Luis Gutierrez: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Luis moments before meeting his prom date, 2019

Luis Gutierrez is currently a sophomore studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.

Deering as Text

“Flight Into Egypt” photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“Shining Glass from the Heavens”

By Luis Gutierrez of FIU at The Deering Estate, 14 September 2020

The Deering Estate located in Miami, Florida is home to many works of art and historical artifacts. One of the works of art that can be seen here is the “Flight Into Egypt” stained glass panel. It shows Mary, Joseph, and an infant Jesus on their way to Egypt. Though Joseph appears to be breakdancing, this work of art is ultimately timeless and beautifully colorized. This panel is one of two that were lost after the death of Charles Deering but thankfully, they were both found, restored, and are now up for display at the Deering Estate. The restoration process was expensive and needed skilled artisans to handle and recreate the beautiful artwork of that time. Though we don’t know the exact date it was created, historians believe this and other religious stained glass panels can date back to around 1150 and 1500.

Before entering this particular room which houses the stained glass panels, Professor Bailey gave a short synopsis of how tragic and unbearable life was during the medieval era. He then began to say that glimpses of God were one of the only things that kept people going at the time and that this was one of those glimpses. Professor Bailey really hyped up what we were about to see, and might I say that this “glimpse”, lived up to that hype.

I am a Catholic who used to attend Church fairly often prior to entering high school. I would attend this particular church from my middle school, St.Agatha, here in Miami that also incorporated stained glass artwork. All around the top of the church was the story of Jesus’ life depicted through colorized glass that would shine different colors on the people in the church when the sun would pass through. I used to be a very religious person and one of the reasons I would love to attend this specific church was because of the stained glass that would shine on me. Especially during the homily or the slower parts of mass, I would look up and see the story of this particular man that changed the world forever. The stained glass in my church and the ones in Deering State both had emotional and spiritual connections to me that made me look back at my life as a Catholic. These panels also give hope to those who see them especially in times of despair such as the medieval period and the times we are living in today.

The Deering Estate transports you back through history with its historical, religious, and lively artifacts and artwork that gives you a quick sight into life in the past, even if this life had a breakdancing Joseph.

Work Cited

Kersten, S. (2019, October 19). Pre-17th Century stained glass panels restored for display at Deering Estate. Retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://communitynewspapers.com/featured/pre-17th-century-stained-glass-panels-restored-for-display-at-deering-estate/

South Beach as Text

Monument of Barbara Baer Capitman, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“The First Hero in the Fight for Design Preservation in South Florida”

By Luis Gutierrez of FIU at South Beach, 27 September 2020

If you walk along Ocean Drive in Miami, Florida, you will find a wide variety of buildings that include hotels, restaurants, and spots for locals to hang out. But if you just beyond the ordinary, there are many buildings that stick out from the other ones that appear to be more modern, specifically sky rises. These buildings contain historical, architectural, and design qualities that make them seem like they belong in a time capsule. Without the help of an activist by the name of Barbara Baer Capitman, these buildings, which many tourists and locals love today, would seize to exist.

Barbara fought for the preservation of these structures and the respect of the local residents who had low-income by founding the first Miami Design Preservation League in 1977. With this league incorporated, a large portion of the Art Deco district was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, with many successes in preservation, some buildings couldn’t be saved and were unfortunately demolished such as the Boulevard Hotel and the New Yorker Hotel. Despite this tragedy, Barbara kept at it, raising awareness for the preservation of these structures through many events nation wide. She eventually wrote a book “Deco Delights: Preserving the Beauty and Joy of Miami Beach Architecture”, where she documented her cross-country adventures she experienced along the way.

       Though briefly mentioned in Professor Bailey’s lecture, Barbara’s efforts continued to resonate with me after class. Here was this person who fought for something that she really cared about and actually made a difference in her community. This idea of fighting and creating a meaningful impact was something that stood out to me because, in my opinion, it is something that should be encouraged nowadays. This also stood out to me because leaving an impact on the world and especially my community is something I constantly think about and strive to achieve in life.

Dallas. (2014, September 03). Barbara Baer Capitman: South Beach’s Art Deco Hero: National Trust for Historic Preservation. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://savingplaces.org/stories/barbara-baer-capitman-south-beach-art-deco-hero

Bakehouse as Text

Art work in progress, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“Saving the Reef Through Art”

By Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 11 October 2020

When art is mentioned in conversation, some people immediately think of it as forms of entertainment and passion. Though this is a very true description of art, many tend to forget its special ability of promotion and encouragement, especially for important matters that tend to be forgotten. One important matter that needs awareness and assistance is the destruction of the coral reefs.

The artwork shown above, when finished, will soon depict a large, corroded piece of a coral reef. This is done by having several workshops where people can mold different shapes of coral in different colors. After the molds are made, they are placed onto large wooden ramps covered in wire to hold the clay in place. Once the entire ramp is covered, the clay will harden and crack, giving the impression of a coral reef. Personally, I had a ton of fun molding the different coral and placing them in strategic spots on the ramp. I highly recommend this to anyone who has a couple hours free out of their day because it is a unique experience to be a part of an art piece that will have such an impact in the awareness of such an important topic.

This act of applying art to have a bigger picture and to make people think about their choices and their surroundings is extremely interesting. Art should be applied like this to many controversial and meaningful topics that are displayed in our modern society for the public to be aware of what is happening in our world. This application of art truly brings out people’s “thinking caps”, in this case, simply by having them see a depiction of a large coral reef. After the thought and understanding is implanted in their head after it was shown to them through a form of art, the people are one step closer to believing that they can enact a change for the better.  

Rubell as Text

Keith Haring’s artworks in Rubell Museum, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“Artwork That Speaks Volumes”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 25 October 2020

The Rubell Museum houses many great artworks from different eras and from all around the world. Specifically, the museum holds a small gallery containing a variety of different pieces done by the famous American artist Keith Haring. His art, along with the other artworks in the museum, has a story and meaning behind it that can only be found through self-reflection, research, and perspective. Even art pieces such as the vacuum on display in one of the galleries has a deeper connotation behind it and I find that to be extremely intriguing. Such a simple piece of art containing a deeper meaning behind it is very interesting and is one of the reasons I had so much fun visiting this museum with my class.

This particular artwork done by Haring is one of my favorites of his. It contains two stick figures that seem to be dancing in front of a large heart. One of the reasons I really like this artwork is because of how simple it is yet it still catches the human eye like any other painting. It is untitled and was painted with acrylics on vinyl in 1982 during the AIDS pandemic. His art depicts lovers intertwined with the massive heart that connects them both. This art piece is a great representation and example of how most art has either a story behind it or a deeper meaning behind what the viewer is shown.

Artwork like Keith’s shows how art can enlighten others about any topic whatsoever. Whether it’s history, a story, or just a joke, art is a form of media that connects the viewers with the artist no matter the setting or time period. If a viewer sees a piece of art, they are forever connected with the artist’s story, portrayal, and livelihood. I think that this connection is very cool and is something that everyone should experience and be aware of the next time they see a piece of art.

Deering Hike as Text

Large tree that rests above burial grounds, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“The Lives of the Past Continue to Thrive”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Deering Estate, 6 November 2020

The Deering Estate located in Miami, Florida provides an amazing glimpse into the past through its architecture and wildlife. Specifically, it is home to the Cutler Burial Mound which is one of the few burial mounds in Miami. In the picture above, a massive tree lies above this burial mound which houses more than 10 burials.

In my class, we hiked a few miles around Deering Estate and saw many astounding sights from a demolished plane to a well that was built by the Free Masons. The most astounding sight was the tree shown above but its history is even more astounding. What lies below are several burial mounds that are associated with the Tequesta peoples from around 200 BCE. Thankfully, this burial mound is now protected by the Deering Estate and houses a massive tree that can be seen from miles away.

Though burial mounds signify death, this one in particular actually signifies both life and death. From the death of the Tequesta people sprouts new life through this tree that produces a home for many wildlife. This symbolism can be seen in many things that through death, something lively and beautiful can be a result and actually sprout from it.

Downtown as Text

The “William English Slave Plantation Longhouse“, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“The Oldest House in Dade”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Downtown, Miami, Florida, 6 December 2020

The house shown above may look like any other historical house that someone may come across but with this particular structure, there is a massive amount of history and significance that ties along with it. The little cabin was built by a man named William Wagner who then lived there with his family for many years. After it was created, the house became a meeting point for church services in the community and travelers who were catholic until an actual church was built nearby later on. The house is very significant but the people that lived in it are held to contain even more significance.

            The Wagner parents were an interracial marriage with William being a German immigrant and Eveline a Creole from Haiti. Their marriage is seen to be revolutionary especially since it was done here in Miami at around the 1850’s, where slavery was soon to be abolished. Another interesting fact was that the Wagner’s were very close with the local Seminoles in the area. They were so friendly to each other that the Wagner’s typically had dinner with them and William would offer large amounts of clothing to the Seminoles in exchange for friendship.

            This house, the family that lived in it, and the different amount of people that went to visit are a prime example of the life that was in Miami in the 1850’s. This shows us a part of history, both in Miami and in our country, and how important it is to reflect on it. Structures like these preserved and sometimes restored act like a beacon in our community and county. They serve as monuments to the people and events of the past. They also serve as a constant reminder for what our community has to strive for everyday: to be better.

Everglades as Text

PIcture from the Everglades, taken by Luis Gutierrez

“The Peace Found in the Everglades”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Everglades National Park, 25 January 2021

The Everglades National Park is a wonderful establishment that is home to many forms of wildlife. Whether you are from Florida or another state, walking through this location is truly a remarkable experience and should be done at least once in every human’s lifetime. I was lucky enough to embark on this journey with my class at Florida International University. At first I was terrified, not knowing what I was really getting into but excited to do something different to the regular Zoom classes I had the previous week. I was overall glad I had the opportunity to have this experience of learning and self-reflection.

Throughout the journey of walking with the Park Ranger, our class talked about an assortment of topics ranging from the tress standing tall above us to the small little fish swimming under us. The white Cyprus trees are extremely tall and begin to get denser the deeper we walked into it. The wildlife that surrounds the trees and us were so noticeable and seemed to be straight out of a mosaic painting. Every small step and the side chatter amongst ourselves was the only noises we heard and it was quite interesting to reflect on it after having that minute of silence with the group. That moment of silence to only hear a handful of birds and other animals was probably my favorite part of the whole trip.

Though we didn’t talk about the conflicting issue of politicians wanting to drain the swamp, I believed that before and after walking through the Everglades, that draining the swamp is a terrible idea. The amount of wildlife there that depend on the swamp and how it will overall affect the ecosystem is too great of a consequence. Though mosquitos rely on the swamp as well, the other factors that are connected to the swamp are far more important. Walking through the everglades made me remember why this location is so sacred and why people are fighting for it.

Bill Baggs as Text

Walkway leading up to the Lighthouse, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“The History that Resides in Key Biscayne”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Key Biscayne, 14 February 2021

Key Biscayne, Florida is home to many wildlife and artifacts of history. Though it has beautiful beaches and other different locations to relax in, Key Biscayne used to be a ground that would suffer many attacks both by nature and by man, especially around the Cape Florida Lighthouse that is seen in the photo above. Even from suffering from a dramatic history, this landmark still stands today, only after a handful of physical adjustments over the years.

The worst of the attacks that affected the lighthouse was the Seminole attacks. Two European/American settlers, Thompson and Carter, took precaution from these attacks and fled into the lighthouse. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long because of the spears and arrows that were being shot at them and the smoke that engulfed the lighthouse from the fire that started below. Carter didn’t survive but Thompson made it out due to the Seminoles thinking that they both had died up there. After a couple days, some approaching ships had caught their attention by Thompson on the lighthouse and safely brought him down with a large rope. They then aided him immediately and took him to a hospital to have some treatment. This attack, along with some from the Civil War and a handful of hurricanes, made this landmark a significant part of Florida’s history.

Cape Florida Lighthouse serves as a beacon both literally and figuratively. It gives us an insight into how life was back then and how far we have come as a community in Florida and in the world. If the settlers that lived here all those hundereds of years ago knew that there community would soon become a diverse colony full of all races and religious people, they would be flabbergasted. This lighthouse serves as a reminder that we as a community must only keep moving forward and to the look to the past for notes on what worked and what didn’t.

River of Grass as Text

Missile in the HM69 Nike Missile Base, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“The Missiles That Would Affect Millions”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at the Everglades, 1 March 2020

The Everglades located in Miami, Florida contains many astonishing things to look at and experience. One of these things is located further inside the Everglades and can easily be seen from an airplane. The HM69 Nike Missile Base is a historical site that transports its visitors to a significant time period in our nation’s history. This base was constructed in the early 60’s, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was made for protection from any possible attack from either the Soviets or any other prominent danger that was on the horizon. The missiles in the base were used as anti-aircraft defenses to serve as a barrier for the people of the U.S.A. Fortunately, none were used and were deactivated; one can be seen on display in the historical site with tons of information regarding the step-by-step process in making one.

This base now serves as a historical site for visitors to come and see. Unfortunately, COVID has decreased the number of visitors in the actual site, but they are still open for public viewing! With this site, visitors have the opportunity to take a look at our nation’s past, at what we did right and what we did wrong. It also serves as a reminder to what our country almost sent off and had to use. The thought of someone in command being in charge of affecting millions of lives with the push of a button still baffles me to this day.

Though this site transports us into the past with significant items used during that time, it actually can make you look at how our nation is right now, and the path we are on for the future. From the past, we can learn and analyze what they experienced and make sure these scary times don’t come again. Unfortunately, the threat of nuclear attack from foreign nations is still in the air. So, by visiting this site, you may see that history does in fact repeat sometimes for the worse.

Frost as Text

“Tesoro” exhibit, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“All of Art Sparks Controversy”

By: Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is home to many extravagant paintings and sculpture from a number of decades. One exhibit, located on the second floor of the building, showcases a little sprinkle of art that can be seen in a variety of cultures. This showcase, though it is absolutely stunning to look at and walk through, brought up the controversial topic of if it was being offensive in how it was presented. And if this offense is related to the “cancel culture” controversy that is so widely seen nowadays.

The “Tesoro” exhibit contains Mirror; Mirror, Procession; Cabinet of Curiosities and several more that provide a glimpse of the different artwork over time throughout many different cultures. The picture above shows one of the displays in the exhibit that are clearly seen to be masks of different sizes and shapes. They are hung on a wall, close together, behind an elaborate set of designs. In my opinion, the designs behind the masks seem half-fast and lazy and really don’t go well with the masks that are hung.

The masks and ceramics in the exhibit are displayed nicely throughout the room but can also be seen to be a sign of disrespect for the culture. The masks on the wall, for example, can be seen to have one mask more important than another because it is higher or more in frame with the rest of them. This also goes with a display of statues and that the one that is taller or standing behind them, signifies that it is more important than the others. This obviously wasn’t the purpose of the art curator in any way but the public and people from that culture can take offense and see it differently. But isn’t that how art is supposed to be looked at? In any interpretation and vision, whether it is controversial or not?

Vizcaya as Text

“Leda and the Swan”, photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“Expression of Love Through Art” by Luis Gutierrez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 11 April 2021

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens located at Coconut Grove in Miami, Florida gives participants an opportunity to see beauty, love, and passion through an assortment of different art works. These art works such as paintings, sculptures, interior and exterior architectural design, and others were a direct message from a rich businessman known as James Deering. He expressed his thoughts and emotions with everything that is tied to the museum. Every little intricate thing has a story and meaning to it and was not done by accident.

One of the art works displayed at the Museum is a statue of “Leda and the Swan”. The story behind this statue is that Zeus was pretty attached to a mortal known as Leda. He then took the form of a swan and made love to Leda and thus is represented through this statue. It is probably one of my favorite pieces in the museum because of how out of the ordinary it is and how it may seem to those who don’t know the story behind it. Also, it is amusing to see a woman kiss a swan.

In this statue and other pieces of artwork, James proficiently expresses his ideas. Some historians believe that James was homosexual and that there are several hints to that in his possessions. Though this may not be true, the fact that James was able to provide an insight into his life through the purchase and construction of this now known museum is extraordinary. It really shows how impactful art and design can be and how impactful it is to what story others will be told in the future. Art serves as a beacon and time capsule for time periods and should be given that opportunity continuously and freely.

Author: Luis Gutierrez

Hi! I am currently a sophomore studying English at Florida International University. I love to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with my friends. I also enjoy writing and collecting vinyl records!

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