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Best Artist Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2013 - Misael Soto

Readers' Choice: Hilda Vazquez

Puerto Rican-born, South Florida-based artist Misael Soto uses performative and participatory experiences to investigate the "accidental, ephemeral, and transcendental." Subversive in nature, his work often forces those who encounter it to confront their comfort zones and then step out of them. This past year, Soto travelled up and down the East Coast with his "Beach Towel" installation, a 56-by-29-foot, custom-made, terry-cloth towel, inviting strangers to come onboard and share the real estate. Memorial Day's unfurling of the towel in Miami Beach included free food and sunscreen and performances from local bands that played their music for the community of transient towel dwellers. The result of the ten-stop towel tour, which made it all the way up to Rockaway Beach in Queens, was a social experiment that created connections as physical proximity, with the addition of the shared experience of the towel, translated to unexpected intimacy among strangers. Soto's other works challenge social norms and help inspire spontaneous, joyous chaos. "Would you like to dance with me? (Young hearts be free tonight)" highlighted the opportunity for human connection that exists in the everyday by inviting patrons at Ricochet Bar in Miami to dance together within a small, subtle white box as part of Locust Projects' One Night Stands series. At 18 Rabbit Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, a sign in front of Soto asked visitors, "What would you like me to sing for you?" The artist offered acapella versions of his entire iPod selection, singing along with visitors' requests with headphones on, giving each song his honest best, and making a lot of people laugh while doing it.

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