Oh Miami, How I Love You

 

Coming home to Miami over any break fills me with your typical “I live where you vacation” kind of vibes. While I’ve prolifically chronicled my adventures at home, especially those I jam pack over quick breaks from school, it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t document my winter break shenanigans one last time (given that after graduation, I will never have a winter break as plentiful again)!

The first few days at home are always filled with my classic check-ins: a tour of the Wynwood Walls to see what’s new, a trip to Knaus Berry Farms to strawberry pick and learn how to not get sunburnt in the line for cinnamon rolls, and, this year, christening the New Year the of-age-in-Miami way: at a waterside bar replete with latin music, life-sized jenga, and midnight eats.

Spending four weeks in Miami wasn’t all beach days and chilling, but rather forcefully injected with academia. Having to “thesis” over break definitely chipped away at the relaxation of winter breaks past, but the good thing about doing work in Miami is where you get to do it. That’s right, it was a bring your thesis to the beach kind of day:

C695142E-DBDA-423F-97C1-08F6B1DC2524.JPG

When I wasn’t drowning in color theory and art history, I chose to spend my days frolicking in colors and art. PAMM’s summertime showings satisfied my every, aesthetic desire by presenting whimsical spectrums, twinkling yet indoor night gardens reminiscent of the live spectacle at Fairchild, and the perkily pink anniversary homages to Christo and Jeanne Claude’s Miami takeover.

I say this every time I come home, but spending time in Miami makes me fall in love with it all over again. Especially when I look out into my backyard and find new critters trying to make friends.

One of my favorite things about home is the food - the celebration of many cultures through delicious (and often beige) treats. Especially when cultures fuse together, like in this guava filled, patata crisped, bagel from the El Bagel food truck. The handheld version of me, a Jewban, if I were food.

Speaking of my heritage, my Chilean cousins came to visit towards the end of winter break, and I got to have a twin-filled two days with them. From renditions of “Baby Shark” to napping in the cutest of places, these girls were a dream. Their toddler visit to Miami reminded me of my similar toddler visit to Chile, which then made me realize that just like I don’t remember that early trip, they probably won’t remember this one…

Hopefully, at some date in the far future, I’ll get to show and tell them stories like this one. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll have a faint recollection of our time together. Until next time, twins, & until next time, Miami <3

And until then, relive the best of Miami here.

Xx, Maia

 

Night at the Garden

 
1.jpeg

Imagine Night at the Museum, with mystical shenanigans aplenty and a special effects budget through the roof. Now picture the garden version. That’s pretty much what best explains Fairchild’s Night Garden that my fam and I experienced this past winter break. While we didn’t have anyone younger than 10 with us, like we probably should have, we still thoroughly enjoyed the impeccable light show and themed adult beverages.

The whole gimmick seemed to be aimed at the kiddos, as the name of the game was to find several fairies scattered around the garden grounds and piece together the clues they provided. While we mostly forgot to upkeep the fairy hunt, the meticulous attention to detail and large scale production value was not lost on us.

Fairchild has been one of my favorite places to visit when I’m back home in Miami, mostly because of its evergreen splendor but also its strong ties to my childhood and the fact that being there always feels like home. In all my years visiting, however, they’ve never done an event quite like this where the open up the garden at night and manage to make all of their natural majesty even more grand.

Pathways glowed in speckled hues.

Each tree was bathed in an spectrum of multicolored lights.

Animations were projected on waterfalls and flat leaves.

41.jpeg

Larger than life dandelion structures flanked walkways.

And artificial snow was even blowing - an honest effort at creating a winter atmosphere in 60 degree Miami.

While the kids visiting were on another planet with excitement and awe, I must say that we “adults” were enchanted too. It’s a wonder how nature can be made even more beautiful, and seeing our city glow even brighter in the night lights made us fall in love with home all over again.

44.jpeg

Xx, Maia

 

A Taste of Curation: Neuroaesthetics at HAM

 

The Harvard Art Museums, affectionately referred to as “HAM”, places students at the forefront. From affording them research and work opportunities, to hosting lectures of all subjects in the museum, to allowing us to use the Art Study Center to sit alone with original works of art, HAM truly operates with students at the helm.

As a member of HAM’s Student Board, I have had the great fortune of hearing from different museum faculty about their work within the museum and how, often times, students can get involved. During one particular meeting last Spring, Laura Muir (Research Curator for Academic and Public Programs) spoke to us about the University Teaching Gallery: a space for Harvard courses to select objects from the museum to accompany their syllabus and encourage students to apply what they’re learning in class to objects that they encounter outside the classroom. In concluding this discussion, Laura mentioned she was in the process of selecting the courses to participate in this gallery for the Fall semester.

Since I’ve always been curious about how exhibitions are put together (everything from the narrative arc to the politics of acquiring desired pieces), I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I immediately thought of working with my Neuroaesthetics Professor, Dr. Nancy Etcoff, to propose objects that would add a visual element to her already robust course design.

So, with the guidance from collaborating with Dr. Etcoff and the help of Laura in synthesizing our ideas, Harvard’s first ever class focused exhibit on Neuroaesthetics was unveiled in this Fall of 2018. Here’s a bit about what you’ll see if you visit, and how this opportunity has changed the way I experience museums for the better:

In looking at the course syllabus and teasing out the topics that would benefit most from visual counterparts, we structured the 9 objects in the exhibit to follow the themes of The Face / Gaze, What is Beauty / Art, Synesthesia / The Sublime, Longing / Melancholy, and The Uncanny.

The Face / Gaze

Paul Citroen “Self Portrait.” & Zhang Xiaogang “Portrait.” (Images from HAM Website)

For this portion, we were inspired by studies we’d read in the course that discussed how people perceive others’ affects based on how we interpret their gaze. In one particular study, it was explained that a portrait of a man was perceived as affable when told the man was looking at a scene of a family, but his look instantly became lecherous when told he was gazing at a swimsuit model. With this disparity, we want viewers to wonder about the affect of these sitters, and, how (if at all) that changes when positioned looking at I’m With Stupid (info below) in the gallery space.


What is Beauty / Art?

Unknown Artist, “Katar Dagger.” & Unknown Artist, “Priming Flask in the Form of a Fish.” (Images from HAM Website)

The course opens with a discussion about what is art and what is beauty. Can tools be aesthetic objects? And, if so, why? These two objects meld functionality and ornamentation. The left dagger doubling as protective, yet decorative, arm wear, and the right flask being designed to emulate the body of a fish. The latter example even ties in with the current special exhibition on view in the museum, Animal Shaped Vessels!

Synesthesia / The Sublime

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Harmony in Blue and Silver: Beaching the Boat, Étretat.” & Albert Bierstadt, “In the Sierras.” (Images from HAM Website)

When people hear of “neuroaesthetics” the topic of synesthesia often comes to mind as it’s neurological cross-wiring has had well documented impact on the arts. Think Kandinsky and his desire to visualize music. While, there wasn’t a perfect example of Kandinsky to pull for the exhibition, we turned to Whistler and his similar motivation to combine music and visual art. Similar to the awe-inspiring underpinnings of synesthesia, the concept of the sublime comes into neuroaesthetics as being an extreme example of sensory overload. Here, we chose a classic, sublime landscape example by Bierstadt.

Longing / Memory

Edvard Munch, “The Sick Girl I.” & Johannes Wierix After Albrecht Dürer, “Melancholia.” (Images from HAM Website)

Depictions of sad affects are often the most easily recognizable for viewers, as the somber tone quickly resonates with past emotional experiences. For this phenomenon, we chose two depictions of melancholy and positioned them to be looking at one another. The left figure leaning more towards the realm of longing, and the right figure being a personification of melancholy herself.

The Uncanny

Rachel Harrison, “I'm With Stupid.” (Image from HAM Website)

harrison.jpeg

My favorite inclusion in the exhibit has to be I’m With Stupid, as it challenges viewers to think about almost all of the above categories. Is it art? Or just a mishmash of cacophonous objects? What are the faces telling you? Can you even see them, or are they even human faces? Does it tantalize your senses? How so? And, ultimately, who is the ‘stupid’ that the title refers to? One of the two figures, or you?

For a museum who prioritizes student engagement and involvement, co-curating this exhibit had to be one of my favorite experiences here and best manifestations of the museum’s mission. I even talk a little bit about the experience in an article about another great museum moment: The Student Late Night.

Moral of the story: if you’re curious about something, go after it. Especially here at Harvard, a playground I’m fortunate to have access to, the resources are what you make of them.

Xx, Maia


 

New York, New Color Factory

 

A trip to the latest Color Factory show in NYC calls for digging up my sister’s old Middle School era dress because it is a twirl-able rainbow incarnate. Dressed in the visible color spectrum and fully funded by my gracious department of History of Art & Architecture, I was ready to take in what this new iteration of The Color Factory had to offer - camera and notes in hand.

As I begin to fine tune the scope of my thesis, a project which I have spent years amassing color-related content for, I realize that part of what I want to tap into is the reason behind art’s newfound color craze. Specifically, how intrinsic qualities of color lend themselves to depicting ephemeral experiences in ways that other mediums cannot.

What I found in NYC was just that.

This version of The Color Factory focused on attendee’s relationships to each other and to themselves, using color as the catalyst. After entering through a rainbow tunnel reminiscent of the ribbon wall at Color Factory’s SF show, we were greeted with the most visually pleasing welcome video ever to grace my eyes. Once registering and picking up a sparkling macaron for the road ahead, we all entered through a tunnel boasting walls of buttons that directed us to select the color that most resonated with us. Naturally I chose a dusty rose button and joked that this tunnel visualized what I think my brain looks like.

On the other side, we were split up into two groups and funneled into a parlor room where we were seated across from someone and guided through a series of activities through coordinated audio. The premise of this room was to compliment. Sitting in complementary colors, my partner Alana and I were instructed to select colors that represented each other. We also had to do a contour drawing without breaking eye contact with one another, and then were treated with complementary, complementary candies tastefully chosen to pair well with each other.

Next up was a sound experience room where we each played notes from complimentary keys. Post the twinkling of our eardrums, we entered a room bathed in sunset and filled with balloons with wishes written on them. Trying to snag a photo in this room was like battling with a windstorm, and we ended up getting a handful of Magritte-esque Son of Man portraits. Exiting the sunset room led us to a roadmap of personality questions that ultimately deposited us at the door of our individual, secret color. Each room was grouped by hue, and afterwards we were directed to take a paint-chip style memento of our secret color, complete with a cue for the next room: a disco fever themed dance floor - where we could strike a pose based on the suggestion written on our secret color card.

For an educational interlude, there was a hallway with alphabetically organized vertical drawers that featured pigments and their color histories. Unsurprisingly, this room was created by Kassia St. Clair, author of The Secret Lives of Color - one of the many titles decorating my bookshelf and on the list of potential thesis sources in my never ending bibliography spreadsheet. In a similar vein, the next room presented us with pie charts of NYC stats, displayed in spin-able and boomerang-able benches.

Last up, similar to the SF show, was a wall to wall ball pit filled with the most soothing shade of blue. This was the point where my friends and I paused our analytical note-taking and just felt like kids again. And with that, the magic of The Color Factory was concluded, though the tingling feeling of being surrounded by such a happy collection of hues will provide the joy and motivation to carry me through the monochromatic winter months ahead.

Xx, Maia

 

Late Night: Color Rx at Vessel Gallery

 

For the third and final show of Color Rx: Humanoid, we decided to do something a little different. Something a little more experiential. And something a lot more tasty. 

On February 18th, 2018, Vessel Gallery hosted a Late Night for Color Rx, and here's how it went: 

Visitors walked in and encountered me, fully clad in a lab coat (thanks MCB Department!), sitting at a prescription counter reminiscent of pharmacy windows. Each person was asked to write down how they were feeling on an index card. I would then correlate their sentiment to a prescriptive color, and change the light color in the space to reflect their result. 

With their prescription in hand, visitors could then approach the treats table and redeem their prescription for a correlated snack color (and another of their choosing, just for good measure):

Red/pink: flirty sangria 

Orange: rejuvenating tea 

Yellow: energizing lemonade

Green: pistachio cookie 

Blue: refreshing mint

Purple: decadent chocolate 

After visitors were treated and treated, they were free to roam about the space and soak in the light show, view the polaroid photo display of past visitors, and write down their colored thoughts in the journal by the static glass display. 

All in all, the Late Night allowed for more mingling, discussing, and basking in color, light, and good vibes. 

So thank you to everyone who rolled on through and here's hoping that you left with a colorful pick me up!

Special thanks to my helper for the night, Sofia, who probably said "Here's the sangria, it's flirty, it's fruity, it's sensual" a good 45 times over the course of the evening. 

And, of course, a huge thanks to Essa Lucienne for hosting this three-run-show in her gorgeous exhibition space, assembling the magical hallway light fixtures, and for being an absolute visionary. 

I'm over the moon that colors have made people as happy as they make me :)

Xx, Maia 
 

Just in Time for Art Basel

 
DC1CFCC2-F2AF-4F1C-861E-8CEB800DFD0F.JPG

I made it home to Miami on December 9th, the last weekend of Art Basel, as if purposefully celebrating my semester without final exams! With only two days left of the festivities, and VIP tickets graciously afforded to us by our aunt and uncle, my sister and I spent Saturday at the Convention Center and Sunday at Untitled.

Having been to Art Basel several times before, I realize that each trip is a little bit different for me. It started out in High School (when I hardly knew anything about art aside the fact that I liked it and neon installations were my favorite), scampering off to Miami Beach with friends because everyone was doing it. Now that I study History of Art & Architecture at school, and everyone I know expects me to rattle off interesting facts about every visible artwork, I feel an obligation to perform but also a relieving freedom at Art Basel.

For people who hardly know what they’re doing when they go to Art Basel (still me), it can be overwhelming to want to see everything. And I mean everything. The Convention Center is riddled with booths and packed with people. And if you aren’t going to purchase anything, which most people my age can’t even dream of, you find yourself in this limbo of consumption vs. appreciation.

Art Basel, to me, is a curation of the now. It’s not as thematic as a museum exhibition, nor as haphazard as a street fair, but a sophisticated in between - where you can survey all of the offerings and notice some patterns in what’s up for grabs. That’s how I like to view it. I like noticing what people gravitate towards, I like seeing everyone get dressed up and put on their largest statement earrings, and I like admitting that I don’t know everything about what we’re seeing.

But I do know some things. This year, my sister and I walked past some colored canvases. You know, the ones that are planes of color that prompt people to say, “I could’ve done that!” Well, in the words of the MoMA poster I have hanging in my dorm room, “Modern Art = I Could’ve Done That + Yeah But You Didn’t.” She asked what those canvases were all about. After a mini spiel about Rothko’s and color fields (is that even the correct explanation, I hope so!), I admitted to her, “But yeah, sometimes I think I could’ve just painted that too.” And she loved that answer. She loved how human I had responded, and how I tried to explain it to her in a digestible but not pedantic way.

To me, that’s the beauty of Art Basel. You are exposed to great art, but you don’t have to be expected to “get it.” You can walk up and down the aisles and glance here or there, and not be scowled at for taking less than a minute to assess if you like the work or not before you move on. Because, let’s face it, if everyone took to Art Basel the way we tend to spend our time in art museums (staring at one work for an extended period of time), Art Basel would have to be way longer than a weeklong show. Here, in the fast paced flow of the shows, you’re free to Look, Like, Smile, and Repeat.

Aside from the Convention Center, I had the time to check out Untitled on the beach. This one felt more “Miami” in the sense that the tent was located right on the water, everything was stark white and well lit, and colors popped out at you in every corner. The total offerings were also smaller in scale, so it was manageable to see them all. And there were even moments in which silent commentators laughed at the spectacle themselves:

Art Basel, you’ve done it again. You’ve replenished my soul with beautiful things to look at, an opportunity to learn the different tastes of the people I went with, and an excuse to simply enjoy an art-filled weekend with my family.

Xx, Maia