The first thing you’ll notice may well be the attorneys, hastily making their exit after a long day of prosecuting or defending suspects at downtown’s South Florida District courthouse cordoned by thick orange barricades.
Then again, if you arrive a little later, lingerie displayed on Nicks’s family clothing store across the street might be the eye-catcher – everything from leopard panties, silver glittering thongs to less revealing grandmotherly designs.
Once you’re done underwear window-shopping, take a few steps to the right until you’re standing under the blue awning. Ring the doorbell and wait for the buzz. Push the door, and you’re inside the Wallflower Gallery – nowhere near conventional downtown Miami.
Don’t let the name fool you.
“It’s not really the gallery,” says Flash, who declined to give me the name on his birth certificate. “Flash,” he says,” is my real name.”
“Flash is all you need.”
I’d be tempted to label him as the manager of the place, except the 31-year-old made it clear that manager is too stale a word to describe his duties.
“I’m the funk-finder,” says Flash rather matter-of-factly.
“I find the funk.”
It’s not really a coffeehouse, although they do serve coffee.
It’s not really a club either, though there’s usually live music Friday and Saturday nights. Cigarettes and booze are out of the question.
“It’s a very joining place,” says Flash. “An oasis.”
Oasis or not, it’s certainly one of the best-kept secrets in the heart of one of the country’s most troubled downtown’s.
Funk in this context roughly means local talent. Flash has spent the past three years of his life browsing though aspiring artists’ work and boosting careers by showcasing their work on the walls of the gallery, the airwaves of the space that housed a law firm five years ago and the racks and shelves in the back rooms.
Currently on display in the main room, is an exhibit by French-born, Peruvian-raised, American citizen photographer Monique Pineda.
“Doors and Windows” is the theme of her latest work, a varied collection of snaps of entrances and gaps on walls from all corners of the globe.
“Doors,” says one of the two poems she wrote to go along with the compilation, “shields of winds and rains, that seal secrets and laments.”
Photography is all about lighting to the 64-year-old artist, who has been living in California for the past 37 years.
Indeed, shadows steal the spotlight in “Doors and Windows,” where panes of an elegant home in the French countryside contrast sharply with a snapshot of a rusty gate in rural Peru. Not a sole human being sneaked into “Doors and Windows,” although people are Pineda’s favorite subject.
Her trick to capturing the perfect picture, whether at cemeteries, funerals or bus stations is waiting.
“You need to wait for the perfect angle at the right time of day,” she explains. “If you don’t catch it then and there – it’s gone.”
Her trick to brilliant portraits is not letting subjects model- not an easy job in Peruvian marketplaces, one of her favorite backdrops for portraits.
“The problem with people at marketplaces, is they pose,” she noted, explaining she often befriends locals, purchases whatever they’re selling, and then captures them in more spontaneous scenarios.
The weirdest thing she got herself into for art’s sake?
“I ended up eating boiled frogs,” she confesses with a streak of laughter.
Nope, it’s not a metaphor, nor a joke. It was an invitation by a Peruvian family she was photographing and felt embarrassed to decline. Pineda figured the fact that they were boiled would kill any strain of cholera, and after all was said and done, her final thought was: “They were rather spicy.”
Pineda’s work will be displayed through March 9th.
Other reasons to visit Wallflower galleries include artists closer to home, including performances by UM’s Big Party, Dean Fields and Active Ingredient.
There’s a vast amount of underrated and under-appreciated talent in South Florida, said Flash, who is constantly devising marketing strategies to keep art profitable.
Another popular event at the Wallflower is Ploppy’s podium, an open mic night, where aspiring poets and singers take center stage while the audience snuggles in the old cozy furniture that surrounds the main room.
For a complete rundown of events, exhibits and directions log onto www.wallflowergallery.com, and you’ll learn more about the downtown hub devoted to making art accessible to people.
“The talent is out there, our job is to connect it,” were the last words out of Flash.