III Points: Photographer John Sevigny Makes His Miami Debut With "Wilderness of Mirrors"
III Points kicked off last night, and that means different things for different attendees, depending on what you fancy for the weekend. Some of you will be cruising from barbecue to barbecue; some will be flailing about to the sounds of Miami Horror and XXYYXX; while others still will be ponderously digesting works from the likes of David Lynch and Charles Bradley.
Photo by: Susana Veloz John Sevigny
Enter John Sevigny. Sevigny is a 44 year old photographer who has been teaching, writing, shooting, and showing his work around the country and around the world since '98. On his website, he describes himself as "a photographic artist, writer and teacher who is seldom in any one place very long. A German Expressionist who can't paint, an armchair art historian and a lover of the Great Books..." He also happens to hail from South Miami and this Saturday at the Seminole Building in Wynwood will mark the first exhibition Sevigny has ever had in his hometown.
"This is a very strange and long story," began Sevigny when asked about how he became involved with the III Points festival. "I've been trying to show in Miami, where I was actually born, for a number of years. For a long time, the burgeoning art industry there has really wanted nothing to do with me, and it's been real strange because I show in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City - very big markets."
Lo and behold, after making a connection with one of the folks from Oh Really?! Creative coordinating events for the festival (a contact Sevigny made through the manager of Blowfly), Sevigny was told his exhibition, "Wilderness of Mirrors," would be perfect for the space at the Seminole Building during III Points.
"It's a little bit strange," Sevigny noted, "to get into Miami at all with what I do, I had to get in through music people."
So what does that say about the state of art in the Magic City? Sevigny stated, "Without being too critical, I think, in terms of art, Miami is still a small town learning to walk in big shoes...[but] I don't want to say too much because I haven't been there in eight years..."
As a born-and-raised Miamian who left the city to practice his art, Sevigny has an inside view on South Florida's cultural brain drain.
"As sort of an exile," he explained, "I also take the brain-drain from Miami very personally.... The two photographers that I know that have had the most international success, just in terms of geography, would be myself and a guy named Roger Snyder, who's done a lot of work for National Geographic and is also from South Miami - and both of us have left the city. So there definitely is a brain drain factor, and it's kind of sad. When I lived there many years ago, I was always an advocate for Miami developing its own culture and its own artistic language based on its unique blend of influences, and it seems like that hasn't happened yet -- though, again, I don't want to make any assumptions since I haven't been back in so long. It seems like there's still a lot of fetishism for what comes form the outside."
Throughout the interview, Sevigny tempered his statements regarding Miami's cultural growth that way, qualifying his assumptions by noting his long absence. It's a sense of uncertainty that also informs how he's approaching his first show in the city on Saturday, of which he professed, "I have no idea what to expect coming down there, to be honest...."