One Night Stand: Avant-garde Art Checks-in to
Using her hotel bed as a stage, Carol Prusa performed an
exploration of the Zen of tedium and texture of domesticity. Dressed in a
nightgown, Prusa sat in bed, buried from the waist down with hills of silky,
pink and taupe strands of fabric. Watching TV, she wound the strands into balls
to create “something useful.”
Prusa was one of 27 artists who participated in SHOWTEL II
this spring at Hotel Biba. The boutique hotel—known for its brightly colored,
funky rooms designed by Miami’s Barbara Hulanicki—has been the annual site for
the one-night exhibition of avant-garde art, including installations,
performance art, sculpture, sound pieces, and projections.
On a humid night in April, artists from Miami to Sarasota provided
the West Palm Beach hotel with some unusual features. Jeroen Nelemans’ bed of
snail shells with sand pillows, for instance, was nestled in the landscaping
gravel. Beneath the shells, a large piece of glass allowed the delicate shells
to be illuminated exquisitely. The effect suggested both the fragility and
beauty of those things—relaxation, sleep, and lovemaking—that a bed supports.
Rick Newton’s outdoor lawnmower fountain poked fun at the
typical suburbanites’ lawn-obsession and their religious yard-maintenance.
The mower’s grass-clippings bag was created from a large green raft, and
the base of the fountain was a blue inflatable pool. When illuminated, the
fountain’s dirigibles took on an otherworldly glow.
Mercedes Kehoe provided one of the hotel rooms
with a banana peel throw rug and replaced the usual pillow mint with artfully
arranged apple cores and peels. These combined with the dozen empty Winston
cigarette packs and Mountain Dew bottles neatly stacked spoke to two things: the
garbage that we generate in our compulsions and the beauty of the natural (peels
and cores) versus the man-made (boxes & bottles).
In all, SHOWTEL II’s artists re-conceptualized 11 of 43 rooms in
this historic hotel, which spans an acre of land. As the art took over the
lobby, courtyards, pool area, patios, and walkways between the Biba’s bungalow
buildings, attendees were engaged in more than just an exhibition—it was
virtually an expedition: With cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in hand, artists and
art-enthusiasts bumped and stumbled their way through tropical foliage on dark
and narrow paths following a map that guided them to SHOWTEL treasures.
Because the artists were prohibited from
damaging or modifying the hotel in any way—including hanging their work on
the wall—their solutions found creative ways around the limitations. Many
used the beds as their palettes. Carolina Salazar, for instance, arranged
body-part close-ups taken on Polaroid to create a body curled in sleep. On
a bedspread, Susan Weiner stitched poetry in loose loops that added height
and texture to the text.
My favorite installation was a
collaboration between two artists in one of the hotel’s orange and green
rooms. On the bed, David Baskin’s surreal, orange clothing was laid out on
a green bedspread, much the way someone would plan an outfit for the next
Around the room, David Garratt had
arranged stark white, plaster heads in various expressions upon the
dressing table and the closet shelves. The color contrast was striking,
but the installation’s narrative was unsettling. Perhaps our choices
about who we are and can become are finite and pre-determined—from
clothing to state-of-mind. Absent was the fictional hotel guest, who
must have made his choices and gone out for the evening.
SHOWTEL II was curated by Kara Walker-Tomé,
a consultant for Lake Worth’s Palm Beach Institute of
Contemporary Art. She is quickly becoming known for her success in providing
quirky, site-specific exhibits that provide Palm Beach County residents with
access to interesting and intelligent art by its South Florida residents. The
site of her last exhibit, HOUSEWORK, was her newly purchased home. Because the
house still needed remodeling, artists had fewer constraints and were allowed to
paint and affix their work to the walls. (For more, check out the review in
To inquire about the 3rd Annual SHOWTEL, contact Kara Walker-Tomé at
photo credits: Doug McGlothlin