drag queen with dog
Art Bespoke

CAMP Gallery Celebrates Portraiture and the Self During Miami Art Week

The pristine window display of CAMP Gallery’s quaint North Miami space entices a visit. Located across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art along a stretch of cafes, antique shops and other local small businesses, CAMP’s dedication to protecting the artists they represent, and undoing toxic gallerist/artist relationships, feels right at home in its surrounding community. In the year and a half since its April 2020 opening, CAMP is already decidedly free of pretension and a space where, above all else, the work on display shines.

For this year’s Miami Art Week, founder and art director Melanie Prapopoulos, Maria di Giammarco and Gabe Torres, have curated a show of Galician artist Bego M. Santiago’s daily loops, a video series that will be projected on the walls on a constant loop and on view until the end of the year. Some of the videos, which have been made since 2005, are stories; some are memories composited by Santiago and double as an intimate diary for the artist. In Make Up, which features the artist’s self portrait in silhouette layered by the text “blah blah blah,” Santiago performs the ritualistic motions of putting on makeup, seemingly in reverse, removing the layers of text and revealing her bare face.

Bego M. Santiago. Still from Makeup, 2021. Photography by Maria Gabriela Di Giammarco.

“In this vignette where a woman is supposedly adorning herself, she's removing herself from all of the noise that surrounds her as a woman; gender expectations, class expectations,” says Prapopoulos. “At the end of the video, you're just confronted with her.” The video will also feature a reflective glass in front of it, creating an immersive experience for the viewer in which they become part of the piece.

Prapopoulos’s inspiration of portraiture continues in her curated booth for SCOPE Art Show, where CAMP will exhibit contemporary artists from both the West and Africa juxtaposing their varied takes on the medium. Historically, the goal of portraiture has been to elevate the subject,  to raise their status in the eyes of the public. As time has evolved and access to materials proliferated, artists have become more playful in their portraiture. One work that Prapopoulos will exhibit is Miami-based photographer Sonya Revell’s portrait of beloved Miami drag queen Queef Latina.

Sonya Revell & Queef Latina, Morning Glory, 2020. From the series "Queef Latina Stars in Cabana Fever."

“I think there's nothing better than to look at how people are looking at themselves, after going through the pandemic, where a lot of artists don't have access to the population as they used to as models,” says Prapopoulos.

One of the artists in the gallery’s SCOPE presentation, the Ghanaian, Amsterdam-based Idris Habib, creates expressionistic composite portraits, picking and choosing elements from various models to create vibrant renderings.

“He's very interested in the idea that everyone has beauty regardless of whether they fit the Greek ideal,” Prapopoulos explains of Habib’s work. “He spends a lot of time looking at people and he may take a nose from one person, ears from another, and he creates these beautiful portraits.”

Idris Habib, Mauritana Zeina, 2020.

In line with CAMP Gallery’s philosophy of generosity, 10 percent of the gallery’s commission will be donated to Fashion Fights Cancer, a nonprofit that provides innovative and therapeutic programs in fashion and design for cancer patients and their loved ones. The decision to donate proceeds to this particular charity was personal for Prapopoulos, whose father died from complications of lymphoma in 2018. The gallery, whose name takes inspiration from combining her initials with her father’s (The Constantine and Melanie Prapopoulos Gallery), is an ode to her father, and she hoped to honor his memory through the charity partnership.

“We all really want to effect some kind of change, not just in the art industry, but also as a way of being, as a way of life,” says Prapopoulos. “We feel that it is part of our responsibility to find ways to give that back.”