Miami's music scene is a melting pot of talented people. These musicians empower one another, elevate their craft, and promote the 305's most promising sounds. They live, breathe, and embody creativity. In the spirit of Art Basel, New Times chatted with three musicians who are also visual artists. Without these inspiring creatives' contributions, the Magic City's burgeoning cultural community wouldn't be what it is today.
Maitejosune Urrechaga of Pocket of Lollipops. Miami music scene vets are no strangers to the sounds of Pocket of Lollipops, consisting of married visual artists Maitejosune "Maite" Urrechaga and Tony Kapel. The bassist built her foundation in visual arts through painting and drawing as a child in her parents' garage, and later turned her talents to mixed media, installation, and music.
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At the beginning of Urrechaga's music career nine years ago, a colleague she was playing with told her something she would never forget. "He said to me: 'You have to pick [either music or art],' and I'm like, 'I can't,' you know? It was kind of weird, and I never even thought of that, having to choose between one or the other." The exchange would later inspire her series of paintings Someone Told Me Once I Had to Pick Either Music or Art... I Never Listened and, ultimately, her musicianship. "It made me evolve as a musician and for the series of art... It made me want to be better at both even more. It was like a challenge."
Urrechaga shares what stimulates new ideas for her work. "I tend to work in series... Sometimes I'll draw one piece of artwork, and that will kind of lead me to do maybe several in a similar theme; sometimes it might be the medium... I guess I'm very flexible [about] where the ideas come from." Urrechaga is a high-school fine arts teacher and says teaching is a way she channels her creativity. "I think that stems from teaching a little bit because I'm constantly being a muse and helping students become creative," she says. "I think being creative, I'm always showing other people how to be creative."
Friday, December 14, the artist will exhibit nine oil paintings as part of her series Nonagon Heirloom for her thesis at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at FIU. "[The pieces are] the nine muses of mythology, which I think tie into everything because they deal with art, they deal with history, they deal with music, astronomy... Where people get good creativity, that's what muses are about and channeling that," she explains. "My pieces were more about the modern-day person, like how would somebody take the idea of being a muse now compared to what the muses [were like] back in the day... I kind of did them like a classical take on my style and very representative of women who are strong and confident about having these powers of being muses and what they can do with them."
In 2019, Pocket of Lollipops will release two albums the duo has been working on for the past two years and plans to embark on a mini Florida tour in addition to a West Coast tour next summer.
Monica McGivern of Haute Tension. If you've spent a considerable amount of time wiping away sweat and beer while being sonically annihilated at South Florida music venues, chances are
"I kind of started photographing live music events because I had studied music back in Michigan," the visual artist says, "so photography was a nice, natural progression to be in that atmosphere, and I felt I was participating in the music scene without having to necessarily interact."
McGivern had been documenting the South Florida music scene ten years before finally stepping from behind the lens and onto the stage as a bassist with Haute Tension (formerly known as Mo'Booty). "I learned the bass guitar specifically for that project," she says, "so most people know me as a photographer, and it was fun to start to have people recognize me as a musician." She credits photographer Eadweard Muybridge, photojournalist Ernst Haas, and the stage antics of Iggy Pop as some of her biggest influences.
"[Photographing music] remains a big passion," McGivern says. "[What] I've realized about myself is the sense of responsibility I feel as a photographer. It's a very powerful position to be able to provide people with a tangible element of an experience through photography."
McGivern has exhibited her work in group shows across the 305 and documented the building process of the mixed-use development Miami Worldcenter and the Brightline train as part of a photo study she completed while in residence at ArtCenter Downtown in 2016. The study, she says, "influenced my writing and informed the lyrics, co-written with Haute Tension, for our debut album."
Hot off the heels of the August release of its self-titled debut album, the band recently announced a six-city Road to III Points tour through Florida in January 2019 organized by the festival, followed by a larger Haute Tension U.S. tour. The band will also perform Wednesday, December 5, at Gramps as part of Haute Happy Hour's Art Basel edition.
"[Photography] is a meditative process for me to create," McGivern says. "I notice myself becoming frustrated when I'm not photographing because it truly is like a conversation with myself to a language that I can't sometimes put into words. Music has been an interesting exploration of learning a different language as well. The whole experiment between uniting all of them has been a great challenge, but a very fulfilling one."
Virgo. Elizabeth Ann Clark, better known as Virgo, has spent the past few years living in South Florida and creating some of the dreamiest music this side of the Atlantic from her apartment's music studio. If you've experienced the ethereal entrancement of lush electronic sounds during her live set, you'd agree the 305 is #blessed to have Virgo.
The California native's evolution as an artist began as a filmmaker, which turned into making music for films and later creating her own sound as Virgo. Using Unreal Engine 4, a tool used by
"It was a pretty interesting experience," Virgo explains. "I really didn't set out to make a game, and then all of a sudden, I had the framework of a game, and I just went from there and kept polishing it and adding more mechanics into it that made it 'gamified' in a loose way. It's still really a music-video experience with some game aspects."
An overview of the game is elaborately described thusly: "Upon entering the atmosphere of a distant blue world, you are awoken from cryosleep to gather resources to fuel your interstellar journey onward. With the guidance of your onboard AI, Gemini, hunt down crystal shards amid sunken monuments and alien flora. When intermittent energy surges disable the link between you and Gemini, encounter a lone cybernetic jellyfish named Aqua. Travel through portals, dive to the depths of the ocean, and fly on a hover transport that connects the ruins of a lost civilization. Enter the world and music of Virgo on Water Planet before you launch back into hyperspace."
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As to how she stays motivated to continue producing and what pushes her further, she says, "For me, it's really just my core friends, and we're always working and encouraging each other. We show each other stuff and we're bouncing ideas off each other, and I think that sort of exchange really encourages us to grow and keep working.
"With the label and games that we're working on, we all have goals and things that have to be completed within a certain timeline...," she adds. "I can spend hours upon hours doing level design for games." She encourages everyone to download Unreal Engine 4 to "explore, create, and experience music in a virtual space."
The ocean goddess in white says that her upcoming record is in the works and she plans to perform new songs at III Points in February.