- Michele Oka Doner in Miami Beach, photographed by Carina Landau
- A closeup of Oka Donner’s A Walk on the Beach at Miami International Airport, photographed by Nick Merrick
This week, as the art world descends on sunny South Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach, few visitors will realize they’re getting their first hit of art before they’ve even stepped foot in the baggage claim. There’s a trio of installation pieces, crafted from bronze and mother-of-pearl and depicting flora, marine and celestial shapes (above, in slideshow), throughout the North Terminal of Miami International Airport. You can’t miss it; the works include the massive miles-long walkway you shuffle along as you exit the plane toward the luggage carousel and out.
The artist here is Miami-born, Soho-based Michele Oka Doner, who, this month until the 18th, is the subject of an exhibition at Christie’s auction house in New York. The show, Michele Oka Doner: The Shaman’s Hut, covers five decades of her oeuvre, which exists somewhere between the divide of art and function (erases it, really) and hinges on her love of the natural form: branch-shaped candelabras and fireplace pokers, minaudières textured like bark, coral-inspired crystalware done with Steuben. Oka Doner transforms the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life — she’s not above picking up fallen leaves from the ground, or flattened grape stems from city sidewalks — into beautiful sculptures, equal parts elegance and pockmarked imperfection. Chances are you’ve encountered her work already, even if you didn’t know it; other public spaces showcasing Oka Doner’s installations include Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica; courthouses in Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi, and, in New York, the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium and the Sixth Avenue-Broadway corridor at the Herald Square subway station.