Intuitive Alphabet in Miami Magazine

Artist Michele Oka Doner reveals her artistic process with the introduction of two new volumes at this month's Miami Book Fair. 

Although the award-winning and much beloved artist Michele Oka Doner generally lets her enchanting ocean-inspired creations speak for themselves, she will be the one doing the talking when she presents her two new volumes, Intuitive Alphabet ($27, Tra Publishing) and Everything Is Alive ($75, Regan Arts) at this month's Miami Book Fair (Nov. 12-19)  

Oka Doner, who was born in Miami Beach and maintains residences both here and in New York, already has four books bearing her name, but Intuitive Alphabet is the outlier, a tome in which scavenged sea finds recall each letter of the alphabet. While the notion of creating an alphabet has been part of the Doner Studio DNA since 1978, it was Ilona Oppenheim, the multi-hyphenate who also serves as a publisher and creative director for the Miami-based Tra Publishing, who suggested putting it in book form. Oppenheim reached out in 2016 after experiencing Oka Doner's retrospective exhibit at PAMM with her kids. "They were equally captured and inspired by it, and curious about all the objects," says Oppenheim. "When Michele and I sat down, the concept for the book evolved very organically that same afternoon. It was a beautiful and inspiring process."

To prepare the book, Oka Doner combed through her 5,000-square-foot Soho studio for objects. "I have lots of things I've dragged home over the years," she explains, detailing a shell resembling an elephant's head for "E" and a fish gill that looks like a "J." Some of the effects, she explains, require the viewer to make "conceptual leaps," like a rusted item for "R." Michele and I developed a very primitive language based on her objects, which we wanted to express in an elemental and intuitive way," Oppenheim adds.

By contrast, Oka Doner's 240-page hardcover, Everything Is Alive, invites fans to explore the inspiration, process, production and installation of six works, including "Micco," her Everglades-influenced concrete sculpture at Doral City Hall, and two large-scale works at Miami International Airport: the etched-glass vestibule ceiling "Sargassum" and the 6,600-foot-long bronze and glittery terrazzo installation "A Walk on the Beach." 

As to whether fans can expect more books from Oka Doner in the future, the artist remains as enigmatic as ever: "I always have something cooking, but now I've put the lid on the pot." However, she does admit her studio hides many more treasures she has yet to share. "These are things that will never get framed," she says. "They function as a record or archive of a time and place. It's my way of constantly curating." 

Nov. 19, 12:30PM, $8

Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave. Room 7128