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  • Words and Photos by John Domine

Miami's Golden Boy

​Love Worm at Brownsville Middle School in Miami

If you've been to Miami in the past few years, you know the artist Golden by his colorful creatures adorning the many buildings in Wynwood and beyond. Love Worm and Unicorn instantly bring a smile to your face, with their playful grins and message of love. And if you actually meet the man behind these creations, you discover the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Golden currently has his first solo show happening now through April 7th at WYN 317, in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District. I spoke with Gallery Director, Danelle Pino, to find out why she chose to represent him and his work in his premiere event.

"WYN 317 Gallery was founded almost five years ago to promote urban art and its artists, especially our local talent that was underrepresented. Golden’s art is fun. It’s whimsical! It’s attractive to collectors of all ages. When Golden’s colorful characters started popping up on walls around town, it intrigued me. Later on I met him and got to appreciate not only his talent but his natural charisma. Golden goes out of his way to help others. He’s famous for his delicious barbecues open to all."

The show is called "Heart of Gold". And, according to Pino, "He truly does have a heart of gold. To know him is to love him."

I had the pleasure of finding this out for myself on a recent trip to his studio near the Miami Ad School, where he told me a bit about his background and the journey that brought him to this point in time.

Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, it wasn't an easy life and he had a rather troubled childhood. So, when he was finally able to do so at the age of 20, Golden bought a plane ticket and flew to Florida, and he began taking college classes for Graphic Design in Tampa.

Soon afterward, he met a girl from Miami, got married and started a family, all the while working various odd jobs (everything from being a designer to working on a freight train) to pay the bills and put food on the table. But somehow, he just wasn't feeling fulfilled. He had to do something about it.

Four years ago, he reached the tipping point. He NEEDED to paint. It was such a vital part of his spirit that it became just as important as food or water for his sustenance. It was gnawing at him, day after day. And so he ventured into Wynwood, at the beginning of the annual Art Basel event, with no plan other than the burning desire to paint. That day, his life changed forever.

On the corner of NW 26th Street and D.A. Dorsey Avenue, sits Zak the Baker, a colorful boulangerie serving up artisan loaves to its faithful patrons who have been lining up since the day they opened. In preparation for that grand opening and as one of the official Wynwood Walls, the Favela Painting crew, Haas and Hahn from the Netherlands, had been commissioned to brighten up the exterior of the bakery, giving it a personality to match that of the young baker, who was keen on wearing suspenders with tweed trousers while listening to Taylor Swift and baking his daily bread.

The very first wall that Golden painted in Wynwood

The Dutch painters had just the color palette in mind and had begun work the morning that Golden wandered into the neighborhood. On the sidewalk in front of the building were buckets of paint with corresponding codes which matched up with their specific position on the facade. Golden watched them for a bit to see the process, and then, as one of them was on one side working and the other was on the opposite side, Golden went straight for the middle, to a panel adjacent to the entrance. He picked up the brush and began to paint, lime green as it exists today, trying to remember the process as he had seen it.

Shortly thereafter, one of the Dutchmen noticed him and called out to the other painter, discussing this curious situation, speaking in Dutch. Since Golden knew no Dutch, he continued working, pressed closely to the wall, eyes forward, trying to do his best work, until one of the painters came over and stopped him. "You know this is our wall, right?", he said to him. "Yes", said Golden, and he introduced himself. The Dutchman examined his work, and, happy with the results, told him he could continue. Later, Golden offered them a beer from his truck and proceeded to barbecue some food for them (also in his truck). They were as surprised as they were thankful. Who was this crazy man who appeared out of nowhere, only to help them paint and serve them up some ice cold brews and delicious barbecue?

While they were taking a break to get to know their new assistant for the day, guess who pedaled up on her bicycle, ready to snap a few photos to document their work in progress? None other than Martha Cooper, the infamous photographer for all things street art! Now, Golden didn't know who she was, but being the guy that he is, he offered her some BBQ. She declined on the grounds of not eating meat. To her surprise, he pulled out a banana leaf wrapped around a fillet of salmon, which she happily accepted before whizzing away to document other artists.

It wasn't until later that Golden understood who she was, when one of his friends texted him, telling him he was famous. Apparently, Martha had posted a photo to Instagram, gushing over the salmon that he had cooked for her.

He saw her later that night, when he was invited to the Wynwood Walls VIP party for the artists. Haas and Hahn had gotten him on the list, since after all, he was an official artist now.

Aside from Martha, he had another brush with fame on the night of that first fortuitous day in Wynwood. To his surprise, Shepard Fairey (of the Obey Giant claim to fame) was spinning music for the festivities. Golden went up to the DJ area and slapped a GOLDEN sticker on the back of Shepard's laptop. Fairey looked at Golden and then at the sticker on his laptop and then back up at Golden, with a look of disbelief at what had just happened. Eyeing a stack of stickers in Golden's shirt pocket, he took them out, took half of them and returned the rest. Apparently, GOLDEN had a new fan!

Since that first day in Wynwood, Golden has been going for it, painting any and every wall he can get his hands on. And he has been loving every minute of it.

He even came to New York City to paint at the Bushwick Collective for the first time this summer, leaving us with a vibrant wall on the corner of Troutman and Saint Nicholas.

Following New York, he made his way north to Salem, Massachusetts with his buddy Ruben Ubiera (Urban Ruben) to paint several walls for the Punto Urban Art Museum, a project by North Shore CDC. (Check back here soon to see my follow-up story on this incredible project). He even became immortalized himself, when fellow artist Sipros painted his likeness!

So, if you see him on the streets, spreading love through his colorful characters, or firing up the barbecue to spread love through his food, say hi to the big guy. He is sure to welcome you with open arms.

And, if you find yourself in Miami, be sure to check out his show at the WYN 317 Gallery (167 NW 25th Street), going on now through April 7th!

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