The McKnight Bros Are Dade County Art Legends

Robert and Donald McKnight are largely overlooked for their contributions to Miami art culture.

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In the McKnight studio.
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Brothers Donald (background) and Robert McKnight aka Miami (foreground) have been making art professionally in Miami for over 40 years.
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Robert says "Art is like being a priest....you ain't gon' make no money. You gotta do it cause you like it."
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"In highschool, an intern suggested I put in a portfolio to Syracuse University and I got accepted on a scholarship. I was gonna play football, but being in the fine arts program, I had no time for practice, besides, the black players boycotted the football program in 1970."
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"I'm comfortable with sculpture, I'm a painter, I'm also comfortable with digital, friend of mine calls it electric painting. We did that 75 foot tile mosaic of Muddy Waters and Willy Dixon playing guitar on the side of a low income housing building on 79th street and NW 7th Ave. Each piece of tile in there represents a single pixel. It's from a digital file."
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"Nowadays doing a lot of mosaics, more of a self expression. My approach to work changes from one material to another. We're using a lot of materials that were given to us, sort of like recycling. Right now we've got 10,000 tiles somebody gave us."
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"I started with art when I was about 3 years old. When we got bored of watching tv there was always paper around and me and my brothers would have competitions to see who was the best. I was the youngest so I got stuck being the judge."
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"I always took extra art courses from elementary all the way through high school. When we got free time for acing the test, which I usually did, I'd be over there in the art room instead of in shop or p.e."
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"I was born in South Carolina, but I grew up in Miami. From Liberty City all the way down through Homestead, I know Miami."
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"In 1976 I came back to Miami from Syracuse. After that I got a job with Metro Zoo being in charge of all special construction. Nobody remembers this, but to this day Metro Zoo is the county's biggest public art project. There were 35 artists involved, and the County didn't even take one photograph to preserve that history."
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"We started in 1979 out there in Crandon Park with the preliminary conceptual design, then moved to South Dade and stayed with the Zoo through 1984 doing everything from the plans for the rock facade and a lot of other subtle elements that were designed by Miami artists and built by construction crews."
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"There's never been any real recognition for that."
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Robert: "Who was that little crippled guy in Paris used to hang out with the prostitutes and make drawings of em'? Donald: Lautrec
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Robert: Yeah Toulouse-Lautrec. He'd just sit there and make his little drawings of the hookers, and then later on somebody found em' and started collecting.
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"Van Gogh was so broke he had to eat his own ear just to get somethin' to eat. Musta said 'I'm hungry, what can I spare? Well, got two ears. Gon' hurt for a little while, but at least I'll be full."
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"Mosaics are where it's at. That's how I think public art should be made...to last hundreds of years. Least then I'll be a footnote. Putting paint to a wall, that won't even make it 20 years."
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"The whole art scene as it exists now, those seeds were all sown a long time ago. These are the fruits of seeds that were planted by the whole Coconut Grove scene. It wouldn't exist without people like Tony Scornavacca."
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A Miami mosaic seen from Bakehouse Art Complex studio floor.
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Recycled-tile mosaic detail.
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A painter's brushes.
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The McKnight brothers' outdoor workshop studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood.
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Works in progress.
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Sculpture mosaiced work.
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Studio exterior.
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Sculpted head.
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Donald McKnight at work.
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Miami, the artist formerly knows as Robert McKnight. Click here to log on to his artist's blog.
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