Miami is a transient place. People come as often as people go. For some, our magic city is just a staging place for a bigger life, for others, arriving in Miami brings the dreams of a new life. For a few of us though, Miami is the magic city where we were born. Michele Oka Doner is one of the latter. Her remarkable talent and awe-inspiring works of art have taken her all over the country and globe, but Michele will always call Miami Beach home. In today’s Tavern Tastemakers episode with Ocean Drive Magazine we get a little bit of insight into what that was like while she cozies up to a lunch at Cypress Tavern with Editor in Chief Jared Shapiro.
The beauty of a childhood spent outdoors amidst the flora and fauna of our tropical paradise shaped the artist that Michele has become. One look at any of her pieces is to witness the glory of the natural world in some form. Miami was not just a backdrop though, the social aspect of a budding city was a part of her world as well. As Michele explains in today’s Tavern Tastemakers episode, when approaching how she might design a piece of work for a city, she looks to the locals, the people who her art will impact, and she goes from there. This because she knows something of transience and she knows the gravity of permanence. A Miami native has seen the makeovers and resurgences that a city goes through, and Michele’s gift is taking that experience and reflecting it back. Her art represents the full spectrum of a city, it’s people, and it’s soul.
Her work The River of Quintessence is a mosaic floor of green glass, mother of pearl and seashells that winds through the U.S. Courthouse in Laredo, Texas just as the Rio Grande snakes through the city’s landscape, creating a sense of comfort in a building that might not always offer much. A Walk On the Beach at the Miami International Airport channels the Miami beaches of years past, that Michele’s young feet walked upon. Some of these creatures can only be witnessed through art anymore, because of people and time and change. But Michele gives these treasures back to us, under our own feet, in beautifully crafted bronze and mother of pearl, for us to continue to explore year after year.
In this way, Michele is a sort of gatekeeper. She gives us back a bit of the past so that, like the ancient trees on Pine Tree Drive that she speaks of, a little more of her Miami Beach can continue to live on. For this, we are lucky to have her, and for this she is a Tavern Tastemaker.
Visit Michele’s latest Miami installation, How I Caught A Swallow in Mid-Air, at Perez Art Museum. Now until September 11, 2016.