Phylum Floridian Series

artist1 / November 7, 2016

At the FIU Project Room

Bakehouse Art Complex, 2016

Curated by Brittni Winkler

A phylum is a principal taxonomic category that ranks above class and below kingdom, while a Floridian is a native or inhabitant of the state of Florida. This exhibition is a collection of anthropomorphic drawings by Gray of local animal species found in Florida, matched to characters found in its diverse culture. The drawings seek to reveal social characteristics of the population – animal and human, alike – indigenous to the tropical environment, while exploring areas of invasiveness, ecology and humor.

Gray’s work has been displayed using appropriated family frames bought at local thrift stores or made from reclaimed discarded wood. His work is reminiscent of the artist’s own life and of his experience in Florida, and it evokes an alternative view of the inhabitants of the Sunshine State. Spending time in and around nature has deeply influenced these drawings, which were made to pass this interest onto their viewers for further inspection.

Subtle humor in the work is based on background knowledge of the specific species drawn and is meant to provoke an interest in local wildlife, while shining a satirical light on a contemporary Floridian society.

These drawings, paintings and monotype prints can be understood and “decoded” if one were to be familiar with the species depicted. For example, The Basilisk or also known as “the Jesus lizard” has been named so due to its ability to run across water. So, naturally, I painted it in this series wearing a typical Roman Catholic robe which referenced a photo I found of the Archbishop of Miami. The images function as political and social satires that had more to say about humans than it did about the animals. It was an interesting approach to making a social comment that at the same time illustrated people as being not so different from the creatures we share this earth with.

Each artwork was framed specifically to help carry the idea that this is a derelict family that had been discarded. The larger pieces were framed with discarded wood I found on the side of the road. The smaller pieces were put into cheap frames bought from a Goodwill thrift store. These frames at one point held someone’s family photos and now were given away for cheap resale. The frames themselves became a metaphor for how the everglades are currently being treated by our local and state governments.