Trent Martino: Miami as Text

Biography

Me with my first electric guitar that I got during Summer 2020

Hello Everyone! My name is Trent, and I am a student at Florida International University, and I am taking John Bailley’s 2020-2021 Art Society Conflict course. My major is Electrical Engineering, but I’d say that my interests are far greater than just math and science. Ever since I was a young child, I was in love with just about everything related to the arts. My notebooks were filled with doodles of action heroes, obscure vehicles and of course, some of my favorite animals. When I was in middle school, I played violin in our school orchestra at Southwood Middle School. I’d say that while the violin was not necessarily my passion, I definitely developed a love for playing and making music. Now, as a hobby I am trying to learn to play the guitar. Middle school was also where I got in to skateboarding, which has been a passion of mine since.

As I got older, I started to become more interested in politics and the way people operate, and how we got to where we are. I am excited to learn in this class not only how people think, but how they express what they think through art and how these two things shape my home city of Miami.

Deering as Text

“Miami’s Home of History” by Trent Martino of FIU at Deering Estate

September 9, 2020

Your first impressions of the Deering Estate might be misleading if you have never been there before. The drive to the property will take you through some very modern neighborhoods, and in particular Miami fashion, none of the houses seem to belong next to each other, and they all creep right up to this historic site. However, once you step on to the property you will get to experience how breath-taking it is.

Our class as we walk through the entrance of the Deering Estate

The history at the Deering Estate begins many years before John Deering ever stepped foot on the property. The original inhabitants of this land was a tribe of indigenous people known as the Tequesta. Inside the Richmond cottage, there is a display of some of the artifacts and tools that were made and used by the Tequesta’s.

The older of the two houses on the property, the Richmond Cottage, was originally constructed in 1896 by S. H. Richmond, and was reconstructed by his wife Edith Richmond in 1900. 16 years before Charles Deering purchased the property. After Edith did some renovations to the property, the Richmond Cottage acted as the southernmost hospitality resource in the United States. The docks right behind the cottage made it an ideal spot for wealthy travelers looking for a tropical get-away along the Atlantic coast.

The other main building on the property is the Stone House. The stone house was build after Charles Deering purchased the property. Construction began in 1922 and took about a year to complete. This house served as the primary residency of Charles Deering and his family when they were in South Florida.

A view of the western side of the Stone House
A view from the top of the Stone House, looking northeast towards the coast

The architecture of the Stone House is probably the best physical representation of Miami that you can find. It was designed by Charles Deering, who was a European white guy from Maine, and much of the construction on the Stone House was done by One of his inspirations for the building came from Islamic architecture, which can be seen from the pointed and onion-shaped arches along the outside of the building. What is even more fascinating is that this building, designed by a white man, inspired by Islamic architecture, was built by a ton of other ethnic minorities from around the area.

I believe that the construction of the Stone House points to an amazing quality of Miami: a bunch of cultures and ethnic groups coming together in one giant melting pot, forever living with each other, giving and taking influence, so much so until original ideas are hard to pinpoint as they mesh together.

South Beach as Text

“Strip of History” by Trent Martino of FIU in South Beach

September 23, 2020

This week, Professor Bailley took us on a trip around South Beach in Miami. As a South Florida native, I have been to South Beach many times in my life, and to be quite honest, I was not excited for this trip at first. I think that since I have lived in such close proximity to the area my whole life, I had become jaded to what the atmosphere of South Beach was. To me, it was just crowded beaches with weird building and over-priced food. But I put my trust in Professor Bailly to show me something new. In all honesty, he blew my mind. He was able to introduce me to so many amazing and interesting things about Miami, and I am so glad that I was able to take this tour with him. I now have a much deeper appreciation for South Beach, and Miami as a whole.

I used to think that the architecture on South Beach was just a random mess of strange buildings with no rhyme or reason to them. While this may be true for some, I now understand that the style of South Beach is totally unique, and each building is essentially a piece of fine art. The reason why it looks so disorganized is because each person who wanted to make a building had their own vision in mind for the architectural style, and walking down the street is like walking through time, seeing how ideas and tastes change as Miami developed. Professor Bailley informed us on the major design styles: “Mediterranean revival,” “Miami Modern” or “MiMo,” “Art Deco,” and while this is not necessarily a style, there are some old western style building along South Beach as well. I think that out of all of them, my favorite design styles are MiMo and Art Deco. Those two look extremely unique, and I don’t think that I have seen those design styles any where else. But to be honest, I never took the time to appreciate them until now.

I like how Miami is very different from other places. While I still think that it’s “messy” in terms of its style, I now appreciate that mess as people trying to experiment with different things, and to express themselves through the designs of their businesses. And in the end, I think that is what South Beach is all about: expression and freedom.

I think another aspect of this trip that made this trip especially interested is that we went during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, South Beach was pretty much vacant. While there were some people there, it was absolutely nothing like a typical day in Miami. A lot of the famous businesses were closed to the public and even some public facilities were as well. While this may seem like a bummer, I think it really gave us an opportunity to see and appreciate everything without the added stress of trying to navigate around crowds of pedestrians.

Here you can see just how empty South Beach was during our trip. Compared to a normal day, this makes South Beach look like a total ghost town. Even the restaurants were almost begging for our business as we were passing by.

Bakehouse as Text

“Repurpose for a Purpose” by Trent Martino of FIU at the Bakehouse Art Complex

October 7, 2020

The Bakehouse in Wynwood is currently working on a fantastic exhibit that is using art to teach the public about an extremely important scientific issue. The leading artist, Lauren Shapiro, is working with environmental scientists to create an exhibit that is going to show people the damage that we are doing to the Earth’s coral reefs.

Coral reefs are a vital part of our ecosystem, and without them, tons of ocean life will perish, and consequently, much of the life on land will follow with it, since so much of the two environments depend on each other. There are many ways we pollute the ocean, including trash that escapes into the ocean, runoff from farmland, construction along the coast, over fishing, and much much more. All of these things can cause the coral to go through a process called “coral bleaching,” which is where they lose their color as they die. Lauren Shapiro and the artists she works with are using clay to demonstrate this process. Lauren worked with a group of scientists that create realistic 3D models of coral, and she used those to make molds out of a silicone-based substance. She then uses those molds to make clay versions of those different pieces of coral. They also built these massive wooden structures that the clay gets placed on. Over time, the clay will dry up, becoming pale and cracked, and also fall off of the wood, to visually simulate what happens to our coral reefs due to our negligence.

The silicone molds that Lauren made using 3D models of coral reefs from researchers
Some of the clay models that were made using the silicone molds

I think that the best part of this exhibit is that it beautifully combines a scientific issue with an artist application. I think that the hardest part of conveying a message as important as climate is that the information and the consequences can be difficult to explain with words alone. In order to show people the real consequences, we need artists that can think of amazing ideas like this that will really resonate with people. I hope that more artists get the opportunity to make informational exhibits like this, and I hope more scientists are open to doing the same.

Rubell as Text

“Private Ownership for Public Benefit” by Trent Martino of FIU at Rubell Family Collection Art Museum

October 21, 2020

The Rubell Museum is a fantastic and beautiful gem within Miami. I have never been to an art museum like it before, and Professor Bailey was able to explain to me why that is, and why it is so important.

The Rubell Museum is privately owned by the Rubell family. It is, in every sense, their own personal art collection that the family opens up to the public. Since it is a privately-owned museum, they are allowed to display whatever they want to. A lot of artwork in their museum could be considered controversial. There are many sexually-explicit pieces of art here. It is quite shocking if you are not used to see this type of stuff in a professional setting (well, an art museum is considered to be “professional” to me), but to be honest, it was very refreshing and enlightening. It was not disturbing, but just surprising. Being exposed to how vulnerable many of these artists can be when they express their art really changed my perspective on what art can be. If this were not a private collection, and was instead operated by as a government entity, they would never have shown the type of artwork that is currently in the Rubell Museum.

Let me be clear that the Rubell Museum contains a lot more than just sexually-explicit art. They have an expansive collection of contemporary art (all of the pictures that I took at the museum are some examples of the kind of artwork that can be found here at the Rubell Museum. I just think that being able to display artwork that is controversial is important. Professor Bailly made the point that artwork as explicit as the pieces displayed at the Rubell Museum would never be allowed to be put up at any government-owned facility, such as the Frost Art Museum at FIU. I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing that FIU would not put up this type of art, I just believe that everything needs its place, and the Rubell Museum has the freedom to display what other institutions cannot.

I know that these revelations may seem trivial to others, but these are things that I never really considered before. This trip allowed me to learn more about the world of contemporary art, and how much it matters.

Deering Hike as Text

“Authentic Miami” by Trent Martino of FIU at Deering Estate

November 4, 2020

Today, we went on a special hike through the Deering Estate that is not normally open to the public. On this hike, we got to see what Miami was originally like, with all of the natural habitats still (barely) untouched by modern development.

Through the Deering Estate, there are many natural areas that seem vastly different, but coexist right next to each other naturally. There is a grove of mangroves, sitting on top of the water, right next to a dessert-like field of pine trees. This is the most beautiful site I have ever seen in South Florida. I think it is amazing that the Deering Estate has preserved these natural areas. I am a huge fan of maintaining nature, and I think that every effort that humans make to destroy or alter natural habitats is a crime against the Earth, so seeing such a beautiful place being preserved is a very comforting thing.

One of the coolest things that I saw during the whole hike are these massive chunks of limestone (although Professor Bailley called it by a different name, I cannot think of it at the moment) that have been cut into and formed by the water that flows through and around it. There are even caves made from this naturally-cut limestone, and it blows my mind when you think about how long these rocks and these waters must have been here for these sights to have been formed.

Not only has the nature of the Deering Estate been protected, but relics of the native population have also been kept intact. Throughout the site, you can find the tools that were used by the native people who originally lived here, and they are made out of shells! These tools can be found all over the place, hidden in the muddy waters around the mangroves. You can see how the shells were broken and sharpened into tools such as knives and digging tools. Professor Bailly was willing to show us these tools, and holding them was a cool experience to see how innovative the native people were. What is even more amazing is that all of these small tools remained in the area after all these years of urban development and massive storms.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Miami: Conflicting History; Contradictory Values” by Trent Martino of FIU in Downtown Miami

November 25, 2020

For this days lecture, Professor Bailly took us on a walk around Downtown Miami. We got to see some historical sights and learn more about the city. From this trip, I learned more about how Miami became a city and its early days of being incorporated.

The first house built in Miami, which belonged to an interracial couple

Before Miami was a city, it was used as farmland by some of the first big investors in the area. In one of the parks within the city, there are two historic buildings (however, this is not their original location, this is where the local government decided to place them as a way to preserve them). One of them is the first house ever built in the Miami area, which was made by a German immigrant who married a black woman who already had children from a previous marriage. So this is a white man who has a black wife and black stepchildren, and to make it even better, he would later befriend native people in the area and would have them over for dinner. This really is a great story of how Miami is, a diverse group of people from different backgrounds coming to sit at a table together.

The other historic building does not have as happy of a story, but it is still very important and very interesting. It was a small hut-like building, which was built by and used to house slaves. However, it did not remain that way. Throughout Miami’s history, it took on many roles as community buildings, even serving as a courthouse, where actual trials took place!

Plaque commemorating Major Dade outside of the Miami Dade Courthouse

When Americans wanted to colonize the original area of Miami, it was inhabited by Seminoles, which was a group mixed of displaced natives and escaped slaves. One of the American military groups that was coming to attack the Seminoles was lead by Major Francis Langhorne Dade. He led 117 men down through South Florida and was ambushed by around 200 Seminoles, and Major Dade and all of his men perished. Learning this, I think it’s weird that we deiced to name our county after a man who died trying to kill another group of people for the sake of colonization. What’s even more bizarre is the plaque that’s on the Miami Dade Courthouse, with its description of the events that occurred. I’ll leave it here for you to discover.

Statue of Henry Flagler that can be seen outside of the courthouse in Downtown Miami

When Miami was about to become a city, the residents in the area had to vote to determine whether or not to incorporate the area as a city. Henry Flagler was a major proponent for making Miami a city, and argued that his workers should have the right to vote since they worked and lived on the land. He was able to get his workers the ability to vote, and Miami became incorporated as a city. Afterwards, Flagler kicked out 300 of his black workers, and then segregated them into a town that he designated as Colored Town, which is now Overtown. I understand that Flager was extremely important to the development of Miami, but I still think that it is important that everyone living here learns about the bad things that he did as well. As professor Bailly put it, “He brought the railroads to Miami, but he also brought segregation.” On that note, I think it is inappropriate that, right in front of the plaque commemorating Major Dade in front of the Miami-Dade Courthouse, a building that is supposed to represent unbiased justice, there is a statue of Henry Flagler.

Exploding bowl of oranges and orange peels
Graffiti under bridge going over the Miami river

Even though Miami has a pretty rough history, it is still worth mentioning that it is a great hub of art and culture. On just our little walk, I was able to see two great pieces of public art. One of them is a broken statue of a bowl of oranges, exploding with pieces of the bowl and parts of the orange flying everywhere, which is next to the Government Center Station for the Metro Mover. The other piece is some street art found under one of the bridges going over the Miami river. This is a good reminder of how Miami can be really ugly from one perspective, with its gentrification and class segregation, but it can also be really beautiful with its dedication to art.

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