For the past eight years, a small hotel in West Palm Beach has been transformed for a short time into a home of art installations.
It’s called Showtel, and it’s one of the most unusual local events in contemporary art. It begins tonight at Hotel Biba on Belvedere Road and lasts through Saturday night.
This event, in which selected artists take over rooms in the hotel and turn them into art installations, is the brainchild of curator Kara Walker-Tomé, who wanted to create a “recurring exhibition of cutting-edge art showcasing regional emerging artists in an alternative setting.”
Some of the past installations have included a room covered from floor to ceiling with stuffed animals, a bedspread fashioned from bikini underwear in a feminist statement, and the bottom of the swimming pool turned into an underwater bedroom.
Sometimes the exhibiting artists create performance art in the room. One year, they were wearing flea costumes and jumping on trampolines, then putting red stickers on visitors to imitate fleabites. In another, a solitary figure was trapped in a straitjacket in an all-white room pierced by black lines, creating a stressful and inescapable maze.
In another, an artist dressed in an outfit fashioned from butter wrappers created a collage on a mirror from butter wrappers, while the bed and windows were covered, inevitably, with butter wrappers.
In 2006, Palm Beach State College art professor Nazaré Feliciano made a bedspread of ceramic cubes and steel with a drawing of a woman’s legs emerging from a pumpkin shell. Feliciano often uses nursery rhymes to comment on the origin of abuse of women and children and what we teach with those rhymes, reminding us to listen to what themes we are reciting to our children.
Many artists apply to be in Showtel, and they range from students to college professors to professional artists. This year more than 20 featured artists will present multimedia site-specific installations and performances.
The artists include: Joey Bargsten and Meme: Experimental Media Ensemble, Katherine Barnes, Leah Brown, Martin Eduardo Casuso, Brent Cole, Halie Ezratty, Daniel E. Fernandez, Robb Fladry, Georgeta Fondos, Donna Haynes, Lauren Alyssa Howard, Lauren Jacobson, Onorina Jomir, Bradley Lezo, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, Cristina Sierra, Sue Stevens, Peter Symons, Gregg Tomé, Jackie Tufford and Jordi Williams.
Usually, Showtel is held for only one night, but this year it opens tonight with a preview. The preview is limited to 300 guests and tickets are $30 each, which includes a complimentary cocktail, a Showtel program and a weekend pass. The preview lasts from 6 to 8 p.m. today, and on Friday and Saturday, Showtel will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night.
In 2009, more than 2,000 people attended this one-of-a-kind event. From social commentary to just plain fun, it’s not to be missed, as much of the regional art world converges to see what on earth artists will create from in this small and charming hotel.
SHOWTEL opens at 6 p.m. tonight with a special preview at the Hotel Biba, 320 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach. Tickets: $30 preview; $15 at the door Friday and Saturday, $10 if you buy online at www.showtel.org. Walkup prices for those less than 17 years of age are $5, and children under 12 are admitted free of charge. Showtel preview hours are on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday nights from 5 to 10 p.m.