Kendall Art Center in collaboration with Florida International University (FIU) and Miami International University of Art & Design presents Seeds of connection. This exhibition features watercolors, assemblages, sculptures, and fiber artworks by Dianna Grace, Karla Kantorovich, Leka and Evelyn Politzer. Curated by Paola Sierra and Arasay Vazquez
We are living in a time and place when disconnect and distance from others are recently shared experiences. Seeds of connection considers the practice of four local artists to survey the ways in which connections are deliberated and approached in artwork. These links can be realized in how the artist chooses to generate meaning through material choice, shaping of narratives, and formal qualities of the work. In this curatorial exercise, artists Leka, Dianna Grace, Karla Kantorovich, and Evelyn Politzer, display unique approaches to their source of relation through watercolor, sculpture, assemblage, and fiber arts.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “connection” as: of immaterial union or joining together. This exhibition stemmed from bridging connections between the artists chosen for this post-MFA show. Miami is a city familiar with movement, change, and is often considered a point of destination or site of departure. Located less than two miles from Miami Executive Airport, Seeds of connection at Kendall Art Center (KAC) ties participants through different immigrant experiences and a collective desire to bring disconnected parts together. It is worth looking at how connections are made in these artworks, which were created pre-pandemic and during. The works transform boundaries by exploring how reaching inward and outward can unfold as energy, physical transcendence, color, introspection, or a geographical location.
Leka’s work reaches within the interior to find relations with the exterior world. She uses color to communicate the work’s underlying disposition. Dianna Grace’s work looks to physics and metaphysics to unravel the universal experience of the unknown. Her work often explores the circular form to investigate the overlap between science and imagination. Evelyn Politzer’s work is inherently tied to her home through the materials. She uses hand dyed merino wool produced by women who live in rural parts. Her work transcends boundaries, forges connections, and brings awareness to issues that stem from disconnect. Karla Kantorovich makes assemblages with found organic and inorganic materials and textiles. Her work accepts the passing of time, honors death and rebirth, and celebrates the ephemera of all things alive on earth.
The Kendall Art Center is an active and appealing place in South Florida’s art community. Home of the Rodriguez Collection, they are committed to promoting and preserving contemporary work through exciting programs and exhibitions. Seeds of connection is part of KAC’s collaboration with Florida International University (FIU) and Miami International University of Art & Design presenting recent Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduates in Visual Arts. Each year, KAC launches curatorial projects exclusively for women artists as part of their Women in the Arts program. In doing so, they support visibility for emerging and mid-career creators and provide a broader scope for womens’ artwork.
Dianna Grace is a conceptual Miami-based sculptor who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her father was born in Puerto Rico and her mother was born in Peru. Grace began contemplating her ancestral history through her travels to Peru and researching its ruins, colonial history, time, legends, and unfinished urban architectural process. This research inspired her sculptural process to employ shadow, light, and reflection to visually explore the unknown. In a 2020 interview she says: “There is so much that we don’t know (…) the significance of an opening is what really speaks to me.”
Grace has continually explored openings, portals, and circular forms. For her, these visual references address the movement of energy. Grace writes in her MFA thesis: “The idea of energy ever-changing was an interesting concept to me, so I searched for ways to use this as a metaphor within my work. I decided to use light as a conceptual reference to energy”. She manipulates light using organic and inorganic materials. Grace works with primarily industrial materials like metals, woods, and plaster, because they function as structural elements. Other materials she works with are: mylar, mirror, canvas, and rocks.
Grace corresponds her materials with form. “My work explores blackholes, multiverses, and quantum mechanics, through formal strategies/themes that include portals/mortar, vortices/wire, and energy/plaster.” Seeds of connection features two of the works that Grace created for her MFA thesis exhibition at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum-FIU: Planeswalking (2020) and Orb Realm (2021), both of which convey energy, visualize openings, and emit light. While Grace draws from the work of Ruth Asawa, Gordon Matta-Clark, Anish Kapoor, and Rachel Whiteread, she is inspired by the teachings of physicists like Albert Einstein and artists like Louis Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, and Olafur Eliasson.
Dianna Grace transforms what is unknown to many of us- regarding energy- into a sculptural exploration. In her MFA thesis, Grace writes: “My research and visual exploration within the subjects of quantum physics, metaphysics, and the multiverse are still at the beginning stage (…). Although quantum physics and metaphysics are not the same, they do share a common denominator when it comes to the unknown”. Making these links through sculpture allows the artist to make sense of what can be considered reality and its respective laws. The practice opens space for anyone who shares a desire to delve into their own unknown.
Karla Kantorovich grew up witnessing an extremely dual and unequal society that makes up the undercurrents of Mexico City. They involved juxtapositions in social class, textiles, violence, and visual culture. Guided by her practice in yoga and spiritual meditation, Kantorovich visited Rishikesh- one India’s sacred cities- in 2011. There, she discovered a similar contrast to the one she experienced throughout her life in her native Mexico. However, she was able to also perceive a great sense of community. One of the most striking memories of her visit was the textiles made in India, which became a source of inspiration for her work. “I find them beautiful and empowering for their intricate designs and colors and for being objects of the feminine.”
Along with all these experiences, Kantorovich is also a descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Her maternal grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, whose life story has profoundly shaped the way Kantorovich addresses her own life and work. Her grandmother found a way to see beauty and light amid the horror of the Holocaust after knowing about the kindness and pure humanity of heroes like: Victor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, Irena Sendler, and others who saved lives during and after World War II.
Kantorovich connects the variety of influences and experiences that have inspired her work in her assemblages. Her work largely speaks of unity and serendipitous connections in nature, which represent a process of reconciliation and healing. “Even though I recognize how duality is a constant, I do believe in unity, and I do believe that all this apparent duality has an underlying truth to make both sides part of one. (…) We are not isolated beings. There is nothing on this earth that is disconnected. We are all part of each other.”
Kantorovich’s creations are composed of worn and discarded materials. “I enjoy objects at the moment of fragility when they are approaching into nothingness. (…) For me, it is the old that has memories and history; it has experience, and it has been places. (…) I understand deterioration as a part in the process of life, the cycle of nature, the death of the physical. (…) My art is about finding the unity in the distorted, the broken, and the dissonant”.
Kantorovich sews, pastes, and paints found objects like handmade paper, fabrics, leaves, and branches. This process rebuilds a unitary whole and transforms these materials. Her work “invites the audience to inspect our ephemeral nature and the human ability to heal, mend, and alter reality”.
Leka’s intimate work connects personal experiences, places where she has lived or traveled, childhood memories, family dynamics, and other facets that shape her personality and creativity. She writes in her MFA thesis: “Creativity is often a part of the process, but mainly our history, who we are, our backgrounds, and the moment we are living, influence our decisions”.
As part of her professional training as an artist, Leka has studied psychoanalytical theories and the impact Freud and other thinkers’ philosophies have had in the art world. The works presented in Seeds of connection concluded her MFA program at Miami International University of Art & Design, where she more consciously explored the potential of color theory and mastered watercolor techniques.
This final series was also created during the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected personal and professional projects for people throughout the globe. Like many others, Leka is far from her family and native land. Limitations of mobility and reunion, which have been protocol in the past year are exemplified in Closed borders. About this work she commented: “With so much bad news in this pandemic, I understand and support those countries that have closed their borders by protecting themselves from the virus. But I give myself the right to feel angry and frustrated by all of this messing up my flights and migration plans”. Another key work is The remodeling never ends. It is a self-portrait in front of the Miami Beach skyline, where Leka temporarily lives. The artist asserts: “The position represents the necessary interiorization, not only in difficult times, but always. The cranes in the background represent that we are always under construction, seeking the best of ourselves”.
For Leka, each work translates a particular mood into a color and works through emotions. “Art has become the shield against fears and anxieties. Often referencing life, lessons, and learnings, the artwork is a direct form of communication with the unconscious. It becomes the connection with the essence, transmuting feelings”.
Evelyn Politzer is a fiber artist who was born in Uruguay. She refers to this place as: “a country where sheep outnumber people, and where wool and other natural fibers are still an important tool for the livelihood of many people, especially women”. Although she has lived in the United States for over 20 years, the materials she uses dissolve the distance and connect her to her home.
Politzer began working with fiber as a child under the tutelage of her aunt and by watching her mother. She remembers being a child driving in the rural parts of Uruguay and seeing the hand-dyed wool hanging on clothes lines. She mainly uses merino wool, a soft and colorful material. Her work is inherently tied to her home and a sense of belonging. This wool undergoes a traditional hand-dying process by women living in rural Uruguay. Sourcing this wool from these women, helps communities stay in their home land.
Textiles and fabrics are also a means of marking moments and traveling with us throughout our journey. Politzer says, “Since the moment we are born, we are wrapped in a piece of cloth until we die. Fabrics cover us, they protect us, and they also identify us. So that’s why the fiber arts, I feel, it’s a universal language that everybody can understand.” The artist also uses natural fibers, animal-based fibers, re- fibers (i.e. recycled and refurbished), and synthetic fibers.
Politzer notes in her talk with Miami Beach Urban Studios that she focuses more on what she wants to say and less on the perfection of the work. The works displayed in Seeds of connection reflect her home and consider women’s progress, transitions, hope for the future and interconnectedness through interior design. Women’s Spring is made of mounted hand-knit merino wool on vintage mattress springs. They show the diversity of color, shape, age, and contemplate women in the arts and how far they’ve come. While Brick by Brick explores the boundaries imposed on human beings, it also considers the importance of taking steps. While her work addresses contemporary issues, it also contemplates personal experiences. Nesting expresses a moment of change within the family. It deliberates the moment when her children began to move out of the family home. Iterations of Brain Synapses have been implemented as interior design solutions for a headboard and it also visually alludes to an organic grid that works through a series of biological connections.
Seeds of connection at Kendall Art Center
12063 SW 131st Ave, Miami, Fl 33186 United States
Opening Day: Friday 11th, June 2021