New Exhibit at Oolite Arts Contemplates Losses of the Last Year, Urges the Possibility of a Better Future

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

New Exhibit at Oolite Arts Contemplates Losses of the Last Year, Urges the Possibility of a Better Future:

“Dreams of Unknown Islands” features Florida sunsets and sunrises to move from mourning to hope

As the pandemic passes the one-year mark, a new exhibit opening at Oolite Arts on Lincoln Road reflects one artist’s view of how we can process the loss and imagine a better future. “Dreams of Unknown Islands,” created by Sasha Wortzel and curated by Kristan Kennedy, melds audio of the Jewish prayer of mourning – the Kaddish – and the tradition of sitting shiva with video of South Florida sunsets and sunrises. 

When the pandemic emerged in the U.S. last spring, Wortzel, a visual artist and filmmaker (photo above) began to stream the sunset live on Instagram. “[T]he videos were a way to process the collective loss, and later the national political crises and racial reckoning alongside the ecological degradation she had been researching in Florida,” according to the announcement of the exhibit.

Following her beach walks, Wortzel sometimes participated in an online reading of the Kaddish at a virtual gathering organized to move through the pain of the moment. These experiences, along with Wortzel’s ongoing research in the Florida Everglades came together in the exhibition in a way that “invites the community into a collective process to move from the grief caused by these crises, towards acknowledgement, accountability and imagining new futures.”
 
“Dreams of Unknown Islands,” curated by Kristan Kennedy, opens Jan. 20 through April 4 at Oolite Arts’ gallery at 924 Lincoln Road. 

“Ethereal and contemplative, the exhibition begins with three videos of a Florida sunset and sunrise, and a nesting turtle during the full moon. In the main gallery, overhead, are large-scale sculptures reminiscent of sea shells, created with a 3D printer,” according to the exhibition description.

 

“The sculptures serve as speakers broadcasting sounds made by the mixing of Wortzel’s network of friends and family reciting the Kaddish. Beneath them is a sculpture entitled “Sitting Shiva,” which consists of two lounge chairs upholstered in invasive python skin, evoking the many Jewish seniors who found refuge in Miami Beach in the mid 20th century and Miami Beach’s queer community impacted by the AIDS crisis,” the description notes.
 
While the exhibit explores the heavy topics of COVID-19 and environmental degradation and a world in which we are out of balance with nature, Curator Kristan Kennedy says Wortzel’s work pushes us to think of the possibility of a better world. 
 
“Sasha’s exhibition gives a gift of peace in this chaotic time,” said Kennedy, who is the artistic director, curator of visual art at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. “It urges us to ask, 'how might we face, and address all that’s happening, and process it and heal in a better way?'” 
 

Calendar

“Dreams of Unknown Islands” by Sasha Wortzel, curated by Kristan Kennedy
On view Jan. 20 - April 4, 2021, by appointment
Oolite Arts, 924 Lincoln Road
 

Programming

IlluminArts and Oolite Arts present Sasha Wortzel: Rising with the Attacca Quartet and Caroline Shaw
7 p.m. Jan. 31


North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave, Miami Beach and streamed online

lluminArts and Oolite Arts will present the GRAMMY winning Attacca Quartet and Pulitzer Prize winning composer and singer Caroline Shaw in a performance inspired by the work of Oolite Arts resident artist, Sasha Wortzel.

In a musical program anchored by the works of Caroline Shaw, this performance will tell the rising story of the intersection between nature and humanity. 

Tickets are free, though RSVP is required: https://sasha_wortzel_rising.eventbrite.com
 

About Oolite Arts

Oolite Arts helps Miami-based artists advance their careers and inspires the cultural community to engage with their work. Established in 1984, Oolite Arts is both a community and a resource, providing visual artists with the studio space, exhibition opportunities and financial support they need to experiment, grow and enrich the city. Through its educational programming, Oolite Arts helps Miamians learn about contemporary art and develop their own artistic skills. For more, visit oolitearts.org.
 

About the Artist

Born and raised in Southwest Florida, Sasha Wortzel is an artist and filmmaker working between Miami and New York City. Blending the archival and the imaginary, Wortzel’s films, installations, and performances map the ways that the past haunts and inextricably shapes contemporary American life. Wortzel’s films have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art’s Doc Fortnight, True/False Film Festival, DOC NYC, BAMcinématek, Blackstar, and Berlinale. Their work has been exhibited at the New Museum, Brooklyn Museum, The Kitchen, New York; Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami; Krannert Art Museum, Champaign; and SALTS, Birsfelden. Wortzel has been supported by the Sundance Institute, Art Matters, Field of Vision, Queer/Art/Mentorship, Points North Institute, and a 2018 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in film/video. Wortzel has participated in residencies including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Program, Abrons Arts Residency for Visual Artists, Watermill Center, New York; and AIRIE (Artists in Residence in the Everglades), Florida. They are a 2020 studio resident at Oolite Arts, Miami Beach. Wortzel’s film Happy Birthday Marsha! (2018; co-director Tourmaline) won special mention at Outfest and is distributed by Frameline. This is an Address (2020) is distributed by Field of Vision. Their work is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum and Leslie Lohman Museum of Art. They have been featured in publications including The New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, and New York Magazine. 


About the Curator

Kristan Kennedy is an accomplished curator, artist, and educator. She is the Artistic Director / Curator of Visual Art at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA). She manages and directs PICA’s year-round Exhibition Program, where she focuses on the commissioning and development of large-scale projects with artists that exist at the borders of genres. 

Kennedy is an artist who has been exhibited internationally most recently in Flat Fix, Halsey McKay Gallery, NY; Eyes, Ditch Projects, OR; Sunday, Crisp-Ellert Museum, FL; Kristan Kennedy Meets a Clock, Soloway, NY; Sleeper Fourteen30 Contemporary, OR; OO, Misako & Rosen, JP., Tomorrow, Tomorrow, CANADA, Stretch/Release, Durst Britt & Mayhew, NL, and Other Colors, Fourteen30 Contemporary. Kennedy received the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship in 2018. She is represented by Fourteen30 Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon. 

Kennedy teaches Contemporary Art History at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in their MFA Visual Studies program and formerly at Portland State University for the BFA and MFA Studio Practice program and Social Practice MFA Program. She is a member of the board at The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. She has published several essays on artists’ work, curatorial practice, and ethics in journals and for exhibitions nationally, most recently contributing to As radical, as mother, as salad, as shelter: What should art institutions do now? published by Paper Monument, NY; Songs for Sabotage, Triennial Catalog, New Museum, NY; Like a Valentine, Jeffry Mitchell, Henry Art Gallery, WA and is currently co-publishing artist Andrea Geyer’s first major monograph Dance in a Future with All Present with Dancing Foxes Press, NY.

Photo of artist by Shoog McDaniel
Photo of exhibit by Pedro Wazzan