear friend Nikki Rollason was in the company, and she is advising me on the choreography and helping create a structure for the performers to improvise within.
How many people are performing with you?
While I'm not personally performing, I have written and directed the performance. The choreography is developed in collaboration with the performers. There will be seven performers: Elizabeth Hart, Erin Krause, Jessie Gold, Stella Rey, Nikki Rollason, Heather Maloney, and Felicia Ballos.
Does any one thing make this project different from your others?
While it is still very connected to my past work, this is the first piece that explicitly tackles the split between nature and culture through architecture.
Do you have a favorite memory of Vizcaya?
My hodgepodge Vizcaya fantasy memories may not always be factual, rather they become a magical mishmash of bygone eras, robber baron decadence (while the masses starve), goth-mermaid spawning grounds, Renaissance fair falconers, Quinceaneras hoop skirts, wedding fireworks, white party muscle men... and now in the recent past, I am so happy to be seeing great contemporary art projects and lectures there.
What's up next for you?
On April 22nd, I have a solo show opening at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. It centers around my most recent video/performance project "Myakka," which follows the transformation of a group of women in the woods. In many ways, it's the prequel to my project at Vizcaya.
See Fisher's "Untitled" Wednesday at exactly 6:30 p.m. at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (3251 S. Miami Ave., Miami). The Main House will open at 5 p.m. for the viewing of the current CAP exhibition by Ernesto Oroza. Call 305-860-8423 or 305-250-9133, or visit vizcayamuseum.org. The performance will be filmed and turned into a video work which will be exhibited during Fisher's upcoming exhibition with CAP opening in October.