NiteTalk: Vivid Visualist Naomi Fisher Takes Us to Weird Miami

Her filmed, photographed and painted works can be found on display on walls throughout the Magic City, but her performance pieces tend to be boundary-defying. As one of the founding minds behind Bas Fisher International, she's helped to ensure that others of her ilk have a place to show their work as well. And this weekend's "Weird Miami Visitor's Center and Bus Tours" exhibit will go to all the places in all her art friends' heads. Her name is Naomi Fisher, and it's become synonymous with all that is vivid in this city that we call home.

You're one of two minds behind Bas Fisher Invitational. Can you please tell us about the space? The concept of the BFI is to be a hub for contemporary art in Miami, to be a place or free expression, providing a place for creativity, experimentation and thinking. We host talks by artists and curators, reading groups, super 8 film screenings and movie nights to foster community building.

The space was opened in the summer of 2004. At the time I was sharing a studio with artist Hernan Bas and we had many friends who were incredible artists, but because you would only see their work here and there in group shows it was difficult to gauge the depth of their work. Our new studio had a lot of extra space so we decided to invite artists we were inspired by to create solo shows in the space.

In 2008, a Knight Arts Challenge Grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and support from DACRA enabled us to keep moving forward. Since then I have been running the space with my current studio mate, artist Jim Drain, and curator Agatha Wara, with the help of incredible volunteers. 
This weekend, BFI is opening the show "Weird Miami Visitors Center." Details, please. Growing up in Miami has been quite a ride. ... I didn't realize that it was different than any other American upbringing until I went to school in Baltimore and found out that there actually were neighborhoods that looked like sets from "Happy Days." Conversely, school friends who visited Miami couldn't believe that Miami was real and not some TV show. When I would bring friends to my Miami they would be surprised that it was way more than South Beach and Miami Vice. "Weird Miami Visitors Center and Bus Tours" came out of such thoughts. How has Miami crept into the consciousness of artists who live here? What is my Miami to other artists? What would a tourist-style bus tour be like if an artist could lead you anywhere they wanted? From the banal to the outrageous, from nature to the man-made. I'm so excited to see where these fascinating artists will lead us!

The opening is July 10 from 7 to 10 p.m.  Be sure not to miss Jason Hedges food based performance at 8 p.m.
Some of your own work can currently be seen at the De La Cruz Collection. Wanna fill us in? Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz have been wonderful supporters of international contemporary art in Miami, and their recently opened museum is a gift to the community. I am honored to have a piece as part of their inaugural installation. It is a large-scale cibachrome from 2000 of a woman in a floral dress immersed in a bush of flowers.

You're also involved with performance, most recently "Restart Button." What's that story?
In 2008, I was awarded a Knight Arts Challenge Grant to create and stage performance-based works in the South Florida landscape. It is an amazing opportunity to finally produce ideas that had only existed in my head and could not be realized without proper funding. "Reset Button" was the working title of the project at Oleta State Park. The title signified a new beginning to my practice. For nine days, I camped in primitive cabins there with Jesse Gold, Nancy Garcia, Jacqueline Fritz and Elizabeth Hart -- who are performers, musicians, dancers, and artists. Costumes were vintage Versace leopard print outfits that I found at a garage sale. We never left the park, and we cut ourselves off from the outside world in order to allow the experience of being in nature to form improvisational movement based performances that I filmed and photographed. We had two performance dates that the public was invited to. I am very interested in the clash between nature and culture, modernism and the primitive, so this project was perfect to further that exploration.

How important is Miami and its environs to what you do? It is where I was born, grew up and continue to live. The beauty, wildness and weirdness have a huge impact.

Is there another city in the world where you think you would be equally inspired? No. But I was surprised at how inspiring Berlin was when I lived there a couple years ago during winter. We were living on the edge of the Grunewald, a dark snowy forest with sculpted hills built from the rubble of WWII. ... It felt like what I imagine a Nordic black metal fairy tale landscape would be -- we would spot wild boar and foxes in the moonlight. ... It was the opposite of Miami in a way where the polarity became inspiring.

In addition to the" Weird" participants, what other Miami artists have you been keeping an eye on? That's tough because I'm so psyched about all of the "Weird" participants! Clifton Childree is a perennial favorite. ... Nicolas Lobo is doing a fascinating portrait of a former downstairs neighbor. ... Adler Guerrier is like a sleuth. ... Christy Gast has an aptitude for exploring nature that I share. ... I wish I could partake in a Jason Hedges food performance every day. ... Who else? Robert Chambers, Mette Tommerup, Bhakti Baxter. ... Oh boy, instead of writing a book of names I'm going to suggest seeing the new show "New Work Miami 2010" at MAM. That covers many people I think are making interesting work.

When you're not making the art scene, where in town do you most dig hanging out? I have been glued to the studio both as an artist and trying to keep the space running so I hardly go out anymore. But I'm often at the beat the clock special across the street at Mai Tar Di. When hunger strikes after seven, I head to Pizza Volante, Lemoni and the Buena Vista Deli. For a splurge, I love Red Light, Michael's and Fratteli Lyon. I'm super excited for my friend Muriel's farm near the Little River to open in the fall. They are going to build a brick oven pizza on the property! I'm also psyched about the films in conjunction with the Claire Fontaine show at MOCA. And nothing beats nature: the beach and the Everglades.

What else is coming up for Naomi Fisher?
In October,  I'll have a solo show at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami. In Spring 2011, I'll be an artist-in-residence as part of Vizcaya's Contemporary Art Program with assistance from my Knight Arts Challenge Grant. At Vizcaya, I'll be doing a project that will be part film, part performance. ... I'm still conceptualizing it. There are other projects brewing, but those are solid.

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