Shalenah Ivey: Miami as Text

Shalenah Ivey is a recent graduate of Florida International University and its Honors College as of Spring 2019. While a student, she majored in Art History, minored in Spanish Language and Cultures, and completed a certificate in Film Studies. Her passions in life are art in its many forms, the written word, and the understanding and celebration of cultures from around the world.  While also having experience in video art and film photography, it is with writing that Shalenah hopes to inspire, awaken, and reach those near and far.  More information about her can be found at divineivy.wordpress.com.

Shalenah completed the FIU Honors College seminar Art Society Conflict taught by Professor JW Bailly in 2018-2019. These are her Miami as Texts.

PAMM AS TEXT
Think Pink by Shalenah Ivey at PAMM, 14 October 2018
Blue is my favorite color.  It is as deep as it is endless and as mystifying as it is sincere.   It has stained my soul. It has dyed my daydreams. Yet, I have been told by many that when they think of me, the color pink is never far away.  Walking into PAMM’s newest exhibit I felt as if I was wading into an aura. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83 | A Documentary Exhibition captured the entire process of the iconic Miami installation by married artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.  Comprised of preliminary sketches, court documents, and other photographs, it brought to life the sheer complexity of the undertaking of the project.  When I stepped into the exhibition, there was a black and white photograph of the artists strolling hand in hand upon the Biscayne shore. It was as expansive as it was intimate and I felt to be a part of that fleeting moment, invited within their world.  

Thus, I fell into Surrounded Islands, immersed and captivated by the physicality of it all.  So tangibly potent were the artifacts steeped in time. The finiteness of a date attached to a legal record.  Hurried signatures and stamps. Pinks maps and pink papers and even pink tarps apart of the original installation.  Inescapable was the hue and unforgettable its presence. The world, my world, was permeated with pink. I felt it without touching it.  Surrounded by the vision of the artists on an island of my own.

I close my eyes and what radiates is pink.

DEERING AS TEXT
Take Heed by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 04 November 2018
Primus Devine was the name of my great great great grandfather.  He lived most of his life a slave in South Carolina. He tasted freedom perhaps a decade.  We know almost nothing about him. Had I not had an insatiable curiosity at age 17, we may still not know his name.  He is the farthest back my family (on my mother’s side) has been able to go in our ancestry. I have always clinged to the stories my grandmother has told me of her childhood growing up in 1950s South Carolina.  Although her family was poor, her stories are rich with a boundless love. Exploring the Deering Estate and the untouched landscape that stretched beyond the house reminded me of my perpetual attachment to the past.  The ways in which time cruelly escapes me. The ways in which the walls of an old building whisper stories. We adventured into a pure paradise. Then to that of a grave. We don’t even know their names. But their bones stay.  The sky is still bleached blue. Papaya hangs from branches and rests on fallen trunks. Green but rotting. I think of the grave again. Have we failed them? Have we failed each other? Daggers and death still live on. The trees speak.  The trees sing. The trees weep. Listen, Miami.

VIZCAYA AS TEXT
Mary, did you know? by Shalenah Ivey at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 10 November 2018
I think one never grows tired of visiting the Miami marvel known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.  The muted clementine walls that wait outside. The way that archaic touches lining the street only hint at the grandness awaiting within.  Walking the shadowy path amongst the forest on the way to the mansion. Hearing the sound of traffic die down within the breaths of the trees.  Perhaps there is a transcendence or perhaps the allure of grandeur can simply overwhelm the senses. Gold and silk and ancient objects adorn the walls and spaces of Vizcaya.  For James Deering, the estate’s owner, there was truly no limit. There is no other option but to be in awe of his creation. Yet, despite the many times I have been to Vizcaya, I have never noticed the statue of Mary that sits almost discreetly in the formal dining room.  Her face is pained with sorrow. Her countenance concentrated with the softest of melancholy. What is it Mary? What has you so troubled? The word decadence embellishes my mind. Decay beyond what can decompose, beyond what can tarnish… Oh, but the sky is so blue across the bay.  The manatee swims so near. What shines will rust and what stands will fall. Bacchus calls. The grapes will rot with tenderness. The waves will hum to you if you let them. A baby’s coffin is in the room with Mary. I wonder what she could say if she could speak.

UNTITLED AS TEXT
Never, ever enough art by Shalenah Ivey at UNTITLED, 09 December 2018
I read this in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice.  It made it all the more real, all the more crucial, all the more potent.  Dreams are free, motherfucker. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the didactic.  Yet, those words will stay with me. The Untitled Art fair was sincerely worth the last four years I failed to make it to Art Basel.  I refuse to lament on the past, however, and I firmly believe everything happens in the time in which it is supposed to happen. Thus, I am only grateful I experienced what I did today.  Not only what but when. When and also with who. The first steps into the Untitled fair were nothing short of captivating. My remaining steps proved to be increasingly special. The art curated was as cutting edge as it was promised to be.  It is both inspiring and comforting to be surrounded by such talent and to know that people are in this world creating endlessly. Dreams are free, motherfucker! But for how long? What do I dream? I dream of Spain and of love and blue skies and of eternity and true happiness and of empty sun-glinted beaches.  The color blue has permeated the day. My favorite color. Today, I asked, “How long does it take for the the sun to set on Jupiter?” I was told that I took the sun when I left.

(Photo by Nikki Roe CC BY 4.0)

MARGULIES AS TEXT
Magnificent Margulies by Shalenah Ivey at Margulies Collection, 24 February 2019
I paused, perplexed in front of an iridescent sculpture.  I stood, unsettled in the presence of concrete.  I felt, touched by the bygone world of my grandmother in a single photo.  Two young black boys carrying ice blocks, barefoot down a country road.  These instances were just a fraction of my experiences at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse.  More than just a trip to the collection, our class had the privilege to experience a personal tour by Mr. Martin Margulies, owner of the institution.  His smile was a spark.  His demeanor was modest.  There was a certainty in his hearty voice that drew me in, compelling me to listen attentively to his words throughout the afternoon.   He asked us what is the value of beauty and what is it that makes something art.   There were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art surrounding us yet the tour with Mr. Margulies had the warmth of someone showing us their home.  Each piece was purposeful and weighted in it space.  Each room was a world of its own.  A wonderfully weird diner scene, an image of Americana.  The solitude of a New York bus rider.  A space with infinite reflections, infinite realities.  What does it mean when the depths of wonder know no bounds?

Larry Bell exhibition at ICA Miami (Photo by Shalenah Ivey CC BY 4.0)

ICA AS TEXT
Listen to the Beat by Shalenah Ivey ICA Miami, 22 March 2019
We musn’t forget that art is alive.  That it is a force that moves and breathes like you and I.  Sometimes it mourns and is imbued with grief. Other times, it gives birth to elated dreams.  If we are still enough and if we are open enough, we can hear the beating of its heart. Art is the most special when it makes us hear our own.  When it unifies us and seals as one, even if the moments are fast and few. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, I felt the works of art viewed by my class erase visages and barriers.  Abstracted visions and the frivolity of reality slowly stripped away at us until all that showed was a naked and naive innocence of wonder. Larry Bell’s minimalist world took us to another plane.  In blackness, our bodies were erased, but there was still touch and voice. A dimension of soul and sound. He prepared us by taking away our shadows. He made a figment of our reflections. We were baptized in a pool of vulnerability. The third floor of the ICA connected us to a woman’s world and we were pierced by the female gaze.  Judy Chicago’s works reminded me of a rebirth. Our blood and bodies returned to us. The tactile and the red physicality of what it means to be alive. Emotions, glorious and ghastly. At the center of this all, the heart. Don’t try to escape its sound.

Tschabalala Self. Untitled, 2017. Rubell Family Collection.

RUBELL AS TEXT
Bite Me by Shalenah Ivey at Rubell Family Collection, 04 April 2019
Someone said to burn it down.  Someone else said the piece was totally disturbing.  Another simply wrote, “Perfection.” These are comments taken from the Rubell Collection’s Instagram post of Tschabalala Self’s Untitled (2017) mixed media canvas.  I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.  Perhaps it is both. Perhaps I love only her.  But does it even matter? I see a woman in full possession of herself.  The divinity of Venus. I see a crude caricature. An image steeped in a ugly history, an ugly present.  I think of Sarah Baartman. A slave to her body while also having her humanity raped. I think of women in music videos, treated as nothing more than a prop.  I think of the girls who twerk in front of the mirror, falling in love with themselves. What is this vessel of bone and fat and skin? The woman who is unashamed of her body is a dangerous weapon.  The woman who revels in her own sublimity and her own imperfections. Whatever you think of her, our lady is a gun and a goddess. She is not for consumption and if you disagree, you can bite me.

DEERING AS TEXT
For all that is Human by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 20 April 2019
Shell had the beauty of ivory in my hand.  I was hushed then humbled by what it is and what it means to be human.  When stepping into the Cutler Fossil site at the Deering Estate, my classmates and I were told to quiet ourselves.  I did so and absorbed the spirit of where I stood; a place that was home to people ten thousand years ago. We were on sacred ground.  Almost overwhelming was the action of imagining the souls of those who once lived here. I was the first to hold one of their tools. It was smooth and a portal to the breaths of a prehistoric people.  I wish we could know their names, know their faces. Did they think of time? Was love their heaven? How did they say goodbye? I wonder if they felt sorrow. I wonder if they singed. I wonder when they looked up to the sky, if the clouds made them feel the same way as they do me?  Gentle and transcended and filled with peace; in touch with all that is divine. I mark my memories with the clouds. If only, we could know theirs. These questions go unanswered, kept secret by the enigma of time. Yet, under a canopy of unending green, the knowledge that they lived is enough.  Their presence is enough.

EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
Stephanie Sepúlveda &John William Bailly  25 April 2019
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Author: Isabella Marie Garcia

I'm currently an undergraduate student in the Honors College at Florida International University double majoring in English with a concentration in Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, and double minoring in French Language and Culture and Art History. I'm heavily interested in work that challenges gender ideals, female sexuality, and brings taboo subjects up to the surface. I hope that my work, whether it be through written, visual, or spoken word, can help challenge even just one individual to see how important intersectionality is within our world and one’s own local community. My writing blog can be found at spookyrose.wordpress.com.

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