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Mika Goodfriend: Snowbirds

Artist’s Statement:

Snowbirds is a social documentary study of Breezy Hill RV trailer park, a tightly knit community of French Québécois retirees living in the heart of Pompano Beach, Florida.

Florida is home to the largest concentration of Québécois outside of Québec. 98% of the residents of Breezy Hill come from Québec, importing their unique identity and culture each winter. Though I was born in Québec, I have never felt part of its identity. Through my practice I endeavor to explore what being Québécois means to me by photographing those who I feel are woven into its cultural fabric.

The idea of an enclave of Québécois living right in the middle of an American city is personally fascinating. I resonate with the residents’ confidence of identity, pursuit of a common dream, and, being a child of divorce, I am attracted to their lasting and loving relationships as couples. Those who flock to Breezy Hill have succeeded in their life plan—retiring in their own version of ‘paradise’. Though the residents have each travelled their own different paths through life, they have all ended up at the same destination together.

There is an overwhelming sense of community in the park, people look after each other, have parties and constantly socialize. The residents have truly mastered the art of being busy, doing nothing—cars are washed daily, grass is trimmed and trailers repainted at the first sight of rust, all reflecting an intense pride of ownership and display of their lots. Breezy Hill feels exactly like a small Québécois village—except with palm trees and warm weather year–round.

Though the majority of residents can afford to live in gated communities by the ocean, they instead choose to live together, providing them the familiarity of their roots, with an outdoors lifestyle they desire. Their daily activities are timed to precision, aqua–form at 7am, dancing classes at 2pm, dinner at 6pm, repeated daily. I became captivated by their unique social subset, and its kitsch aesthetic—their clothing, hairstyles and trailers are all connected, as if originating from a single mold.

I approached the series from an anthropological perspective, studying an ‘endangered species’, from a cultural and socio–economic era and tradition that has long since passed. The residents are the last of their kind to migrate ‘en masse’ to Florida during the winter months, living out their version of the ‘American Dream’ within the white picket fences of Breezy Hill. The series is a memorialization of a distinct chapter of Québec history, aiming to foster an insight into a culture that remains uniquely foreign to me.

Artist’s Bio:

Mika Goodfriend: Montréal, Canada

Mika Goodfriend is an artist working in Montréal, Québec. His work is largely concerned with identity and culture as it is uniquely expressed through the Québécois aesthetic. Interested in the intimate living spaces of others, he explores what being a Quebecer means to him by engaging with those who feel they are woven into its cultural fabric. Mika received a BFA in Studio Arts, Major Photography graduating with great distinction from Concordia University in 2012. He is the recipient of several awards such as the Campaign for a New Millennium Scholarship, as well as a research/creation grant from the Québec Arts Council (CALQ). His work has been exhibited in Canada and Europe and is held in various private and public collections, including the Bank of Montréal. In 2009, his works were part of the Spring Exhibition at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. In 2011, he was a Canadian winner for Magenta Publishing’s Flash Forward: Emerging Photographers Competition. In July 2012, he was selected as the National winner for the BMO 1st Art! Competition. In 2013–2014, his series, Snowbirds will be shown at solo exhibitions at the FOFA Gallery, VU Photo and Le Labo in Toronto.