Jessica Finol : Miami as Text

Student Profile: Jessica Finol

Biscayne Bay paddle trip, 2020

Hello! My name is Jessica and I was born and raised in Miami. I’m currently double majoring in History and Liberal Studies, and I plan to complete a Masters degree in Textile and Fashion History after graduation. I want to focus on the history and significance of traditional cultural dress, especially in East and South Asia, which are rich both in culture and the history of fabric. I love exploring with my dog Athena, especially by hiking and paddle boarding together around Miami. Miami’s cultural arts scene is one of my favorite things about this city, and I am a regular attendee of ballets, theater performances, orchestras and art fairs (I have not yet been able to attend an opera, but its on the list!), and I hope to gain an even better understanding of the Miami arts scene through this class!

Deering as Text

Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound – “Trail of Floridas Indian Heritage” – “

“Farther Back”

By Jessica Finol of FIU at Deering Estate, 9/2/20

Deering Estate is a historic junction of Miami’s past. Many who think of this city tend to conjure images of beaches and high rise buildings, but Deering Estate allows visitors to connect with the historic roots of Miami, back to before the land was even named so. Unable to attend the group class, I unfortunately missed out on a very informative tour, however I still managed to learn something new about Deering. I have always thought that Miami seems like such a young city compared to other east coast cities, and often wished for the rich history that they have. However, I did not know that there was tangible evidence of the original native people of what is now today the city of Miami. The Tequesta people who lived on the land of Deering Estate during the 16th century are perhaps the beginning of Miami’s old history that I had longed for. While there are no cultural remains such as language or art left by the Tequesta people, we know of them because of two burial mounds. The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound located on the Deering land contains the remains of twelve to eighteen Tequesta people, arranged in a circular pattern. When I learned of these Tequesta people, I was fascinated because history that far back is something that I have never associated with Miami, even though I have lived here my entire life. I hope to be able to attend a walking tour of Deering in the future so that I might be able to see these incredible burial mounds in person, in addition to the beautiful nature trails. 

South Beach as Text

Park Central Hotel, South Beach, Miami 2020 by Jessica Finol

“Deco in Decline?”

By Jessica Finol of FIU at South Beach, Miami, 9/23/20

As our class walked along the desolate Ocean Drive, the road closed off to traffic, I could not help but compare it to my previous mental image; one of crowded sidewalks and restaurants, vibrant people and expensive cars. The liveliness of South Beach is something that I seem to have always taken for granted, even before the pandemic hit. I remember as a young child being confused as I watched my cousins from up north in awe of South Beach and its uniqueness, unaware of the fact that this could not just be found in any city. Today, with the streets and restaurants almost empty, I cannot help but wonder if it will ever return to the extravagance that I remember from my childhood and more recent youth. A safe haven for creativity and self expression, Miami Beach interestingly rebels against its origins of strict prejudice and segregation. Built by Black and Bahamian workers (the indigenous Tequesta’s practically extinct), who were soon ostracized after they had been so brutally used, Miami Beach was to be exclusively white. Jewish residents were allowed to live on the island due to the attractive financial support they could provide, but were only allowed up to 5th street. Compared to these harsh and ugly beginning, Miami Beach today represents a thriving community of diversity and acceptance of anything-goes. A treasure of South Florida, and the nation, I hope that Miami Beach will eventually be able to recover from the effects of this pandemic and return to its iconic legacy.

Miami Beach also happens to be home to the largest collection of Art Deco style buildings and architecture in the world. Truly unique, this style features pastel colors, symmetry and the “law of threes”. It is thanks to the efforts of Barbara Baer Capitman, a historic preservationist, that visitors and locals alike can still enjoy this distinct style. In fact, it is unconsciously one of the main things people think of when imaging Miami Beach, such as the neon glow of Ocean Drive at night. I myself admit that while I knew of the historic significance of Art Deco previously, and even made paintings of the Colony building in elementary school art class, this class made me acknowledge and appreciate it in a way that I had not before.

Bakehouse as Text

Close up of the clay installation, Bakehouse 2020 by Jessica Finol

“Clay Reefs”

By Jessica Finol of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 10/7/20

At the Bakehouse Arts Complex in Wynwood, my classmates and I had the unique opportunity to assist artist Lauren Shapiro with the creation of her exhibition project, “Future Pacific”. Upon receiving instructions on how to use the molds for clay, we set to work on creating coral reef replications from recycled clay that Lauren had collected from various art studios around Miami. While we worked, she told us about her inspiration for the project. An ever present influence in Miami is the ocean, and its current state of health is cause for concern. With the recent fish kill in Biscayne Bay, a sense of urgency is needed to save the ecosystems that are supposed to thrive there. Lauren informed us that Miami still has a large percentage of residents that rely on the use of septic tanks for their households rather than city sewage systems. As these septic tanks are usually quite old, they leak their contents into the ground, which eventually make their way into the Bay, causing contamination and polluting the water quality. As a frequent visitor of Key Biscayne, and especially Virginia Key, this news was very alarming for me to hear. While the physical aspect of getting to participate in this workshop was a fun and new experience, I am also grateful for learning about the current condition of the Bay’s marine health.

I have been to the Bakehouse several times in the past, but this was definitely my first time ever participating in the creation of an exhibition anywhere. The process of mixing pigmentations into the clay and creating colorful molds of coral structures was exactly the type of hands-on artsy project I have not done since high school art class, and it was really fun. In addition, getting to be in an empty gallery space and seeing the progression of the installation come to life was a really cool experience. I hope to be able to attend the exhibition when it opens and see how the final product came out.

Rubell as Text

Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room at The Rubell Museum, Miami, 2020 by Jessica Finol

“Product of Vision”

By Jessica Finol of FIU at the Rubell Museum 10/25/20

Upon entering the Rubell Museum, the first thing I was struck by was the size of the galleries. I have never seen paintings as big as those found in the Rubell. Among these, my favorite stood out; a captivating painting of a bare chested man lying on white silk. We spent quite a while in front of it, and I still had to return once more after class to continue looking at it. In addition to being the largest painting I have ever seen, this piece was just so beautiful it was entrancing. Another of my favorite pieces was the Infinity Room. While only able to view it from outside, the effect is still quite amazing. With the use of mirrors the viewer is able to enter a world of unending spheres. 

We also had the amazing opportunity to meet with one of the owners of the museum, Mrs. Rubell. She told us about how her and her husband started their collection, and encouraged us to support any artists that we know in order to start collections of our own. It was inspiring to learn how this renowned museum had such humble roots. In addition, our class was able to meet with three of the artists currently in residence and have a discussion about one of the pieces in the museum. It was so interesting to hear so many different interpretations of a single piece by various people. I think that it is always important to try and understand or find out what an artists original intent is for creating a certain work, but it is equally important to view their work through your own lens of reality and analyze how your experiences affect your interpretation of it. I am so glad that as a class we had this opportunity. I also ended up attending an open studio with the artists in residence to learn more about their work, which was really exciting as well.

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