Trent Martino: Miami as Text 2020-2021


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.

Everglades as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Everglades National Park

This class trip was to the Everglades National Park down in my hometown of Homestead, Florida. I can’t lie, I did not expect to do anything new on this trip, since I no stranger to the Everglades, but of course, Professor Bailly went and totally surprised me. We did something that, not only have I never done before, but I have also never heard of it: slough-slogging!

Unfortunately, due to the nature of slough-slogging, I was too chicken to bring my phone along on this trip, so I do not have any pictures available.

                A slough-slog through the Everglades is a (very) wet walk through any spot that is not specifically roped off. What surprised me the most is that, unlike at other parks that I have been to, just about the entirety of the Everglades is accessible to visitors. The park ranger told me that, as long as you abide by the rules of the park (which are basically to not litter, don’t remove anything from the park, and don’t destroy anything), you are free to go about your business and explore the park as much as you please. This came as a really big surprise to me. I have been to the Everglades countless times throughout my life, I even have an annual pass to the park. But aside from going there to do some fishing in the canals or walk on the hiking trails, I didn’t do much else. It never occurred to me that I could just walk off the trails and, pretty much literally, just jump right into the waters. On our walk, we really went off into the deep end. I got well beyond waist-deep in the water, and I almost got much, much deeper due to some soft ground and nearly sunk through. By the way, if you plan on going out to the Everglades to have a slough-slog of your own, bring a long walking stick so you can test the ground ahead and around you, to make sure that it’s solid. Other than that, the walk itself is very nice and easy. The water was cold, but after a few minutes I got used to it. I didn’t get to see any animals up close, but there were plenty of nice birds that I got to see from afar. Overall, I must say that it was an experience unlike any other that I have had in my entire life.

                One of the coolest things that we did on the walk was stopping to get quiet and listen to the wilderness around us. As the water settled from our walking, my ears became filled with the sounds of birds talking to each other, frogs croaking in the distance, and something splash up in the water (was it an animal, a leaf, or Professor Bailly catching up from getting previously distracted? No one knows!). Even though we were sitting there in the wild waters, where we understood alligators and snakes lived, it was incredibly calming. Then, after a moment of peace and quiet, the park ranger volunteered to read a poem to us, which was written by someone who was doing the same thing as us: just sitting there in the water of the Everglades. It was a surreal experience, and I hope that everyone gets the opportunity to do something like this.

Margulies Collection as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at the Margulies Collection

January 27, 2020

The Margulies Collection is a nice little spot in the Wynwood area of Miami, tucked right up next to I-95. On the outside it may not seem that interesting. A big, gray block in a town filled with bright graffiti and colorful in-your-face buildings with massive murals on them might make it seem boring. But that is because this building doesn’t need to use art on the outside to get your attention. It’s what’s on the inside that matters, and it houses an amazing contemporary art collection.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with very interesting pieces of artwork, however, if you visit in the future, you may be greeted by something else, as the museum rotates its collections quite regularly. However, when I came, you get smacked in the face with some deeply emotional stuff. To your right there is (currently) a massive collection of figures made out of what appears to be burlap sacks, but with their heads missing. From what the museum employee told us about the artist and this piece in particular, it sounded to me like she was describing how situations in life can lead us to dehumanize other people.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

To the opposite wall of where you can find the piece above, there is a wall of some abstract art where the artist was turning the idea of a canvas and make that the focus of this collection. There are many different ways the artist took the idea of a canvas and distorted it and rearranged the components of it to make them look like completely different things. I think this is a good example of how art can be anything, you just need to find something that inspires you and then make it yours. I am particularly fond of the small blue one with the wooden cross in it. It looks like he took the canvas and almost inverted it, taking the outer edges and putting them into the center of the artwork.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

One of the most interesting pieces in the entire collection is this bizarre display of a woman’s face being projected onto a doll that has its head buried under a mattress. The woman whose face was on the doll was talking sporadically, with many displays of rapid changes from happiness to deep despair, almost as if she were representing a mental patient or someone on some serious psychedelics. It was definitely one of the strangest things that I have ever seen, and the medium of the art was also incredibly unique compared to everything that I have ever seen before. Clearly my classmates must have been entranced by it as well, since it was the one we spent the most time staring at and talking about. One thing that this piece had me thinking about was how technology used in art is a medium that is in a particularly unique type of danger. As technology advances, we stop producing old versions of what we once had. One day, the light bulb in that projector will die out, or the laser for reading the DVD in this DVD player will burn out, or even the disk itself will no longer be usable. What will happen to this artwork then, when we run out of these components that are left over? If we replace the projector with more modern one, will the piece of art still be the same? I think these are incredibly interesting questions that the art world, and quite frankly even the world of science and technology, have to consider.

Overall, I believe that the Margulies Collection is a really unique spot to check out. There are many, many different collections and displays that I have not talked about, and i think that everyone who visits Miami should come take a look at what they have on display. It is worth mentioning that all Florida students can get into the museum for free when they show the staff their student ID card. If you can, I highly recommend you go check it out.

Bill Baggs as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Here is a great picture of the lighthouse from the path that you walk down to see it. The view of it in between the palm trees is really something amazing.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC / BY 4.0

This was yet another trip to a place that I have heard of numerous times but have never gotten the chance to go to. We got to go to the world-renowned Bill Baggs Florida State Park, and not only that, we got a fantastic tour from one of the park rangers. We got to learn about the rich history of Biscayne Bay, which is where the park is located, and we got to help by doing a beach clean-up.

On this trip, I not only learned that Biscayne Bay has a deep and rich history, but that its history is constantly being developed and reimagined as historians get more facts straight through discovering lost documents or other methods. Due to the evolving history of the area though, the park ranger really stressed the fact that there are a lot of misconceptions about Biscayne Bay and South Florida, as there are a lot of people who grew up hearing a story or learning about specific events that we now know are not all that accurate to the real story. I think that this interesting dynamic highlights one of the strange things about the United States (and the America’s in general) in that, while the country was introduced to Europe in the time that they had written history, the native people of the Americas did not. This leaves us with a very one-sided account of the events that took place. For example, we can read all about how Ponce de Leone came to Florida and made his adventures, but we don’t really have a way to understand how the native population reacted to his arrival. We lac that historical context, and therefore we will never know exactly what happened. Of course, this is just one example, as the history of the Americas is filled with examples just like it. But this highlights just how misconstrued we can be when it comes to learning about history, and as I meditated on this, I began to realize just how delicate history can be. If a person really wanted to, or even just was not careful enough, they could make a whole group of people completely disappear from human memory. Even something like a natural disaster could occur, causing not only a massive loss of life, but also a loss of documentation of those lives. This gave me a much deeper appreciation for historians. They seem to be working against time in order to preserve it. It’s a very interesting dynamic that I don’t get to ponder on all that often, but it felt nice to be able to give them a moment of thought.

Other than being an interesting historical site, Bill Baggs is a very beautiful beach. If you visit it, then it will come as no surprise that it is regularly ranked in the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Without a doubt, it deserves this title. As mentioned before, it is in Biscayne Bay, which is closed off from the rest of Miami, so it’s a much quieter area by comparison. There is also the giant lighthouse, which is a relic from the early American colonization of the area around the year 1825 (more can be read about it on the Florida State Parks website). It is often a great place for people to take pictures, and there was even a photoshoot happening when we were having our tour. On There are many other neat places that you can find on the beach, such as the old cottage that was used to house the workers for the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself has an interesting historical story to it as well. Not only did it serve as a beacon to signal to those at sea of the nearing shore, but it was also nearly burned down in a Seminole retaliation against colonization. This one landmark itself can display the varied and colored history of Miami.

Of course, another thing that cannot go without mentioning is the wildlife that can be found here. Being a beach, there are of course many sea creatures that you can see. While we were having lunch near the water, I was able to see some small crabs crawling on the rocks, and some small fishes swimming around, close to the shore. There is also a rare species of butterfly found here, that was once thought to be extinct (the name escapes from my memory, but I was able to capture a picture of it). Of course, there are also the common rodents as well. Before our beach clean-up activity, we encountered some raccoons that seem to have grown rather fondly of humans (especially those that leave them snacks). Overall, the wildlife is interesting, but if that is not something that you are particularly interested in, that is by far not the only thing that you can do at this lovely place.

I think that as a native to South Florida, it is worth mentioning the reason why I never visited this spot. That is because, it being in Biscayne Bay, it is quite removed from the rest of Miami and South Florida. The neighborhood leading into the part is something unlike the rest of the city. It is a much quieter area and gives off the impression of being a more upper-class neighborhood. It is almost on what is essentially an island: it is difficult to get to, as it took me nearly an hour due to that lovely Miami traffic. I’m not trying to discredit the park for this (of course, because it’s not like they can just get up and move) but I think that it brings up an interesting point to how accessible these sites can be. While it is “open to the public,” I’m afraid that most of the public may not have much of a desire to come witness it, even though it really is a nice and beautiful park right on our backdoor.

River of Grass as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Everglades National Park

Every time Professor Bailly takes us to the Everglades I find a new thing to love about them. It is really amazing at how much freedom visitors have when they come to this national park. Out of all of the times I visited as a younger child, I would have never thought to just start walking into the various fields that surround you. As a matter of fact, I almost instinctively thought that the only places you were allowed to go were the paths and walking trails. However, according to the park ranger reassured me that just about every bit of the everglades was open to the public (minus, of course, areas that are roped off and have signs that say otherwise). If you manage to get to the Everglades, I encourage you to walk off the trails as we did. Here are some of the things that you may be able to see.

Solution holes

Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Walking through the marshes

Well, I suppose some people might disagree with me calling these areas “marshes,” but I had a hard time finding a term that can accurately encompass the land that we walked through. The Everglades is such a diverse ecosystem that you truly can completely change your surroundings just by walking a few yards.

I must admit that I was too afraid to bring my phone through the wetlands, so pretty much all of the pictures from here on out were taken by my fantastic classmates, who were braver than I was.

The view right next to the solution hole that we visited. Normally the land is covered in water, but due to the specific weather conditions that occurred in the area, the land is bone dry, covered in dirt and rocks.
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Our class walking off-trail
Photo Taken by Jennifer Quintero / CC BY 4.0

BEHOLD! The oldest standing structure in Miami!
Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero / CC BY 4.0

This was a great reminder of just how beautiful South Florida really is. It has a unique blend of organisms that grow together like nowhere else. The unfortunate part is, this area is in great danger from the effects of climate change. If we are not careful, then I feat that we will lose this beautiful landscape. I hope that everyone can see just how important this really is, and choose to act on it.

Frost as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU at the Frost Art Museum at FIU

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

For this class visit, we went to the First Art Museum. We visited two of the museum exhibits. One of them was a collection from a Venezuelan artist who was obsessed with roses, and the other was a collection of different artworks that were in the museums storage, arranged by a curator who worked at the museum. Although these two exhibits were vastly different in their content and the way they came to the musuem, they both had one thing in common, which is that they are both heavily dependent on the way they were curated.

The first collection that we visited is titled “Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display.” It is filled entirely with works from a Venezuelan artist named Roberto Obregon. Obregon was a man who was absolutely obsessed with roses. Through a period of 30 years, he took apart, cataloged and observed three dozen roses. He has sketches of roses, outlines of their petals, and even samples of petals that have been attacked by bugs. Everything in this collection is really bizarre and amazing. The one striking thing about this collection, though, is that Obregon had no involvement in its layout. Instead, what happened was, a group of artists got access to his collection works, were able to take them, and make all of the displays for his work. I think that this is extremely interesting. Here, we have a collection of a featured artist, where the artist had no involvement in how their work is being show to and shared with other people.

The other part of the museum that we visited is basically a curators playhouse. From what I understand, the curator goes through pieces of art in the museums storage vault, finds some that have a common theme, and then makes a display out of them. This one is made by Pepe Mar, and he calls it “Tesoro.” One of these rooms is called the “Cabinet of Curiosities.” An actual cabinet of curiosities is one where that a person will build as they travel and collect little nick knacks and whatnots from the places that they visited. Here, the curator tried to amplify that idea by placing a bunch of art pieces from different cultural regions in one room, all over the place. This lead to an interesting discussion with Professor Bailly about this specific piece, which contains several masks from different parts of the world, all hung up together with a playful background. The conversation that this sparked was around the question: “Is this offensive?” I think it definitely is. To me, it looks like it’s just a messy arrangement of items that represent different peoples cultural roots. To me, I think that they deserve more respect than just becoming someone’s art project. What also got me bothered was the fact that on the collections page on the First website, the curator is described as caring about the cultures that the artworks come from. I believe that if they truly cared, then they may find a way to at least incorporate some way for visitors to learn where they come from.

Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/ BY 4.0

From both of these exhibits, it got me to think about something: “Are curators artists?” When I think about this question, I want to say no. To me,a curator is just a person who organizes art, but are themselves not really artists. They’re almost just fancy interior designers. They are also not necessarily making anything, they are just taking what someone else made, and are putting their own spin on it. However, I do think that there are some important differences. The Obregon collection is a group of people organizing a collection in honor of the artist. The Tesoro one, on the other hand, is an artist looking at works that other people made, and just arranging them as they please with seemingly no regard for who made them, and then placing their name on it. The latter case, to me, makes curating seem like a fancy term for appropriating. Of course, I do not believe that the artist had any ill intent, nor do I believe that the Frost museum did, but I still that that this is interesting to think about.

Coral Gables as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU in Coral Gables and at the Biltmore Hotel

Wednesday March 24, 2021

This trip was split into two different events. For the first part, we had a tour of the Coral Gables Museum and then had a walking tour around the area, getting a historical perspective on the city and the area. The second part of the days trip was spent on an extensive tour of the Biltmore hotel, which has a lot of history in it itself.

Before this class I had no idea how much history Coral Gables really held. As it turns out, it is a fairly old city. In the early 1900s, the United States government installed a program to fund cities to make them more attractive, and to increase the population and the number of visitors. Fortunately for Coral Gables (and South Florida at large), they were selected as one of the cities for this project. These investments lead to the city prospering, allowing it to become what it is today.

Coral Gables City Hall. Out front is a statue of George Merrick, the founder of Coral Gables.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0
Bird from the birdcage inside the Biltmore’s lobby
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

During the second part of the days class, we got a tour of the Biltmore Hotel. The lady who gave us the tour was incredibly knowledgeable on the history of the building, and to be honest, it was a lot more interesting that I originally thought it would be. The Biltmore is a building that holds a lot of history. Since it was built in 1926. I think that the most interesting moment in the hotels history was when it was converted into an impromptu military base during World War II. During this time, it was used as a military hospital, and much of the original interior design was covered or altered according to government and military regulations for such a facility. The original flooring was covered with linoleum, the windows were sealed shut, and many of the rooms were sectioned off or split up. Even after the war, it was still used as a hospital for Veterans Affairs, and was even used to house the medical school for the University of Miami. Eventually a new VA hospital was built, and the hotel was abandoned for several years. Then through.a government program to maintain historic landmarks, they gave the city of Coral Gables full ownership of the hotel, and it was then restored. You can still see some of the scars from the way out was converted into a military base, but for the most part it seems to be in pretty good standing.

This is the Biltmore’s bell tower. It really is an impressive site when you get to see it from the courtyard.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

Vizcaya as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Wednesday April 7, 2021

This curtain hanger, which appears to look like a dragon, can be seen on columns around the center of the courtyard at the center of the building
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

For this class we went to the famous Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which was originally built in 1923 by James Deering. It is an incredible site, and it is both unlike anything else in Miami,while also encapsulating everything that there is to love about Miami. It is unique in the way it designed. Throughout the whole property, it feels like you are walking through some sort of Italian Renaissance wonderland. There are gorgeous statues, big, tall and open roofs, and the furniture inside is magnificent. However, even though it looks grandiose, there is a playful aspect to it. It’s as if James Deering and his designers knew what they were doing and saying: Yes, our place is better than your place. At every turn, it feels like Deering was trying to show off as best as he could that he had good taste, and the money to back it up. Every single piece of the property seems hand selected, down to the ornaments used to hold curtains open (shown here to the right).

However, fancy curtain holders are far from the limit to the grandiosity that is the Vizcaya estate. I don’t think that I am able to express just how over-done everything feels at this amazing place. Another great example is the breakwater that doubles at a party platform right off the coast in the part behind the property.

Here you can see a large caravel hanging like a chandelier from the ceiling right at the main entrance of the house.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

Two interesting motifs that you can find in throughout the building are seahorses and ships. The story goes that James Deering wanted to make the symbol of the estate a large sailing ship (I believe it was a caravel), while his lead designer wanted it to be a sea horse. You can tell that they had a constant battle over these two ideas, as both can be seen adorned on many different objects in different sections of the property. However, as you can probably assume, since Deering was the proper owner of the proeprty, there are quite a few more notable caravels seen around the property. Personally, I believe that they are both great symbols, and I quite like how they are both placed throughout the property.

There is one more excellent part of the estate that i just love. In the back entrance of the main house, there is a statue of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and, among other things, fertility. He is often depicted as what is basically a party animal, engaging in orgies and debauchery. As professor Bailly pointed out, this is almost the perfect depiction of how Miami is in the modern world. This is a city known for its night life, and people flock here from all around the world to engage in this extravagant party lifestyle, and James Deering set the tone for this nearly a century ago.

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