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CLOSE TO YOU (TIME TO BE ALONE)
Margaret H. Adams
The three-year-old multidisciplinary space Meetinghouse in downtown Miami opened its doors this past art week with a solo show of Miami native Nicholas Fernandez. The exhibit, Close to You ( time to be alone) combines humor, stereotypes, and everyday experiences to uncover the myths of his familial history and queer culture in Miami through painting, sculpture, and multi-media installations. Fernandez manages to construct fantastical characters of the LGBTQ community while simultaneously inserting them into a conversation that is both relatable and revealing.
One of the first sculptures to confront viewers in the show is his most recent work, Lemon Likeness, an exposed drag queen urinating in a puddle on the floor. Made up of a tripod, upholstery foam, fabric, and a painted mask that’s undeniably Fernandez, the piece is raw, honest, and awkward, with an ethos that echoed throughout the entire show.
There is a cartoonish, comical way that Fernandez tackles the mundane. There are frequently elements of a witch’s hand or spooky eyes lurking throughout his work. The witch, often portrayed as a villainous female, is known for challenging gender roles through the use of magic and power. A witch must know how to hide in plain sight in order to survive, an idea that translates into many of the works in this show.
Comic Opera (Dawn in F#m) is a three-minute video detailing a morning commute from the point of view of a distressed witch, as she drums her green fingers on the steering wheel. Accompanying the suspenseful soundtrack is scrolling text reminiscent of karaoke, taking the form of a cheesy joke. The work introduces the viewer to other archetypes, the werewolf and the clown, emphasizing their body hair and makeup respectively. Meeting a Gaze is a large, green polyurethane foam sculpture, resembling a shrub with two pairs of predatory eyes that surveille the exhibition space. The sculpture is cartoonish, a skating bush on roller blades that speaks to the pre-Grindr practice of gay park cruising.
The humor, lore, and intimacy of Close to You ( time to be alone) is further developed by smaller oil paintings that help to fully “de-villainize” the characters that Fernandez presents to viewers. For example, Backwards Forward depicts a car parked in a secluded spot at twilight. The dome light illuminates the interior of the car, possibly depicting either a discreet safe haven or a secluded crime scene. In this way, many of Fernandez’s works could be read simultaneously as sweet or menacing, inciting tenderness and paranoia. This calls to mind the paradoxical abjection of queer affection, particularly in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in which Fernandez seems to source heavily from.
Fernandez’s works are revealing of his life, but also of his art practice, as he brings in his own process of learning to trust his own intuition and self-awareness. Close to You ( time to be alone) shows Fernandez’s wit and vulnerability through notions of the stigmas, fantasies, and realities of queer society. The exhibition opened on the night of December 2 at Meetinghouse in downtown Miami during Art Basel, and ended on the 16th.
Margaret H, Adams holds an M.A. in Art History from the University of Utah with a concentration in Modern and Contemporary Art in Brazil. She is a recent recipient of the Peter C. Marzio Award for Outstanding Research in 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art.