Bhakti Baxter’s third solo exhibition at Nina Johnson Gallery (formerly Gallery Diet), entitled “First Light,” serves as an ode to the Florida landscape. The exhibition features a new series of water-based drawings, hand-made surfboards, and sculptures made from detritus found in and around the Biscayne Bay.
The unifying element of the works in “First Light: is water, which is intrinsically part of everyday Miami life via the precarious and unique eco-system of the Everglades, Miami’s central position in discussions on climate change, and the omnipresence of the Atlantic ocean that defines the city and informs its identity for locals and tourists alike. As a Miami native, Baxter works from personal experiences and connections to the city and its landscape, his love for the ocean, as well as anthropological observations. The ocean connects the city to the Caribbean. Often referred to as the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, Miami is uniquely situated as a point of connection, exchange and entry, resulting in a multicultural population and cultural identity that cannot be found anywhere else within the same urban context.
Florida is also a Mecca for boating and water sports. As an avid surfer, Baxter hand-crafted each surfboard, tracing their own lines in the water, yet also functioning as objects within the gallery space, connecting the inside to what lies beyond the gallery walls within the vastness of the ocean. The exhibition title captures the time with the best conditions to surf, a specific Florida surfing break, and the vision of sunrise over the Atlantic coast. Bringing together the multi-faceted life of Baxter, the surfboards are accompanied by a series of ink drawings made by letting wet ink follow its natural course on the page. The sculptures on display are crafted from materials gathered on canoe trips and walks around islands in the Bay—coconuts and rubber balls, driftwood and pilings, buoys from a fisherman’s trap. These repurposed items have all been reshaped by the sea, and they awaken as living characters when assembled together.