The Arcade Project and Ruben Natal-San Miguel’s Spring Forward

As we are now a couple months into the Covid-19 quarantine, one of the clear trends in the art world is how exhibitions are happening online.

Curator Ruben Natal-San Miguel has taken a unique tack and created four online exhibitions for various art venues based around the theme of “Spring”. The four shows in the series include:

Natal-San Miguel said of his project that, “[The intention] was to create 4 art platforms that will benefit , provide visibility and generate sales to benefit the artists/galleries and non for profit organizations involved.”

Natal-San Miguel’s inspiration for Spring Forward is described as follows:

Inspired by Donna Summer’s song “Spring Affair” from her album Four Seasons of Love, the exhibition combines the optimism of disco with a celebration of springtime’s sense of rebirth, renewal, and hope for the future.

Arcade Project Curatorial

Arcade Project Curatorial is a new dimension of Arcade Project. The Arcade Project’s director and Editor-in-Chief, M. Charlene Stevens said of the new initiative, “I welcomed the spirit of optimism and renewal in an atmosphere of fear and grief. I launched Arcade Project Curatorial to rise from the ashes of the art world as we know it.” 

Available both on Arcade Project’s website as well as via Artsy, Spring Forward presents a broad spectrum of artists and their work. Offering both a soundtrack as well as refreshing and brightly colored works by 27 artists, this online show, as well as its siblings on other websites, are jewels waiting to be discovered. Here are just a few highlighted pieces I particularly enjoyed or found resonant. There are many more to see online.

Mickalene Thomas, Portrait of Dachshund

I’ve written about Mickalene Thomas’ work before (specifically her show, Better Nights at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami) and I was delighted to see a piece of hers in this show. A mix of diverse patterns and colors, plus a regal dachshund, make this work a playful addition to the Spring Forward collection.

This piece suggests the warmth and comfort of staying at home, but with hints of a a soft pastel spring. Thomas masterfully evokes a sense of place in her work, and this piece is no different.

Nancy Oliveri’s March: Ice Flower

Nancy Oliveri’s March: Ice Flower seems to perfectly encapsulate our current spring. In the Northeast, even in May, it seems we are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of an overdue spring: many trees are still bare, the temperature has dipped back into the 30s and 40s, and it has even snowed.

On a metaphorical level, March: Ice Flower represents the stasis of 2020 – a year where the bloom of the year, and all the possibility that lay within those 12 months seems to have wilted under the weight of current events.

Eva Mueller’s Gazelle

A man, wearing a homemade face mask, holding a paper umbrella with a boxing glove, wearing a pink five-fingered glove on the other hand, wearing a baseball hat, covered in pink tape, in heels, with his legs splayed in a squat or plié… standing amongst the remains of fruit peels. What is one to think of Eva Mueller’s Gazelle?

This is a work filled with contradictions, as is the world in which we live. The image, emerging from a black background, is compelling, dramatic and yet playful at the same time. There is an off-kilter quality to the piece, as the figure both draws us in and pushes us away. The man is lithe yet muscled. He is masculine yet taped up in pink, and wearing stiletto heels. Ripe for interpretation, this is a piece deserving of attention. Like the figure, open your eyes wide and let it all in.

“We are all gathering alone” by Sima Schloss

Sima Schloss is a Beacon Gallery artist and hence I must admit I am a bit biased in writing about her. I love her work and have really enjoyed seeing its evolution since I first got to know her a few years ago.

Schloss’ piece “We are all gathering alone” is a result of her recent time at home. She says, “When I started this work the pandemic had just begun. Like so many of us, I had horrible anxiety and had to find a way to work through it. While I was working on it, I was speaking with my family and friends which gave (and still does give) me a great deal of comfort. The work started evolving as I added more elements of color and different line qualities. I started to emerge feeling stronger. I realized that I may be physically alone in my apartment but I am not alone when facing my fears and anxieties.”

Schloss’ art often features strong figurative pieces in bold poses. She demonstrates a continuous desire to push boundaries and create in new ways. Like her work, hopefully we will all emerge stronger from these trying times.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel, “Flower Branch, It Is the Real Thing” (Coca Cola) Manhattan NYC. Wednesday, April 29, 2020. 2:39 PM (50 degrees),

Ruben Natal-San Miguel, “Flower Branch, It Is the Real Thing” (Coca Cola) Manhattan NYC. Wednesday, April 29, 2020. 2:39 PM (50 degrees), from the “Still Life & Alive” series, 2020, photograph, 12 x 12 in, edition of 3.

Natal-San Miguel’s “Flower Branch, It Is the Real Thing (Coca Cola) Manhattan NYC. Wednesday, April 29, 2020. 2:39 PM (50 degrees)” features an engaging multi-dimensionality. The patterned echo between the fabric foliage and the authentic vegetation creates a dynamic that mimics the tightly coiled energy of spring. The eye cannot rest, nor can this image. This vigor is reflected in the pinpoint accuracy of the title given to the piece.

The complexity of the work is compounded by the date, as this “flower branch” would have been taken (one assumes) from wherever it was growing outdoors during the pandemic. The luxury of time outside and greenery, for New Yorkers, particularly, makes this piece even more poignant and relevant to current experiences.

In conclusion…

Art has been a salve upon the soul, and many have lamented the closure of our cultural institutions in these trying times. Yet, there is artwork to be found online, and curators who are using these opportunities to provide art lovers with something new and different. While there will always be a place for artwork to be enjoyed in person, take an opportunity to enjoy it online while you can – you may be surprised in what you discover if you’re willing to look.

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