Visions of the New Miami: Alexander Mijares
By Eleanor Cecconi
Standing in his bright white artist’s loft and residence that overlooks glorious views of Miami’s Biscayne Bay, I listen to artist and businessman Alexander Mijares talk about how his humble artistic beginnings led to a recent meteoric rise to fame. Exceeding even his own early expectations, Mijares has wowed the local and national art world with his stunning paintings and sculpture. Selling his painting “Alter Ego” at a record high in October 2012, Mijares has met with great success after painting for only one year. I met Alexander at a charity benefit for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in September, and was excited to sit down with Miami’s hottest new artist in his studio and find out what makes him tick.
Any viewer can see that Mijares’ vibrant works are driven by emotion, sensory experience, and dream-like visions. The exuberant colors, mosaic-like compositions, and themes utilizing masks and corsets all contribute to the exotic nature of his canon. It is no surprise much of his inspiration comes from actual dreams. “I like to take a nap in the afternoon to get inspired. I turn on nice Spanish music, or something of the sort, and doze on the couch. Almost instantly I fall into REM sleep and have exotic dreams. When I awake I am refreshed and immediately begin painting. The music, the subconscious imagery, and my passion for expressing myself drives the intense focus I maintain while I work.” Inspired by the sensuality of music, his travels throughout the Mediterranean, the energy of the surrounding water, and his rich Cuban/Spanish heritage, Mijares’ pieces are a rich synthesis of warmth, light, and shadow. His fusion of Cuban with new styles is representative of the new Miami.
Mijares is one of those uber talented artists that heard his calling after completing education for another field. “I attended Northeastern in Boston for undergrad. When I graduated, I came back home to Miami and became an integral part of my family’s metal fabrication business. I attended Florida International University and received my Masters degree in Business Administration. Everyone jokes because immediately upon finishing my graduate degree, I began my art career. But I truly believe that my body, my mind, wasn’t ready to create this art and expose myself to the world before this point.”
But Mijares didn’t meet such success immediately. His beginnings are humble; in fact I have never heard a story so honest and humorous. “I moved into this great loft space with many large, empty walls. As I was shopping for art to fill them up, I noticed everything I saw was so incredibly expensive. One day I had the idea- maybe I should try painting something myself. I bought a large canvas, paints, and a couple of brushes, and just went at it. For the days I couldn’t figure out why my paint wasn’t sticking to the surface of the canvas; the paint was sort of dripping or bleeding. I struggled with it, and after the first layer was set, I noticed the next layers stuck to the canvas just fine.
Upon completion of the painting, I brought the canvas to a friend who is a framer and specializes in stretching canvases. I dropped it off with him and promised to come back later for my stretched canvas. A couple of hours go by and I receive a call. It’s my friend and he says, “Alex, did you have a problem when you were painting this canvas?” Of course I said yes because it had been a major struggle at the beginning. He said, “That’s because you painted on the wrong side.’ I laughed but it was a humbling experience. It really indicated I had so much to learn and had a long journey ahead of me.”
While Mijares agrees he still has a lot to learn, the journey to recognition wasn’t quite as long as expected. As Mijares continued painting, he attended Art Basel 2011 and got a sense of what was out there. “I went to Basel last December and talked to a lot of people. I saw work that was in all of the galleries, looked at what was selling. I realized at that point that what I was working on in my studio had a lot of potential. The whole experience actually made me more confident that I had something to offer.”
Since that realization, Mijares has been named “The New Color of Miami” by Venue Arte magazine, the Director’s Choice artist of the Santa Fe Museum of Art, and “A genius of color and shapes!” by Brazilian-American neo-pop artist Romero Britto. His art has been featured at esteemed locations such as The Marquis Hotel for the Venue Magazine Cover Party, FKCNR event (a charity fundraiser aiding children with cancer), the Lupus Foundation, ISA boutique, Coral Gables Museum, Baltus: The Spanish Art of Luxury (an upscale showroom in Miami), The Blacks Gala, American Cancer Society Gala and The Well to name a few.
Change, Street Art & Slippers
Ever the businessman, Mijares is careful to strike a balance between exploring his emotional landscape and staying in tune with what galleries and buyers are craving. “I have friends in the gallery world. I frequently have lunch with them to discuss my work and what I could do better. They have become invaluable mentors throughout my artistic process. They may say something like, ‘Why did you put arches in the foreground? This painting would have been more successful if you had left them out.’ I learn from every work I do, I’m constantly open to change and growth.”
Mijares has begun experimenting with merchandising and street artists on unique collaborations as part of his new direction. He spoke to me about groundbreaking new projects with excited enthusiasm. “Del Toro, a local Miami shoe brand, has picked up a few of my designs and put them on limited edition men and women’s velvet slippers. They were unveiled at the Wynwood Building on October 13 during Wynwood’s monthly ArtWalk. I’m also working with extremely well-known street artists in Los Angeles and Barcelona on a couple of collaborative paintings. I’ve flown out to visit them and been in touch. Basically I am painting a canvas, mailing it out to them, and they are taking their own creative approach to transforming the canvas. We will be tying in Spanish art with street art in a unique new way. I contacted these guys on Twitter with my project ideas and they were really open to it. We haven’t seen many people taking this approach to collaborative blending between street and gallery art before. I’m excited about what 2013 is going to bring.”
Mijares notes, “Art has been my diary. It’s a private relationship between myself and the canvas.” Indeed, Mijares’ dream-like canvases feature exotic females, sensual masquerades, medieval architecture, and distorted shapes. But his influences draw from a rich artistic history that has been in place for decades. While heavily influenced by Picasso in general, Mijares says he looks to many different artists for inspiration. “A friend of mine has a massive collection of art books, so when I visit him I choose some to bring home and study. I’m always looking at the work of differing artists- It’s a great way to keep my work fresh.” On his table now I notice Phaidon and Taschen editions of Miro, Matisse, Calder and M.C.Escher. If these are any indicators of what’s to come in the future, I am excited to track Mijares’ multi-faceted trajectory into artistic stratospheres.
Mijares has been asked to be on the Young Associates Committee for the Coral Gables Museum’s Party in the Plaza on November 2, 2012, where his work will also be featured for the second year in a row. An exhibit is also being planned at the W Hotel for Art Basel 2013, details to be determined. You can stay up to date on Alexander Mijares, his accolades, press, and upcoming collaborations at Mijares.com, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/mijaresart.