Luzmariana Iacono is a driven individual in her junior year at the honors College in Florida International University. She is double majoring in Marketing and International Business and is passionate about the entrepreneurial aspect of business. Artistic by nature, Luzmariana recently started her own career in the beauty industry as a professional Makeup Artist with a specialisation in Editorial and Avant-Garde makeup. She is trilingual and even if she has been living in Miami for less than a decade, she enjoys the culturally mixed environment and hopes to learn more about its history and hidden beauties through this course.
Deering as Text
By Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Deering Estate, 9 September 2020
The Deering Estate narrates the story of a culturally mixed past through its two building structures and captivating surroundings. Charles Deering was a wealthy industrialist who, alongside his brother, remained stuck in the United States during World War I without any economic power over their family company.
A lonely mind and soul becomes creative, so he decided to replicate his adventures in Europe by including bits and pieces of culture in every detail of the two buildings. Initially, Samuel H.Richmond had built a pioneer home for his family, but in 1900 an addition to the home was built and open to the public – “The Richmond Hotel” became the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West (Deering Foundation Inc). In 1922, Charles Deering decided to let his melancholic state of mind flow by constructing the Mediterranean revival-style Stone House (Deering Foundation Inc). The Spanish villa with Islamic influence was the beginning of Miami. The domes were of islamic influence, the replication of a Spanish mosaic using shells and ocean elements were beautifully placed in the ceiling outside the villa. The intricate details of serpents, seahorse, amongst other creatures in the capitals give off the Mediterranean feeling.
From the outside, these buildings transport you to another era, and once you enter an overwhelming feeling of calmness mixed with mischief narrate the story of Charles Deering. There is a sense of tranquility once you enter the Christian room where two beautiful stained glasses illuminated from behind depict the history of Jesus – back then churches were the only place that were clean and pure enough to transmit peace among the chaos and illnesses that took place in Spain. Regardless of his religious inclinations shown throughout the villa, there was a hidden liquor storage room that smelled like danger – remember the Prohibition era? Well they survived it by illegally storing and drinking alcohol in the basement. Only after the passing of hurricane Andrew, people were able to discover this hidden treasure. Behind those walls and immense garden, between the Chinese panels and furnitures, the steel work on the doors, and the Islamic inspired domes, a story of art and culture is written.
“Deering Estate History: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, deeringestate.org/history/.
South Beach as Text
“Beautiful, Dark Secret”
By Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at South Beach, 23 September 2020
Miami Beach, as beautifully seen in the movies and a dreamed vacation by many, is the place where people go to disconnect from the daily worries and connect to their fun, young-like attitude and enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. No one would guess that the way Miami Beach was born would create such disparity between the initial inhabitants of the land with those pioneers, like Carl Fisher and John Collins, who came to revolutionize everything.
Carl Fisher discovered what he named Miami Beach (originally Ocean Beach) in 1910 in the form of a wasteland, full of mangroves and palmettos. He saw the economic potential of the area, and alongside John Collins, they began transforming it into a tourist resort by substituting the mangroves with buildings and bridges. However, in order to achieve this, they needed laborers and black people – yes, racism was palpable – just to shut them out right after all the hotels and restaurants were built. Segregation between black and white Americans was so strict that there was even a specific beach (Virginia Key beach) for them to go to since they were shunned from the rest. When Jews began settling in the area in the 19th century, they were also discriminated against as they were only allowed to live in the South side of 5th street; they even had to live with the reality that restaurants and hotels had signs such as “Gentiles Only” prohibiting their entrance.
Out of this dark historical past filled with racism, discrimination, and exploitation we can now admire different art styles in the juxtaposing buildings. There is a mix between Mediterranean revival, MiMo architectural style, and Art Deco and they would not be able to be admired now if it were not for the activist and preservationist Barbara Baer Capitman. “South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood was the nation’s first 20th century National Historic District” (Professor Bailly, 2020, https://johnwbailly.com/lectures/south-beach-walking-tour/). In the 1980’s, artists, activists, and preservationists fought in order to prevent money-driven business people and visionaries from erasing years of art and culture from the land with more skyscrapers.
Art Deco is such a unique style because it was the first architectural movement that tried to resemble machines due to the curved edges and geometric figures. Buildings follow a pattern of three, as they have lines in their facade that give a sense of order and fresh outlook. Not only are these lines highlighted by stronger colors (such as dark blue in resemblance of the ocean), but the buildings also have “eyebrows” that give them a sense of three-dimensionality. Lastly, nothing screams Art Deco more than some vibrant neon lights that would make every tourist and resident feel like they are in another dimension – a fun, carefree view of reality.
Miami needed places where people can just share unique moments by walking around, eating, and admiring artistic buildings and stores. Deep down there is a longing for the European lifestyle where people have places to enjoy the outdoors and socialize in pedestrian zones, which is why places like Lincoln Road and Espanola Way are usually crowded and lively. What once was a simple desolated area with small streets, cheap dining rooms, and stores later became a classy, enthusiastic, and inspiring place.
Bailly, John William. “South Beach Walking Tour.” John William Bailly – Art Society Conflict Lecture, 3 Apr. 2020, johnwbailly.com/lectures/south-beach-walking-tour/.
Bakehouse as Text
“Art is Science’s translator”
by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Bakehouse, October 7th, 2020
When people think of Art, they almost immediately assume that it has nothing to do with the factual evidence that science can provide; but it has everything to do with emotions and the representation of an abstract reality. Meanwhile this can be up for debate, we know with certainty that art is much more than some paintings and sculptures. Art is a language, it has its own voice, and it can be the worldwide translator for Earth’s cry for help.
When visiting the Bakehouse Art Complex, located in Wynwood, my mind was blown at the fact that through clay we could communicate the ongoing problem occurring to Coral Reefs around the world. Lauren Shapiro is the leading artist collaborating with scientists to raise awareness to the environmental issues that are affecting coral reefs: climate change, and ocean acidification being the main factors. When participating in this project, it is inevitable to question “How can we solve this?” and just by asking the question our minds are already open to change.
The project itself consists of molding clay in the form of corals by utilizing silicon-based stencils from real, desiccated corals (which died a natural death and were not extracted for the sole purpose of art). We could incorporate color to our preference, and to create movement in the art piece we could make some pieces taller than the others. However, the best part of this project is when we place all of the corals into a wooden mural, juxtaposing their colors and shapes. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 the project slowed down in its process, but if enough people from the community sign up for their free workshops, the exhibition should take place in November 2020. It is an amazing experience that not only relaxes your mind and body when molding the clay, working it with your hands while listening to nature’s sounds, but it is also informative.
Rubell as Text
“Contemporary art – Can you handle it?”
by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Rubell Museum, October 21st, 2020
Imagine waking up one day, deciding with your couple that you want to collect art and make a statement about social changes throughout the years, and stereotypical issues that have been affecting the American culture all these years. After collecting art pieces for over 50 years, that’s what the Rubell family had envisioned: a contemporary art museum that would attract tourism and celebrate Miami-based artists as well. There are 40 galleries filled with 300 works by 100 artists (Carway-Carlton, 2020 https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/the-rubell-museum) and through each artist a different, uncomfortable story is showcased.
When entering the museum the first controversial topic that arises is “how does the American perfect family really live when no one is watching?” Paul McCarthy is an American artist that often utilizes American myths and icons to tell a story, a satire, and utilizes the human body and animalistic figures to portray his message. His work is often seen as disturbing because imagine entering an Art museum and seeing a father next to a son humping a deer. Shocking right? His performance art is considered modern gothic.
Another American artist that creates art out of the chaotic, distracted, and mundane american lifestyle is Purvis Young. He began drawing and later painting when serving his time in jail, he was convicted for a felony, and what makes him special is the fact that nothing and no one could stop his imaginative flow. He would paint with an idea in mind, but not an exact sketch, and his usual themes were pregnant women, angels (regular people), boat people (refugees), and funerals. He narrates the story of African Americans in the South during times of war, the Great Depression, and societal conflicts. His portraits do not represent the standard of “beautiful art” that people look for, but they make you feel something – confusion, pain, a sense of nostalgia – and not everyone is capable of appreciating that, as they feel something better could have been done to portray the same idea.
Our society is so outspoken about giving women the power they deserve, trying to flee away from the patriarchal viewpoints that have ruled us in the past, and reinventing societal “roles.” But where are the actions that bring forth this thinking process? Where are we truly making the difference? if even a painting of a naked woman is too controversial for some. In the Rubell Museum, visitors are challenged to see how society unjustly classifies women based on their race and their attitude towards sexuality. They can admire the works of Tschabalala Self, Two Girls and Milk Chocolate, where women are posing naked as if to question the audience “Is this what you think of me? Is my body a sexual object to you?” Race and sexualisation of the feminine body are topics that are rarely given the proper importance because our society is so used to over-sexualising everything that we turn people into objects of desire. Another artist that stirs a conversation about women’ values being connected to their sexuality is Marlene Dumas. Her painting Miss January depicts a woman in a power pose position, standing tall, looking straight at you and not with a submissive look. She’s naked, she’s embracing her Diva role freely. But why is this so revolutionary and controversial? Because in the past women have always been painted (and treated as) the weaker sex, with an obedient look, almost inferior to men. Even if things began changing, this painting was the first one created by a woman and not a man, representing female empowerment and equality by a simple pose.
The Rubell Museum showcases the works of multiple artists, conglomerating multicultural ideas into contemporary American art. All of these works tell a story, whether it be social inequality, women and their sexuality, the LGBTQ community, oppression, and economic changes. Art is not always meant to be beautiful, but it has to make you feel something, and it is usually the simplest statements that will get people to discuss them (like when the artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana in the wall at Art Basel in Miami Beach). As a famous quote states, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – so what do you see?
Caraway-Carlton, Angela. Rubell Family Museum, 29 Apr. 2020, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/the-rubell-museum.
Deering Hike as Text
“Hiking through Time”
by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Deering Estate, November 4th, 2020
Entering the Deering Estate is an out of this world experience – imagine escaping the traffic, the chaotic life in Miami to go on a trip with the past? Hiking through the Deering estate means going from one scenario to another, seeing pine trees in one area, and going through a swamp in the other just to continue the journey. The exposed roots in the swamp were there to make you trip as a way of saying “stop and remember who inhabited this place before” in fact, the Tekesta touched this soil before us and left their imprints. Some natural rocks can be found if looking attentively, they are shaped like leafs and if held correctly the thumb fits perfectly and they become a weapon. Given the lack of modern gear, those natural objects were used as knives to either cut branches, kill the prey, and excavate. It is also essential to notice how shells were found with two parallel holes where a branch could fit perfectly, and suddenly, these shells were another tool to excavate through the soil.
Continuing through what looks like an eternal jungle, with the entrance similar to the one described by Dante’s Inferno, the life of Freemasons is documented through their carved symbol inside a water well. This mysterious well adorned by climbing plants makes you question what was once there, were dead bodies hidden there? Or was it used for their sacred rituals? Following through similar tracks, history narrates that under a majestic Oak tree lies the tombs of ancestors. The Oak tree is symbolic of life, so it is impressive to see the poetry of life and death in one place.
During the hike it is important to recognize some important trees and plants, including the Gumbo Limbo tree recognizable by its red and peeling bark. This tree can cure you from poison and if one of its branches falls, another tree can spring from it. There is also an area covered by Pine trees that immediately transports you to Christmas time. However, while walking through those grandiose trees one needs to watch out for Poison Ivy as it will leave a rash (it can be recognized by its 3 leaflets).
There are two different areas where it is important to let go of the fear of insects and submerge yourself in the swamp to learn more about Miami’s history. In one place, a crashed airplane can be noticed and learning its history, one will be surprised to discover that it was never reported. Luckily, everyone survived the plane crash but one can speculate that the reason why the incident was not reported was because the plane was transporting cocaine or any other illegal drug. In another area, while admiring the work done by acid that corroded the porous limestone (solution holes), there is a pipeline trail that tells the story of ancient civilizations in Miami.
The Deering Estate is an environmental, archeological, and historical preserve that allows tourists to learn more about Miami’s history – the beginning of it. Cutler road alone goes back to 10,000 years of history! Hiking through this place is like going back to history and coming back anew.
Downtown Miami as Text
“A Walk to Remember”
by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Downtown Miami, November 25th, 2020
Downtown Miami, at first glance, is all about living in the present – no reminiscing of past cultures and dwellings. The beautiful skyscrapers dominate the skyline and combined with the peaceful water view of the river, it’s the perfect getaway. If we try to ignore the chaos caused by traffic, and the noise of the forever under-construction sites, we can hear the cries of our geographical ancestors, the Tekestas, as they were wiped away from their own land.
When speaking of the history of Downtown Miami, we must remember two names: Henry Morrison Flager and Major Francis Longhorn Dade. They both contributed to the construction of Miami and the re-civilization of it; Flager was known for bringing the Florida East Coast railroad system with the heavy work of the inhabitants of the area, only to banish them right after they were done working. He saw the potential and decided that in order for tourism to thrive, and to make commuting easier, he had to provide a transportation service. Julia Tuttle had a similar mindset, she wanted Miami to thrive and become the spot for people to admire and spend time in, therefore, she bought an extensive amount of land to better manage the territories. Major Francis Longhorn Dade, on the other hand, was involved in the Second Seminole War when he actually lost his life from the battle. It was such an historical moment that the county changed its name to “Dade”, not realizing that depending on the perspective on which the story is told, he was not such a hero after all. They were trying to remove and displace American Indians from what was considered the “white” settlements, full of riches. In simple terms, it was a genocide masked into a fair battle of power.
The Miami Circle at Brickell Point is what mostly caught my attention as I consider it to be the only place where people could really reconnect with their terrestrial ancestors. It is a national historic landmark, and it feels like a sacred space because it is surrounded by 24 holes that represent what once was a building where Tequestas used to spend most of their time in. Downtown Miami is truly a place full of surprises, the archeological findings brought alive by the need of creating new buildings that wipe down years of history are countless. It is thanks to them that we now have a sense of understanding of how much simpler life was, and how racial division played a role in its foundation.