Desi Santiago, Creator of Lords South Beach's Giant Dog Installation, Talks Art Basel, Florida's Art Scene, and His Furry Muse
How would you describe your work for those unfamiliar with it?
Kirk Van Wormer rendering, 2012
I think my work definitely has, like, a patina or a veil of gothic darkness, but when you really look at it they're very solemn pieces. There's an idea of hope in my work; the pieces aren't nihilistic or apocalyptic, they're not about doom and gloom. They're really somber pieces; there's a lot of mourning that happens with the work.
Are there any materials or mediums you haven't tackled yet that you'd like to?
This one I'm doing in Miami is something I've been dreaming about. This scale of work is what I'm kind of really interested in doing. It's such a large gesture and as a sculptor to have people engage with architecture in this way, it's an amazing experience for me. Even as a spectator of the piece that I'm creating, I'm so excited to be able to engage with it.
How did the concept for the Lord's installation come about?
I was asked by Boffo to be involved in Art Basel (they're the organization that's bringing me down, along with Perrier). They asked me to do something at the Lords Hotel -- they said you can do what you want, just come up with an idea. So I used Gypsy my dog. She's been a muse sometimes, she appears through my work. She's kind of a metaphor for long relationships. She's the longest relationship, she's been witness to all these experiences I have. I use her as this metaphor of a dynamic between two beings. I've always wanted to do a giant version of her, so I was just thinking about the buildings in Miami, and there isn't really a black building in Miami. So I'm just gonna plop some black right in the middle of Miami. Looking at it as an object, the building as a shape and form, it just lends itself to this. It merged in my head. I could see her body, the body of an animal, the body of the dog sort of in there. I really don't know how I connect all the ideas sometimes; they appear and they seem to make sense.
How did she become a prognosticator?
I'm thinking about this whole thing and Miami and the whole idea of Art Basel ... this moving together of different classes and economies; the power exchanges that are happening, and this big black fortune telling dog kind of lays parallel to this fair. I'm not really part of the fair itself, I'm kind of doing my own thing, but it's just a gamble. These ideas that you have to win but you're really not in control in certain respects. You come there with certain expectations, but you just have to see what happens -- it's a roll of the dice, is sort of what I'm kind of commenting on.
What do you think of Miami's art scene?
Via Desi Santiago's Facebook page "Mr. Bones" skeleton customized by Santiago for Kiehl's fundraising program
I'm really learning more about the art scene there, I haven't spent too much time in Miami, so I don't know if I'd be able to comment. I'm sure I will. I'm hoping that I'll get to meet the community; I'm hoping that they'll come visit the dog and come visit me.
What else do you have in the works?
This is my main focus, but I'm also working on some pieces for an Italian theater. And then right after (Basel) in January I'm gonna be showing at a Boca Raton contemporary gallery. It's weird it all sort of happened, the two separate things. I'm like, oh, OK, Florida!