Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami as Text

Esmeralda Iyescas in front of the Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery windmill in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by E Iyescas/Iyescas Media

Esmeralda Iyescas is a senior at Florida International University (FIU) and is working on finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. She recently transferred from Miami Dade College and joined the Honors College at FIU. Ideally, she would like to continue studying for her Master’s Degree and upon finishing, would like to leave to France to internship or work in the cybersecurity sector. Academics aside, Esmeralda loves acquiring new hobbies but her favorites remain: painting, embroidering, swimming, biking, fishing, and traveling. She is very excited to further knowledge of Miami and learn about the treasures this beauty holds.

Deering as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The beauty hidden in the city”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

The Deering Estate located in Cutler Bay was a park I was familiar with because I had visited the park several times before. The times that I have visited the Estate, I would come with a friend to appreciate the natural scenery and get inspiration for our paintings, or to simply enjoy the outdoor environment.

Professor Bailly started to unravel the history that lied where I was standing and soon after revealed the beauty the hid behind the locked gates. Upon entering the gates, I quickly came to realize that I never truthfully knew The Deering Estate. This includes but is not limited to: the native trees, such as the Gumbo Limbo, different types of plants found on the premises, the use for the shells and the importance it held to the native folks in the past.

 I would like to consider myself as an “outdoorsy” kind of person, but after walking through the Estate, it felt as if we had walked out of Miami. As we hiked through the nature trail and learned about the area, I began to realize this was no ordinary hike. Being that Professor Bailly is an artist, he sees the world much different than the ordinary person. He shared with us his creative insights and many I found to be very creative. There was one of his comments that particularly resonated with me. It was a large piece of limestone that was sticking out from one of the sides. This particular formation of limestone seemed to be eroded from the bottom, so it was slightly hovering over the water, and on the top was little tree stems beginning to grow. I remember Professor Bailly pointing out this structure and commenting how he perceived it almost like table and sitting on top was the little plant.

This comment made me think back to all my past painting dates and how there was a time where I, similarly, saw the world with a more creative perspective but seemed to have lost it with time. In addition, to being very meaningful to me, it made me want to gain back this creative vision I seem to have forgotten.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Ignorance: Bliss or destruction? ”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

South Beach to most is simply the area where the beach is located, and where the city comes to life at night with all the neon lights. This is not false, though there is so much more to be appreciated about South Beach than the superficial façade that is made up bars and restaurants that line up against strip or the artificial sand everyone believes to be natural.

South Beach, otherwise, originally known as Ocean Beach, is culturally diverse and this is displayed all throughout the area. The first hotel, Browns Hotel, was built in 1915 and preserved its original all-American Wild West style. On the other hand, we have a more modern style, Miami Modern Architecture (MiMo), which consists of playful, glamours, repetitive designs that do not always make sense. MiMo plays with Bauhaus elements and use different tiles, textures, materials, and concepts to create a fun and unique style for building structures. The next style is very common and popular among the Miami culture, Mediterranean Revival. These influences are seen across neighborhoods and are currently being implemented into modern living. This style is a mélange of Spanish, French, Italian, and Arabic architecture. There are two very famous monuments that brought Mediterranean revival into South Beach: Espanola Way, and The Villa Casa Casuarina (AKA Versace Mansion).  Lasty, Art Deco, the style of architecture that is most associated with Miami Beach. Art Deco is short for Art Decoratifs, a primarily a French style of art. Art Deco uses natural elements to create designs using industrial materials. Buildings resemble that of a toaster or a microwave, mixed with natural and flora elements, and additionally adopted influences from around the world. The influences that are often recognized are Egyptian, consisting of the flat topology and 2-D reliefs, and the use geometric shapes and pastel hues. Art Deco admired the Mayan and used ziggurats on the top of buildings, giving it a staircase apperance. The Egyptian and Greco-Romans also used geometric shapes and reliefs to embellish the buildings which is similarly seen among the Art Deco structures in South Beach.

I have been to South Beach more times than I can count, and I never once noticed these diverse cultural elements on the Art Deco structures. Many of these buildings and monuments I had briefly looked at but never gave them second thoughts. After learning about the different styles and cultures, it brought a deeper appreciation for the area and the preservation of history. South Beach is full of rich history that is presented right in front of us, but the lack of education and curiosity allows us to live in ignorance. There are uneducated people who do not care to preserve South Beach’s history, this ignorance is destructive and dangerous to the culture, art, and history of the city. Fortunately, there were people like Barbara Baer Capitman who fought to support the preservation South Beach’s history, those are the true heroes allowing me to share my discovery today.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Dade – A dark past”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

Dade County, also more commonly known as Miami-Dade County. I have lived in Miami-Dade County for over 21 years and having received education from Miami-Dade public schools system all my life, I was never taught the significance of the name Dade and why we name an entire county after this person. If we named our entire county in honour of this man, why had I never heard of it earlier?

American Army Major Francis Langhorne Dade partook and was one of the men who lead an important battle in south Florida. This battle was against the native people of the area, the Seminoles. The battle was also known as the “Dade Massacre.” Dade’s ultimate goal was to arrest and kill as many Seminole’s as possible in order to take over ownership of the land, what we present day call Miami. Dade attempted to kill the Seminole Indians but instead was ambushed; the majority of the soldiers he led into battle we killed, including himself. They began to see his actions as heroic and honored him by naming this county after him.
When I heard of this story, it absolutely baffled me how quickly they were willing to honor a man that tried to exterminate the native Americas of their land. I truly appreciate and love this county, and have volunteered and dedicated time, effort, and care to preserving it. After finding out the true history that behind the name Dade, I feel a bit disappointed how this man was praised over his inhumane actions.
Miami-Dade used to symbolize a name of safety, love, and most importantly a sense of home and community. But now as I walk around Miami, continue to see Dade stamped on all public schools, transportation means, buildings, ect,
I now see a county that terrorized the native Seminole Indian’s home in attempt to claim ownership of the land. Miami is one of the most culturally diverse cities I know. Having spent the entirety of my life here, I know that Miami accepts everyone and invites them to share their cultural differences. It is ironic that Miami’s largest and Florida’s third largest county is named after a man who was supporting and leading a genocide, when the majority of Miami’s population are immigrants. How the times really do change.

Chicken Key as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Cleaning up our beaches – A global effort”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Chicken Key, 14th October 2020

The cinematic industry has explored the idea of “What if a person arrived to a remote island?” The famous movie Cast Away and TV series Lost, have both explored this idea extensively. Wednesday morning, our class took canoes from the Deering Estate and paddled to the remote island off the peninsula called Chicken Key. One thing I found to be inaccurate about these movies was how clean and well-kept the islands were always portrayed in the cinema.

As my partner and I were paddling towards Chicken Key, the view was particularly admirable. The mangroves surrounding the island were thriving and full of life, the seabed was filled with its natural flora, and there was an abundance of sea animals in the vicinity. I imagined that is what Miami originally looked like to Carl Fisher before he remodeled the area and wiped it of its natural beauty. As we approached our destination, we could not help but notice all the trash that surrounded the key and has accumulated over time. It was heartbreaking to see how our lack of care for the environmental is having secondary effects on the surrounding areas. Though the island is remote and is not visited very frequently, it is indirectly being polluted from the trash that escapes In order to remedy our inconsideration for the environment, we had made it our goal to fill our canoes with as much trash as possible, and dispose of it appropriately.

After a couple of hours of being on the island and appreciating what the land had to offer, we started to collect trash, and the canoes filled up much quicker than I would have expected. Though we removed a significant amount of trash from the island, there was still an astounding amount that remained there.

I am very proud of my classmates and myself for the effort we made that day to remove trash from Chicken Key. It was a collaborative effort that could not have been as successful alone. We all were able to appreciate the key and learn from this experience. The environment needs to be treasured and treated with respect in order to maintain and preserve the area.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Art that resembles reality”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bakehouse, 28th October 2020

Bakehouse Art Complex used to legitimately be a bakery back in the 1980’s. Since then, the complex space was repurposed as a studio for local artists. One of the local artist who occupies the space is Lauren Shapiro. This young local artist is currently working on an art project whose main goal is to bring awareness on the destruction of our natural coral reefs.

Lauren Shapiro’s art project is consisted of layering clay molds of coral reefs and other natural life that is found on or around the reefs. Even though she will be using clay as the medium for the project, she will not be cooking the clay like traditional methods. Instead, she plans on letting the clay air dry. There are two main reasons for not cooking the clay. When cooking clay, carbon is being emitted into the environment, which is a major factor in global warming. Lauren explained that there as different methods of cooking clay, but all result in the release of carbon emissions. Secondly, when clay is not cooked, it falls apart by breaking down into smaller pieces and eventually turning into dust. This is what makes her art conceptually beautiful, like the air-dried clay, the literal coral reefs are falling apart and dying. Through her art, she is able to show her audience what is literally happening to our coral reefs and the effects that we have had on the environment. Her art project speaks in volumes and is conceptually a very important subject.

I have a lot of appreciation for this art project and for Ms. Shapiro because she has received help from her community in order to complete this project for her art exhibition. She explained to me that as an artist it is really hard to let go of control. There is a level of meticulousness and strive for perfection that cannot be achieve when not being fully in control and contribution help from other people. Nonetheless, she was able to put those feelings aside and embrace the help and the specs of individualism each person adds to the artwork. Like the community contribution Lauren has received, global warming is a change that affects every individual on this planet and will require a group effort in order to make positive change and reverse some of the negative effects.

Rubell as Text

Artwork: Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley at Rubell Museum
Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“How artists communicate through art”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

Located close to the center of Allapattah, there is a quite new contemporary museum that houses many thought provoking artworks. Myself and several people close to me were surprised to find a museum in Allapattah. Nonetheless, the museum is located in a warehouse but has been decorated and remodeled to give it a very eloquent and prestigious feel.

As we were beginning our tour of the museum, I remember Professor Bailly saying along the lines of “art should send a message not simply took beautiful. Art should be judged on how well the message is being communicated rather than its appearance and that contemporary art sends a plethora of messages to the viewer.” I kept thinking about this throughout our walk because people are usually taught to appreciate art for its appearance, not for the meaning behind the art work.

As I keep Professor Bailly’s words close, I see a painting that really captured my undivided attention, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley. The painting is nothing more than a few geometric shapes on a canvas, but symbolically, the painting is much more complex. Professor Bailly explained that the artist, Peter Halley, wanted to represent the New York lifestyle in a painting. The way he chose to express this was with two squares on either end of the canvas and a circulating conduit connecting the two squares or “cells.” Through this simple painting, Halley wanted to show depict life, how we are naturally creatures of habit and always find ourselves in this endless routine. We rarely ever deviate from our routines which consist of moving from one cell to the other, endlessly.

I found that particular piece to be almost poetic, to the naked eye, it seems like a nontechnical almost boring painting, but after learning about the artist and the message he was trying to communicate, the symbolism is represented beautifully.

Another artist who was present at Rubell and does a phenomenal job at sending messages through their art is Keith Harring and Tschabalala Self. Both artists use their platform to be able to spread positive or eye-opening and thought provoking truths.

All in all, the Rubell Museum houses many art pieces that forces people to think about the reality we live in. Some art pieces present a more negative message than others, but nonetheless, they are truths we are must accept. I have to admit, the Rubell Museum is by far my new favorite Museum in Miami. I am very thankful for the Rubell’s for sharing their private art collection with the public because I was introduced to many new artists that I have a newfound admiration for.

Everglades as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Everglades is not a swamp”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20th January 2021

On Wednesday January 20th, 2021, Professor Bailly teamed up with Park Ranger Dillion to take us through the Everglades. Whenever I mention to my family or friends that I was going to be slogging, they asked curiously if I was going to pick up and collect slugs. I quickly realized this is not an activity that is often done regardless whether you’ve been born and raised in Miami or you’re visiting for the first time. In addition people have this instilled fear that going into the water at the Everglades is equivalent to a death sentence (asking to be attacked by a gator.) The experience could not be further from the opposite of their exceptions. 

The Everglades National Park is an area I am very familiar with but this experience allowed me to experience the park in a whole new and unique way. Upon going into the water and adjusting quickly to the chilled water, it was quite exciting. We followed Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly for most of the trip. There was a brief portion where I deviated from the rest to explore the uncharted territory and experience the slogging for myself. I found myself absolutely loving the peace and calmness. The water was stunning, reflecting the nature around it, I couldn’t believe how clear and mirror-like the water was! There were moments where I was surround by the water, entirely alone, but silence was hard to find. You could faintly hear the bird and other animals that inhabited the area (no gators unfortunately). For a very short moment, I was a state of complete and utter tranquility.

I found the whole trip to be very humbling. We were so insignificant to the vast space that surrounded us! I also realized during the trip how much I changed from when I first took this class until now. I have gained a new perspective on so many parts of Miami (including the Everglades) which has allowed me to embrace everything around me.

Wynwood as Text

“The Theory of Alchemy: Lead will turn into gold”

Artwork: Geheimnis der Farne by Anselm Kiefer at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, 3rd February 2021

Wynwood is an area in northern Miami that has been immersed to a lot of cultural changes. Martin Z. Margulies is one of the first to have his private collection of art on display for the public in this area. He and many others who followed, revitalized the contemporary art movement, and allowed for art to be exposed and been seen by the public. 

The Margulies Collection is a host of many different genres of art and is displayed in a fashion that is interactive with the visitor. He began his tour with Suga, a Japanese’s artist that inspired the Mono-ha art movement, which was radical at the time because it was about impermanence. The art was primarily based on feeling, how one felt towards the object, versus the object itself. I found this style of art to be very impactful because it reminded me much of conceptual art which is one of my preferred.

 Mr. Margulies introduced us to his vast Anselm Kiefer collection which was utterly astonishing. Considering how recognized and decorated Kiefer is in the art community, it was shocking to see so many of his installations and art pieces in one gallery. “Die Erdzeitalder”, Ages of the Word, is the name of one of two the art works that resonated with me from Kiefer because he made the sculpture from old canvases, dead sunflowers, lead books, and rubble. The artwork is said to feel dystopian and post-apocalyptic, yet I felt the complete opposite. I found hope in his art sculpture because of the old and never finished canvases he used. I used to paint quite frequently myself, and I too have many old and never finished pieces of art that I consider trash, but Kiefer allowed me to reflect on those never finished pieces and see that perhaps they are not trash though they may feel like so. He turned old, weathered down art materials into a powerful and conceptual sculpture that is admired by the millions of fans.

Lastly, the second Kiefer work that took my breath away was his “Geheimnis der Farne” or The Secret of the Ferns. The installation is comprised of 48 paintings and 2 concrete structures each weighing about 45-50 thousand pounds! Mr. Margulies explained that Kiefer grew up in Germany post-WW2, therefore, the country that he was raised in was all rubble and destruction. His artworks reflect the decimated landscape and the loneliness that followed the war. Nevertheless, he knew that with time the ferns would blossom again. In his paintings, we see the use of broken terra cotta to represent the broken land and the withered down concrete structures were symbolic of the breakage of the playgrounds he never had. I found this aspect of his work to be very deep and absolutely beautiful. The theme that is constantly displayed in his artworks, is the theory of alchemy. Alchemy is the idea that there will be change and transformation of matter. Mr. Margulies said it best, “Lead will turn into gold or silver, at least in his mind,” this quote stayed with me throughout the remainder of the tour because the depth and emotion that can be felt through Anselm Kiefer’s work is entirely profound and personal.

Bill Baggs as Text

Bill Baggs: Savior of the barrier island known as Key Biscayne

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs State Park, a place that holds many of my fondest memories, I was sadden realize I was compeletely uneducated on the hsitory that the island holds. As we started walking through Avenue of the Palms, it was clear to me, I really did not know this park at all.

Bill Baggs was a very influential man who worked for the Miami Newspaper, served in the WWII and was nominated for Nobel Prize for his efforts to stop the Vietnam War, and advocated for the preservation of natural landscapes. With his efforts to save Key Biscayne, he got Elena Santeiro Garcia to purchase the land and allowed for restoration of the park. This was the start of many other restoration projects that took place in Bill Baggs.

One restoration project that stood out to me in particular took place in 1992 right after Hurricane Andrew wiped the island of all the invasive Australian Pine Trees. They took advantage of the situation and decided to remove any exotic and invasive plants and trees and replace with native ones. This restoration project would permit the island to return to its original natural vegetative state. Though coconut palm trees can still be found around of the island and is an iconic staple to Miami’s image, I was surprised to learn that the coconut palm tree is in fact not native to Miami at all. The coconut palm tree is actually native to the Indian ocean and not the Atlantic ocean. Similarly, the citrus trees are a product from the Caribbean Islands. Bahamians brought them to Miami to plant and harvest when ready. Ironic how some of the major icons of Miami are not even native to its location.

This trip, like most of the ones I have taken in this class, taught me about the true history of Miami. I have come to notice that the majority of the history that is taught is whitewashed and always portray the wrong people as heroes. Time and time again, the original founders and inhabitants of the land get stripped of their rights and territory, while portraying them in history as the criminals. I deeply admire Bill Baggs State Park for their informational panels that are located around the park describing history as it happened, not encouraging the distribution of misinformation.

River of Grass Text

Carpe diem

Photos by John Bailly/CC BY 4.0

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

This is our second time going attending class at the Everglades National Park, but I have visited the park dozens of times on my spare time. I will say, this most recent experience at the Everglades really left me in awe.

Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly began by educating us on the history of the Everglades and the drastic changes it has gone through throughout the span of five thousands of years. It was shocking to me that the Everglades was once all pine but with the sea level rise, the ecosystem transformed and adapted to the changes. Next, farmers attempted to use the land for farming, but the conditions did not permit for this venture to be successful. Later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Everglades was used as a military installation where the missiles would be housed as a first line of defense to protect our capital.

Though learning about the in-depth history of the Everglades was very interesting, what I found to be so exciting was hiking though the water that was about knee level and finding ourselves completely alone in the acres of land. It was so peaceful to not hear the constant honking and blaring of cars. The only noises you could hear were from the birds and the slashing of water. It truly felt like we had time traveled and we were able to experience Miami in its original from. We were able to see wood storks, turkey vultures, American white ibis, and several other birds, which was truly a sight like no other.

The journey was not done yet and the best was yet to come. A couple of us were able to experience the sunset in the middle of the Everglades. I had never seen a more beautiful sunset in my life! The way the colors changed as the sun progressively descended were surreal, it seemed like a painting from a world-renowned artist. At that moment, it felt almost euphoric, as if I were on top of the world! I am grateful I was able to take this class, but more so, during this pandemic. Professor Bailly said it best, during this pandemic, it seems like we have forgotten the concept of time since we are locked indoors, but if we make the most of our time, we can create unforgettable memories that will be forever cherished.

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