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Archives    Marya Summers art news Marya Summers is the former editor of Pandemonium art and literary magazine and  also the former art and theater writer for Free Press, Palm Beach County's alternative source for art and news.  Now, she's a freelance arts writer, a poetry and theater artist-in-residence in the public schools, an English instructor at PBCC, and the host of a weekly poetry slam in Delray Beach. www.delrayslam.com .





One Night Stand: Avant-garde Art Checks-in to Hotel Biba

   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 day.

   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 Closer Magazine).
To inquire about the 3rd Annual SHOWTEL, contact Kara Walker-Tomé at karawt@aol.com.

photo credits: Doug McGlothlin


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