KnightBlog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Arts
Aug 09, 2011

Nature in a studio

Posted by Anne Tschida

Artist Alette Simmons-Jimenez is surrounded by her work on a light, open second-floor studio space in Wynwood this Thursday afternoon; of particular interest is a series of collage paintings, partially crafted from flower petals coated in resin. Several involve images of cages, with the flowers either trapped inside or spilling out.

These are very feminine works from the founder of the alternative art space Artformz, inaugurated in 2004 and winner of a Knight Art Challenge grant in 2008 for "Giants in the City." Artformz had a gallery in Wynwood until this year. But keeping and programming a gallery is a full-time adventure, with little time to develop one's own portfolio, so Simmons-Jimenez closed the gallery and formed a project-based Artformz Office for Curatorial Projects, centered in this space on North Miami Avenue.

One of the most visceral and fascinating aspects of flowers is how the process from birth to vibrancy to death can be witnessed in a short period of time. The buds form and bloom rather quickly and burst into colors sometimes unique in nature. Then, almost as quickly, they  fade and die. Simmons-Jimenez discovered that even covered in resin, the flowers she was pasting up were still fading and losing their color — they were "live" paintings, in the sense that they were also dying.

She decided to call one series "Decompositions," a combination, she says, of the definitions of "composition, which is a 'work of art' or 'arrangement;' and decomposition, which is 'decay.'" The flowers that create the flowing hair of a woman have already started to lose their bright hues, but the work seems to just get more subtle, not dull. In other paintings and sculpture, the female "composition" is a dominant imagery. A cage has metaphorical resonance historically to the position of women in society, and in one work here, the cage is shaped like a vagina and the flowers are flowing out of an elongated aperture. A similar reference is associated with the lovely chandelier-like sculpture, which initially looks like a man of war, with strings made from beads, miniature objects (like a dollhouse chair) and gemstones hanging down from the wire dome, like a jellyfish looks while floating in the ocean. But really, is it a man of war, or a woman, again discharging the elements that create life, as happens every month or after childbirth?

Simmons-Jimenez likes that these are not static works; specifically, she likes that someone who owns one of the flowered pieces will be able to watch it change, like the seasons, becoming something else at some point. Like Artformz, which will still exhibit at fairs and one-off spaces without a permanent gallery, time and spaces don't stand still.

Artformz Office for Curatorial Projects; 305-439-9577; www.artformz.net.

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