Natalie Carter is a second year Honors College student at Florida International University studying psychology on the pre-med track. She was born and raised in a small town outside of Orlando, Florida but moved to Miami to pursue her passions in life on a more adventurous route. She is a woman of many passions; a few being health, film photography, music, and science. Her passions of health and science inspire and drive her each day to become an outstanding neurologist in the future. She hopes she can touch the lives of many- whether it’s with her spirit, her future work in the medical field, or simply with her Miami as Texts written below.
Exalted Ecstasy by Natalie Carter of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Upon my first visit of Vizcaya, I almost drove past the concealed driveway entrance. I pondered, “Am I in the right place?” I thought Vizcaya was supposed to be the type of place that you couldn’t miss as you drove past, but I thought wrong. I continued to drive down the shaded, winding driveway and soon realized that yes, I was in the right place.
After walking through the entrance and getting my pink wristband, I found myself standing at the start of a long, downhill walkway lined with fountains that led right to the house’s front door. The slope of the driveway was so inviting that you could be guided to the front door of the house with your eyes shut. As I walked towards the house, I gazed left and right at the fountains on either side of me.
Just as I entered the house, my attention was instantly directed upward at a towering statue of a man standing between two children by a bathtub. The sun’s rays touched the statues as they came through the impressive glass windowpanes that composed the ceiling. I wondered who the statue could be, and why he was there. Subsequently, it was said by my professor, John William Bailly, that the statue was Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. Again, I found myself wondering, why the god of wine and ecstasy? And then I remembered that we are in Miami.
Dionysus changed my initial thoughts on what to expect from Vizcaya. Having the god of wine and ecstasy soar over me right as I walked through the door of the house left an impression on me and gave me a better idea of what that house was all about. It really fit the chapter of “Miami” in history books and left me to question what really went on in Vizcaya…
The Mayan Blues by Natalie Carter of FIU at MOAD
Upon sight of this artifact, I was immediately drawn in by its intricate details and contrasting colors. A man, who is most likely a Lord, proudly sits on his throne decorated with serpents, jewelry, and various accessories. You can see his royalty and power in his defiant facial expression. Two serpents extend out of the sides of the chest with heads retreating from their mouths. One a God, and the other a scribe. All three faces carry similar traits: a large nose, striking eyebrows, and an elongated facial structure. This chest was likely used for offerings and/or sacrifices for ceremonies of dedication by the ancient Mayan people, since the Mayans were known for making human sacrifices to various gods of nature. It brought my mind back in history to ponder the times when the people of the world were ruled by nature, art, and religion.
What caught my eye the most, though, was that ancient Mayan blue color. Something about the way it contrasts with the earthy and orange tones of the piece makes it an aesthetically pleasing, yet intense color. It puzzled me how the Mayan people were capable of making this beautiful, vivid blue that is so resistant to all the years of aging in the Earth, but it showed me their abundant knowledge about sciences and the amount of effort they put into their art.
After searching further about this strange yet astonishing color, I found that it was used in Mayan sacrifices for the rain god, Chaak. Various items and even humans were painted Mayan blue and thrown into wells to summon rain from Chaak to water their crops during a drought. This sparked a connection for me back to the movie Apocalypto. In a scene, the Mayans brought out blue painted men to be sacrificed, and then stopped as soon as the sky aligned a certain way. Turns out a color can have a more powerful meaning than just being eye candy!
The Great Estate by Natalie Carter of FIU at The Deering Estate
The Deering Estate is a piece of Miami that is especially unique due to its broad and complex history. Not only this, but also because it offers diverse experiences ranging from up close experiences with wildlife, mysterious fossil sites, seafood festivals, all the way to poetry readings with world class artists. When visiting the estate, you truly never know what you’re going to get yourself into.
My first experience at the Deering Estate involved a poetry reading by Richard Blanco. Richard Blanco is described as “one of the most beloved and influential poets and storytellers writing today.” Hearing him reading his poetry aloud was an incredible experience, but what made it even more wistful was experiencing it inside the Deering Estate. The Deering estate creates a special ambiance for its guests that sincerely connects them to the experience. The mediterranean architecture combined with its stunning interior design and gorgeous views outdoors brings your mind to a place of peace, relaxation, and thought, which is not commonly found around the energetic city of Miami. For this reason, many artists are drawn to the estate and make visits to engage in projects and work in the studio. There is even a Deering Estate Artist in Residence Program that allow artists to collaborate and innovate on various projects.
What I wish to explore more of is the outdoors of the estate. Not only does it offer encounters with the wildlife in the area, but also unique sites to see such as the Miami Rock Ridge, tropical hardwood hammocks, solution holes, and an avocado grove. Even more intriguing, there is an old plane crash that remains and an uncovered Tequesta burial mound! With so much to see, more than just one visit to the Deering Estate is required to indulge in all the special experiences it has to offer.
The Energy is in the Art by Natalie Carter of FIU at South Beach
South Beach is, in my opinion, the most energetic, colorful, and unique part of Miami. It fills me with feelings of nostalgia as if I am part of a classic 1990’s action movie filmed in South Beach. The area is rich with history, art, architecture, beaches, restaurants, and especially lots to do.
The art and energy set South Beach apart from any other neighborhood in Miami, or even the world. The architecture most prevalent in South Beach is Art Deco- a modernist movement that was born in the 1920’s in Paris. Art Deco architects basically took the “old” and combined it with the “new” to create iconic, bold, and sleek designs that depict a new technological era. Many designs even resemble machines and appliances. Specific lines, patterns, geometry, neon and pastel colors, and shapes characterize Art Deco all throughout South Beach restaurants, shops, and especially hotels. Pictured above is just one hotel where you can spot Art Deco design- the Shelborne. As you can see, the hotel has bold, bright red and orange lighting with sleek, circular shapes and retro font.
I love the energy the neighborhood has. The Art Deco architecture is so well preserved that it really takes you back to the 20th century. It’s almost as if the art has come alive in the people that roam the streets. I also am infatuated with the fact that the neighborhood is like a little city on the beach and not like your classic, laid-back beach town that you’d find in north Florida or on the West Coast. The history of the neighborhood has also shaped the neighborhood into an iconic area to visit. Places like the Versace Mansion and Ocean Drive maintain the same energy they had when they were built and heavily influence the area and its people to keep South Beach’s unique atmosphere alive today. Tourists from all over the world visit South Beach to experience its emblematic energy, art, and life.
Makeshift Freedom by Natalie Carter of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum
HistoryMiami Museum (HMM) is a beautiful museum located in the heart of Downtown Miami. The museum holds all of Miami’s past ranging from when it was first inhabited in the Pre-Columbian days to what is now present-day Miami. It is located on the second floor of a building that also holds the Main Library of the Miami-Dade Public Library System, and as you can see has a beautiful courtyard with views of the staggering skyscrapers in downtown.
Diving deep into the history of Miami has always been intriguing to me, especially since I’m not from Miami. The Mariel Boatlift of 1980 is one historical event in Miami that has always caught my interest. I’ve learned about it in classes I took a few years back in high school but being there in the museum and experiencing the event on display in person provoked more feelings inside me. The exhibit is called “Gateway to the Americas,” and displays the stories of immigrants coming from Cuba to Miami on tiny boats poorly made from wood. There was even a couple of the makeshift boats there on display in the exhibit. Seeing those boats and reading the stories of the people that sailed on them through the viscous ocean was eye opening. Imagining the hardships and the long nights that the people and their children endured to reach this country is incredible and gives perspective of how grateful we should be for our life in this beautiful, free country. It makes me think about all the friends I have that are not from the USA, and all the obstacles they and their families have faced to live here.