My name is Diana Cristancho and I’m a sophomore at Florida International University. I’m majoring in Recreational Therapy and I hope to get my masters in Occupational Therapy. I was born and raised in Miami and I’m excited to see what different types of art Miami has to offer. Since I was very little I’ve had an interest in art whether it’s through a painting or a poem. In high school my Literature teacher taught me to analyze different forms of art and showed me just how beautiful it is. Now, I want to get a deeper view on different types of art and I think this class is perfect for that.
Norton as Text:
The Triangular Trinity of the Crucifixion Altarpiece by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Norton Museum
On September 22, 2019, I visited the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. They have three exemplary floors of art, showcasing European, Chinese, American, and contemporary artwork. To my preference, the third floor was the best. It consisted of European artwork from mainly the 17th and 18th centuries. On that floor, one piece of art piqued my interest the most, the Crucifixion Altarpiece (Flemish 1465-1538), attributed to Goswijn Van Der Weyden. It’s a painting of Christ on the cross with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, St.John the Evangelist and other men and women looking up to him. The most intriguing part of this painting is the triangular placement of all the people in it. Christ is placed at the top of the cross with people in each corner creating a triangle. The angels are also placed almost in a mirror image with Christ as the point of reflection. The use of triangular shapes in this piece of art is to emphasize the trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It helps keep the focus of the afterlife just like the people in that era lived their life with the idea that this life is unimportant and the afterlife is the most important. The spiritual life is idealized and it’s shown in that time-period through its art. There are no shadows or sizes. Shapes are not proportional or realistic to the natural world. Paintings like this show the difference between artwork before and after the renaissance when artwork shifts away to more naturalistic work. It is also shown through the material. The painting is oil on wood, meaning that people still haven’t started using canvas for painting. Having a piece like this one is incredible, but the fact that the Norton Museum has other pieces just as impressive as this one is impressionable. My time at the Norton Museum was very memorable and I look forward to going back again one day.
Deering as Text:
Roots in the Soil by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Deering Estate on October 2nd, 2019
Over time, the ancestors of Miami have been erased almost completely out of existence. With no history, photographs, or language left behind for us to find, the only resource we have available to rewrite the lives of those in the past is in the soil beneath us. The roots of the Tequesta Indians run just as deep as the avocado trees Charles Deering planted in the wilderness next to his Spanish Villa. And because of the estate, we can walk in the footsteps of all the people who came before us.
Between 1913 and 1918, Charles Deering came to Miami and purchased a great sum of land that is now called the Deering estate. Charles Deering was passionate about a lot but, something that we are very grateful for today is that he was an environmentalist and preservationist. The land he had purchased was mostly underwater and full of life. The surrounding area had forests full of mangroves, Gumbo trees, ferns, crabs, manatees, and a variety of odd-looking insects. He wanted to preserve the environment, so he purchased all the land he could between the Deering Estate and Vizcaya. The parts he did modify, included his home and the limestone he removed from the ground so that the avocado trees planted could grow further underground. He also created a sort of bay by the water that Bahamians and African Americans dugout.
On my visit to the Deering Estate, I realized just how close-minded I was about the history of Miami. Thanks to John Bailly and our tour guide Vanessa I was able to see the true Miami and understand just how deep the history of South Florida runs. The first location we went to was a Paleo-Indian burial ground that was a nice hike away if you exclude the Poison Ivy and Oak. This burial ground is about 12,000 years old and consists of many artifacts such as a shark vertebrae, an alligator scoot, a 20,000-year-old mammoth tooth, and shell drills and hammers. As we passed around the objects, Vanessa explained to us that the way archeologists could tell if something were a tool or not was by seeing how well it fit in our hands. The moment I held a shell hammer and saw how perfectly it fits into my hand, I could help but feel amazed at the fact that I was holding an artifact so old. Not only that but with the objects we had, we learned that the Paleo Indians ate sharks, used dirt as sunscreen and were so educated in the environment, that they used the sap or leaves of the gumbo tree to remedy any reactions to the Poison Oak.
The second site we went to was a Tequesta burial ground. To get there, we took the road that used to be Old Cutler Road and is also the same trail that the Tequestas used to move around. This trail was more open than the first and less rigorous. Here we saw the Resurrection Fern, Maidenhair Fern, and the Coffee Plant (the host plant for butterflies). We also saw Strangler Fig, which wraps around other trees and uses them as a host almost like a parasite. Another cool plant we saw was the Red Mangrove, which has sacrificial leaves that turn yellow that absorb the salt water so that the rest of the tree can live. Something else, even more, peculiar that we saw on the way to the last site, was solution holes. Since limestone is very soft, once leaves fall and pile up in a spot that builds up water, the leaves turn the water into acid water, which then eats away at the rock and creates a hole. Over time, the hole gets bigger until it can fill up and turn into a creek. The craziest part of the solution holes was that Miami used to be full of solution holes, but they were filled in once the land was needed to create homes. This shows just how little people in Miami know about South Florida. Once we got to the Burial grounds, we were able to see the structure and ritual the Tequestas used to preserve the souls of their loved ones. The remains were placed around the largest tree in the estate, creating a hill that went all wound it. It was very impressive and beautiful to see a physical representation of their culture.
Overall my trip to the estate was incredible. What made this excursion so interesting was the small things that most people wouldn’t pay attention such as the fact that we were walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. One thing that I paid a lot of attention to was the tide. The day we went, the water had risen so much that where the water and the estate met, looked almost like an infinity pool. Through all of this, all I could think about was how the earth will always take back what is taken from it. The further the water rises, the closer we get to losing the last of what we have our ancestors, but something that will never change is that the history will always remain in the roots of the Earth whether or not we see it.
Wynwood as a Text:
Alchemy, Mortality, and Perspective in Art by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Deering Estate on October 16th, 2019
On October 16, 2019, I visited one of the most up and coming places in Miami, the Wynwood Art District. As expected, it didn’t do anything less but impress. The first place I visited was the Margulies Collection, and while the art inside was remarkable, the collector of all the art, Martin Z. Margulies was just as interesting. My class was more than lucky to have a tour with Mr.Margulies so that we could get his perspective on all the art and why he decided to collect them. The first thing you will notice about his collection is that it is full of contemporary and some modern works. The second thing you will notice is that not all the works that he has on his website are at the warehouse where he keeps all of his art. This is because Mr. Margulies has the mentality of a collector, not an artist. Mr.Margulies explained to us that as a collector, “If you stop collecting, you stop moving forward.” No matter how many pieces he likes in his collection, he will always sell and collect new ones, excluding a select few he knows he will never give away.
While each piece in his collection fits in with Mr.Margulies’ vision, each one has its different meaning as to why he chose them. The first section of his collection we saw consisted of photographs. Two photographers in his collection stood out to me the most. The first was Cindy Sherman and her series of fifteen photographs called the Bus Riders. The series was self photographs of Cindy Sherman dressed up as different people who ride buses. In each one, she was wearing different clothes, posing differently, and even painted different skin tones. The second photographer was Joel Sternfield, who took photographs of the High Line in Chelsea, New York City before it was renovated to the way it is now. These photographs were particularly interesting to me because I love seeing how many places have changed over time. It shows that everything is constantly changing just like Mr.Margulies’ collection. The topic of change, or Alchemy, as Mr.Margulies described it is common in his collection. For example, he has a maximalist art piece by Frank Stella that uses the manipulation of scrap metal to create odd shapes and make his work come off the wall. There were also works by Anslem Kiefer where he presents alchemy by using rusted old books, concrete, plants, and other materials to create his art.
Throughout our tour, Professor Bailly also brings up the most important aspects of art is its communication and how any material can be used to create art. He also explained how contemporary art shatters the way we appreciate art from a distance and how it becomes interactive. Most of Mr.Margulies’ work includes all these aspects and the biggest and most influential part of his gallery is that you are the judge on whether something is art or not. For example, a piece by Ibrahim Mahama that has a bunch of old shoe boxes stacked on top of each other (picture above). To some people, it may just be shoe boxes but its the story behind it that makes it art.
Once we left the Margulies collection, we went to go eat lunch and a classmate and I went to a place called the Taco Stand that had delicious homemade tacos and paletas, ice cream on a stick. After we left, my classmate and I parked in the craziest parking garage. It had giant sculptures of Egyptian like animals that had a bit of Indian style as well. It was extremely unique. Everything we saw on the drive from one gallery to the next, including the garage, made us talk about Miami in general and how we would describe it as bipolar. The way the weather changes, how one side of Miami is just houses and the next is buildings, or how from the outside Wynwood has a bunch of buildings that look like offices but how on the inside it is full of artwork.
The next stop was the De La Cruz collection which was also exemplary. We were gracefully greeted by Rosa De La Cruz where she explained a few art pieces to us and told us about how she takes the graduating class of New World High School to different places around the world so that people who can’t afford to travel can experience art in other places. After she introduced us to her collection, she passed us on to a tour guide that showed so much passion for each piece of art he explained. Once again, the topic of how anything can be used for art came up. One of the first pieces we saw was a string of lights hanging down from the roof. It showed how everything is temporary, like the way the light bulbs would die out sooner or later or the way life and people aren’t infinite. This was also shown in another piece, where and old tv set was playing a video on repeat. Sooner or later the tv would die out bringing up how this type of art is a disposable culture. Another interesting topic that came up was the fact that how we interpret an art piece can take control of it. For example, there was a painting by Dan Colen that looked like it could be a scene from Spongebob or the Road Runner. While the artist didn’t intend this, many people who come to the gallery are always reminded of one of those two things when they see that piece.
Although I had to leave the De La Cruz Collection early, I want to go back and take a deeper look into the artwork. Overall, my time in Wynwood was very memorable. It showed an extensive amount of unique art that changed my perspective about it and brought out many interesting conversations. While many other places around the world have their collections of art, the Wynwood Art District is growing to be a strong home for contemporary and modern art.
Vizcaya as Text
Miami’s Mirror Image by Diana Cristancho from FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on October 30th, 2019
Miami has always been one of its kind. It has its own identity and forms its own rules and breaks any boundaries. Just like Miami, James Deering, the creator of Vizcaya does whatever he wants and creates a new home with architecture and designs that have never been done before. From the very beginning, James Deering was an extremely wealthy man. He lived off of his family fortune and worked for his father’s company. At the time they were millionaires, but after investing in agricultural machinery, they became billionaires. After James Deering’s father died and got voted out from his father’s company, he used his fortune to make a name for himself. He did this by building villas in the middle of a mangrove forest in Miami. Not only did this start off as being one of its kind, but it was only the first of all the inventive ideas James Deering had. He wasn’t afraid to experiment or try new things. In addition, everything he built was his own form of art. For example, at the entrance of the villa, there are fountains that are influenced by Islam because they have calm waters that are intended to reflect the heavens above. This is particularly odd because the entire villa has multiple references to Italy and Spain. With the incorporation of ideas and architecture from different places around the world, he is making his home into a melting pot of different cultures, just like Miami.
A huge characteristic of James Deering was how much he didn’t care the rules and restrictions of society or nature. The entire villa includes aspects of dominance over nature and how he is in control. A huge part of his home is his gardens, which are structured in very unnatural shapes. He also creates Grottos in his gardens, which are cave-like spaces where people can escape society and come back to nature. With this aspect of the garden, he creates his own environment and pretty much plays the role of God. Not only does the architecture if the garden represents his control over nature and his home, but so does the sculptures and structures around the garden. He has multiple statues of different Gods strategically placed around his gardens. For example, he has faces of river gods all around the garden as well as references to Zeus. All these Gods are representations of creators and people who do whatever they want.
Going back to the topic of creating an identity for oneself, James Deering shows this inside of his house. All around his house, he has images of ships, showing that he is a conqueror, whether it is of nature or anything he can get a hold of. His home is mainly made to show everyone that he had the money and the power to do as he pleased, whether it is to have fake marble walls because they were more expensive, to have a Pompeii themed room, a refrigerator, a vacuum, a fresco painted outdoors, or a painting of the Virgin Mary cut in half. Absolutely everything in his possession was made to challenge any ideals that society has created. This is another representation of Miami and how it challenges many conservative and closed-minded ideals of other parts of the United States.
One of my favorite parts of Vizcaya was James Deering’s references to sex. This subject always seems to be taboo and the fact that James Deering is unafraid to slap phallic symbols right in front of you is very influential. The most beautiful and comedic sexual reference he has around his gardens are all the shells. There are multiple benches, fountains, and mosaics around the garden that refer to the Greek Myth of the birth of Venus (an example is provided above in the photograph). His most important placement of a large shell is in the Secret Garden, where one of the benches has a large shell above it. It holds great symbolism since the benches in gardens we’re places where people of different classes could meet and be romantic together without the influence of societal norms. In this way, James Deering is once again breaking the rules and creating his own symbols.
Design District As Text
The Power of Interpretation by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Design District on November 20th, 2019
Touring the Design District and Wynwood I was able to visit the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Wynwood walls. While visiting these locations and looking at the artwork, I was able to see both art that was intended to have meaning and not have meaning. That being said, I could see how projecting my interpretation of the artwork changed depending on what I knew about the artist and the world. The first place we went was the Yayoi Kusama exhibit of “All The Eternal Love I Have For The Pumpkins.” Immediately her story and the title of her exhibit reminded me of Silvia Plath. Walking into a room and being surrounded by projections of hundreds of versions of myself and polka dot pumpkins was like walking into another universe. Since she had synesthesia where she would hallucinate dots, she would use polka dots on her art as a symbol against the war, the dematerialization of objects, and the obliteration of the self. Walking into her infinity room did exactly that. Once I walked in, I was so amazed by all the hundreds of versions of myself. I could see every angle of myself and every pumpkin in the room. While it was like nothing I had ever experienced, it was also scary. I felt like another version of myself was going to turn around and look at me. The room is so encapsulating that it is almost necessary to allow each visitor to go in for only one minute. Time seems nonexistent inside and one could almost stay there forever and lose their mind in the process. It was a real-life version of the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter.
After leaving the world of Kusama, my class received a tour of the Institute of Contemporary Art. There we saw artists like Dan Flavin who plays with space and perception and Guadalupe Maravilla, an undocumented immigrant that created headpieces to discuss topics like immigration and homeless children. The largest part of the institute consisted of art by Sterling Ruby. With his artwork it is particularly easy to discuss the projection of yourself on art. Sterling Ruby shows so much diversity in his art with all the different mediums. At the same time, most of his art is connected since he would use scraps of material from one of his pieces for his other ones. While his art seems to be connected, the meaning of his art is unknown. This leaves his art to be open to interpretation, but as my professor, John Bailly, explained, “When something doesn’t have a concrete meaning, it creates critiques and viewers to put their intentions and personal agendas on it.” For example, one of his spray paint seems to look like pollution in the sky and one might think it is about global warming, but it can mean a variety of things. Since the tour guide explained that she thinks it is about pollution, it tends to stick in your mind but in reality, that interpretation is only one interpretation in an ecosystem of interpretations. As I was exposed more and more to his artwork, I noticed my mind running away from me and thinking about other things that reminded me of his works. For example, his ceramic pieces reminded me of what I imagined the cantos of hell in Dante’s Inferno to be. He also had a larger art piece of giant puppets with connecting hands made of cloth that had an American flag pattern. This immediately reminded me of the movie “Us” and the ending where all the people stand in a giant line holding hands. All these connections can lead to many deeper meanings about his artwork but once again it is only one interpretation out of many. My mind running wild throughout the tour proved the last comment that our tour guide made, “Art is a portal for us to think deeply.”
Once we left the institute, we went to the Wynwood Walls. There we were able to experience the power of art in a community. The point of adding art to all the walls in Wynwood is to enhance a neighborhood or building. That being said, art is one of the best investments a city can make and it is very evident in Wynwood with so many people walking around. While there is art everywhere, the difference between the art on the walls and the art in a gallery or institute is that the art on the walls is only about what is aesthetically pleasing. While I think part of this is true, I still think that some street art still has meaning. In our other trips around Miami, our professor talks about how it is about the meaning behind the art and what is intended, but if some artists don’t intend art to have meaning, how can some street artists be any different than a person who puts their collages in a gallery. Everyone has an opinion and a feeling about the art they look at so the placement of art and why it was created shouldn’t dictate if a piece is art or not.
Miami Art As Text
Selected by Diana Cristancho from FIU at Art Basel on December 4th, 2019
On Wednesday, December 4th, 2019, I visited one of the most popular events in Miami for the first time. Art Basel which only appears three times a year in three different locations around the world came to Miami Beach, Florida to showcase well known and new art from all around the world. The first part of Art Basel I visited was right on the beach called Untitled. There they had a few of the 4,000 artists exhibited in Art Basel. In this section, there are booths set up for each Gallery presenting their artwork. Untitled was mostly a primary market, where galleries sell artwork directly from the artist. For the most part, each work presented in the same booth had a coherent theme even if it was artworks by different artists. The likeness of each artwork is mostly due to the application process that each gallery has to go through before being able to present their artwork at the fair. A gallery must fill out an application with a plan as to what they will be presenting in their booth. They fill out a diagram of the placement of each piece and submit images of the art they will present. If the artwork is not complete, the gallery and artist or artists can work together to create a proposal that describes what would be created and set up at the booth. This was shown with the Benrubi Gallery, who presented a site-specific intervention called Coral Projects: Everglades Art Lab. The founding artist, Vanessa Albury was very organic with the creation of her project and had no set placing of each plant in the booth. The application explained that it was going to be based on the Everglades and that for the creation of the project, Vanessa Albury, Rachel Frank, and their team would be tracking animals, observe the environment, doing research on the health of the environment and create a natural laboratory for artists while leaving a neutral footprint that doesn’t affect the everglades. Inevitably this project talks about the controversial topic that is climate change and the survival of the everglades.
While the application process of applying to Art Basel and getting selected can be tedious, I learned that it is not the only difficulty galleries go through to complete their final product at an art fair. For example, Gallery 1957, who presented artworks from Joana Choumali, Godfried Donkor, and Simphiwe Mbunyuza explained that one of the largest difficulties was transporting the artwork and the artists from Africa. Transportation of artwork can take months and to transport the artist, galleries need to help the artists get their visas which can be a very lengthy process. At times the artists don’t get their visas on time and end up not being able to go to the fairs. For the artwork, the biggest problem is getting them through customs. The director of the Gallery, Victoria Cooke was very knowledgeable about this since she informed us that their gallery enters into 8 international art fairs a year, which is a lot for a gallery. Not only did Victoria inform us about their process of getting to art fairs but she also thoroughly explained to us the different artists presented at the booth and their backstories. The first artist was Godfried Donkor, a British Ghanaian artist that is held in many institutions worldwide. The artwork that was presented at Untitled showed the history of boxing and slave boxing through paintings of one or two men in the ring prepared to box. He wanted to show how slaves were chosen by their owners and put in a ring to fight to the death for 70 to 100 rounds. He also created a painting of Tom Molineaux who was the first black man to be celebrated after fighting his way to freedom. In all of his art, Godfried painted halos around the boxers because he wanted to celebrate them. With his painting style, he ends up discussing contemporary issues with a traditional painting style. Next to Godfried extremely masculine artwork, Joana Choumali’s feminine artwork is presented. She started as a photojournalist, but after getting sick, she could no longer take pictures and taught herself how to sew out of frustration. With her sewing skills, she began to sew the figures in photographs she would take. Through her art, she was able to explore a new way of art while challenging her sense of touch and emotions.
After visiting Untitled, my class visited Art Miami which is more of a secondary market where collectors sell art that they already bought from a gallery or another collector. Having a secondary market as well as a primary market allows a larger profit to be made. For example, there were paintings by Pablo Picasso and Fernando Botero. specific piece of art that was particularly impressive was a piece by Max Ernst, who was poor and painted on different surfaces which then translated the patterns from the surface onto his works. The fact that this piece was there was notable because his art can’t be found in places like the Perez Art Museum and the Margulies collection, but it was at Art Basel. Something else that piqued my interest during our visit was the works of Joseph Albers and Peter Halley. Joseph Albers was a color theorist, painter, and educator at Yale University who ended up teaching Halley. Since Halley was his student, you can see the influence Albers has on Halley. Both of them use rectangular and square shapes in their art. Although Halley has a similar style to Albers, Halley uses neon colors. The last artist I am going to mention is Kehinde Wiley who paints African American males in the form of traditional European paintings that were usually used for paintings for kings. Whiley’s paintings were created to empower the men in the paintings and what they have gone through. Wiley is specifically known for being asked to paint the presidential portrait of Barack Obama. All these artists are just a few of the very impressionable artists presented at Art Basel and I think it is incredible to have so many pieces with so many different meanings and stories in one place.
Bakehouse as Text
More Than One Sense by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Emerson Dorsch Gallery on January 15, 2020
My professor once mentioned that one of the most impactful aspects of contemporary art is the ability to interact with it. Having the ability to use more than just your sense of sight to observe and react to a piece of art. In the Emerson Dorsch Gallery, my class was able to experience using our sense of smell and touch while wrapping ourselves with the flamboyant and captivating pieces of art by Mette Tommerup.
When walking into the gallery, Mette’s large installation fills the room. Some were hung on the walls as thick canvases and others were draped over wooden sticks. My first impression when I walk in was amazed at how many pieces there were but my second thought was, “how am I not supposed to touch anything when there’s so much around the room?” When entering, most of the students tiptoed around the art, making sure we wouldn’t knock anything down. To our surprise, the pieces hung on the wood were made to be touched and worn. Mette encouraged us to take it off the racks and throw it over ourselves to make us part of the art. At first most of my class was hesitant but after a while, we ended up getting creative with all the different ways we could wear them. Some of the canvases were engulfing groups of three or four while others only held one. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The texture of the canvas was rough and the smell of it was as satisfying as smelling the pages of an old book. Although I originally thought walking into this gallery was going to consist of us being quiet and observing the art with our hands behind our backs, it turned into a room filled with laughter and loud conversation.
Before interacting with the artwork, Mette introduced herself and gave us a little debriefing on her artwork. She explained all her pieces were different and spontaneous. Since many of her pieces are created by the folds she makes in the cloth, no one can ever be recreated. Some of her works were large and others were small. There was a variety of warm and cool colors used, although they were mostly warm. Something very interesting about her work is that since each piece is very spontaneous, some pieces came out the way she wants and others don’t. Her works also have a lot of relations with nature. Most of the time, she would make her pieces in her backyard and nature itself would make an impact; for example, if it rained. She also had a collection of pieces that correlated to the ocean called Ocean Loop. She dropped her paintings into the ocean and watched them sink and float away. According to her, she was having a midlife crisis and this was her way of expressing herself. Not only does this show how her art is connected to her emotions and her daily life, but also the universe and nature around her. It was almost like a sacrifice and a cry for help from the world and its energies.
What captivated me the most about Mette, her colleagues at the gallery and her art was how organic it all was. Their conversations were so familiar and soothing. Watching them interact made you want to join in and ask questions, just like Mette’s art made you want to touch it. Her openness breaks boundaries and allows so many possibilities. Being in the major of Recreational Therapy, all I could think of the entire time was how amazing it would be to incorporate Mette artwork into therapy. The canvases weigh a view pounds but they’re no super heavy, so they provide just the right amount of pressure to instill relaxation. Different methods of meditation and yoga could be used under the canvases as well. There are so many opportunities that can arise from using her pieces to reduce anxiety and stress and I think it would contribute even more to her artwork.
Rubell as Text
Uncensored by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Rubell Museum
Nowadays, so many topics are controversial and taboo. Everyone is constantly walking on eggshells hoping no one gets offended. Walking into the Rubell Museum, you need to walk in with an open mind because most, if not all of the art will challenge everything you know. But what is art if it is not to speak up by using so much more than words. The Rubell holds art that speaks up on African American Culture, women’s oppression, sex and more.
One of my favorite artists, Kehinde Wiley had a piece titled Sleep displayed in the center of the museum. It is the largest Wiley piece I have seen in person and it was incredible to see. I’m fascinated with his art and the way he celebrates African American culture. In this painting, a black man is sprawled out over white sheets almost completely nude. While there are a lot of details I enjoy about Wiley’s paintings, one of my favorites is the way he paints the individual’s skin. The man is painted with such perfect and smooth skin making him seem god-like. The man sleeping is also laid down in a peaceful and royal way as if it was being painted for a king. Apart from that, the background is painted with pastel fauna that accentuates the sleeping man. Describing it with words can’t compare to its beauty and how amazed you feel looking at it. It’s only fitting that Kehinde Wiley painted Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits.
Apart from Kehinde Wiley, another artist that stood out to me was Tschabalala Self. Her piece Two Girls displays three figures of black women overlapped on top of each other. It’s made of paint, fabric, and pieces of her old works. In this piece, she challenges the societal views of black female bodies. The three figures are all very voluptuous in figure with large breasts, legs, and posteriors. The women are standing in very strong stances with their legs separated and straight postures. Two out of the three women are also staring directly at the crowd as if to dare you to oppress and objectify them. Self emphasizes their beauty and tries to show that their bodies are sanctuaries of power. So many women, especially black women, throughout history and even to this day are objectified and torn down to something less than what they are. I can’t help but connect this piece to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The figure in the painting reminds me of the character Sofia, a large and strong black woman. Not only that but of the challenges of objectification the protagonist Celie and one of the secondary characters Shug Avery faces throughout the novel. That being said, this piece wants to show that no matter what, oppressed black women will always stand tall and are more than just bodies.
Two other artists that shocked and impressed me were Charles Ray and Paul McCarthy. Charles Ray is someone you’ll never forget. His piece Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley is a compilation of naked male mannequins that are meant to be him. All of them are participating in different gay sexual acts. This sculpture is Charles’ portrayal of self-pleasure which essentially is having sex with yourself. While talking about self-pleasure is taboo seeing it in the way Ray sculpts it pushes it past the limits of just taboo. Paul McCarthy also speaks about phallic actions and culture with his sculpture of a father encouraging his son in actions of beastiality with a goat. Here McCarthy is speaking up on the relationship between a father and his son and how a boy is raised seeing sex. It’s seen as something to achieve and a right of passage, but not necessarily with a goat. Not only that, but it speaks up on how some men see women as animals and just beings to help them fulfill their needs.
All these taboo topics are only restricted by whether or not people want to talk about it. The more it is spoken about and emphasized the less censored it becomes. When I first entered the Rubell Museum I was surprised and shocked when I saw so many grotesque pieces, but after a while I expected it. The Rubell Museum is exceptional and everyone should visit so that they may be challenged by all the works.
MDC Printmaking as Text
“From Viewer to Creator” by Diana Cristancho from FIU at the Miami-Dade College
Throughout my experience in the Art Society Conflict class, we’ve gone to multiple art galleries, collections, and more. For the first time, my class was not only given the opportunity to meet an artist but to create our own art as well. We went to the Miami Dade College Kendall campus to meet Jennifer Basile where she introduced us to the art of printmaking. She is the studio art teacher at MDC and invited us to her classroom to learn from her and the equipment she has. There she introduced herself and how she is from New York and studied at the Southern Illinois University. She was very welcoming and very passionate about the different ways and types of printmaking. She spoke about printmaking using linoleum, which she had a few examples of around the room. There were actual carved out linoleum blocks and the prints already done. She also explained the process of printmaking using plexiglass. She showed us how to get the ink on the brayer and properly spread it on the plexiglass. She introduced to us different techniques to creating different shapes and textures on the ink. Afterwards she taught us how to use the press.
The experience with Jennifer was something I will never forget. The fact that she has an exhibition in the LNS isn’t surprising. After looking at a few of her pieces I couldn’t help but focus on the different thicknesses of the cuts into the linoleum. A lot of her work includes nature and shows different environments. Throughout our conversations with her, she expressed how sustainable and environmentally friendly she tries to be. She talked about using less plastic and reusing plastic bags a lot. The way she spoke about the environment, her students, her work and printmaking made the environment very comfortable. You could tell that she is an amazing teacher.
Deering Estate As Text
“A Home That Inspires”by Diana Cristancho from FIU at The Deering Estate
The Deering Estate holds many important roles such as protecting the environment, preserving the history of South Florida, and hosting many beautiful events, but a role that it holds that isn’t seen from afar is that it inspires. Only those who have entered the gates of the Deering Estate can truly experience the meaning of this. If you stop and take a moment, nature and its silence have so much to say through the words, paintings, and actions of others.
A straight, downward walk to the end of the estate, you’ll see a breathtaking spot, the Boat Basin. This small body of water acts as a resting area for many animals such as manatees, sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and stingrays. Getting the chance to see one of these spectacular animals in their habitat is not something you get to see every day. In this spot, you can take inspiration and a moment of peace from almost anything, whether it be the tide rising and falling, the sunset and sunrise, the island of Chicken Key in the distance, the Woodpeckers pecking an almost symmetrical hole in the hollowness of a palm tree or seeing Ibises fly from the mangroves to the mainland. It is a perfect place to have a picnic, read a book, write a poem, or simply meditate.
While this spot sounds like the most perfect place to be, the Deering Estate has a variety of other locations just as beautiful as this one. My favorite, yet simple spot on the estate is the Mango and Avocado groves in the Nature Preserve. If you sit at the back of the grove you can see the shadows of the trees across the grass and the light of the sun shining between all the leaves. You can almost distinguish each ray of sunlight hitting the ground and when the Mango trees are in bloom, it is even more captivating. Another spot where you can see this as well is in the Tropical Hardwood Hammock. It is a cool and shady place that is composed of fauna from the Caribbean Islands.
Cutler Creek Bridge is another spot on the estate that seems unreal. When the tide is high and the water flows under the bridge, you can sometimes see otters swimming by. The bridge also has an elegant, natural decor of ferns along the sides of the bridge. Make sure to keep a lookout for the Maidenhair fern while you’re there. The next spot is quite symbolic and holds a lot of mystery. It’s where man meets nature, the Airplane. In the 1990s, an airplane crashed into the mangroves and is now being consumed by the habitat. There is so much irony here, considering that usually the roles are reversed and humans are the ones consuming and destroying nature.
The last and easiest spot to reach is the People’s Dock. This location is East of the Visitor’s Center and is on the Biscayne Bay. Here people come to fish, watch the sunset, have picnics and play guitar. All these locations on the Deering Estate are harborers of creativity and safe spaces for people, plants, and animals. It distances itself from the usual chaos of Miami and creates a home that inspires.
Miami Beach As Text
“An Architectural Paradise” by Diana Cristancho from FIU at Miami Beach
Miami Beach bringing in 20 million tourists each year comes with its reasons. The aesthetic and design of South Beach are like no other and it is all thanks to the cultivation of art and architecture in the area. The first aspect and most captivating part of the area is the Art Deco Architecture. It is a design that derives from the early 20th century and its obsession with machinery and technology. Mimicking the formations of machines, many of the buildings are three stories tall and have the faces of the buildings separated into 3 parts. Apart from that, most of the buildings have the same range of colors of white and pastels acting as a reflection of the ocean and the environment around it. Other details of the architecture include concrete shades hovering over windows, glass bricks, Terrazzo floors, relief artwork, and neon colors giving it the feeling of Miami Vice. A spectacular place to visit with Art Deco architecture is the Jewish Museum of Florida. Not only does it have the ambiance of this sleek architecture, but it also has 80 stained glass windows, a copper dome, and a marble bimah.
Having architecture with such an intense artistic value, it is only fitting that events such as Art Basel, Swim Week, and Model Volleyball are hosted in South Beach. Hosting so many large events, important figures such as Gianni Versace have a large impact on the neighborhood. The Italian Fashion designer lived in an Art Deco building called the Villa Casa Casuarina. Having such a huge influence on the culture of the area, he emphasized the self-indulgent aspect of it all. Even though South Beach can be described as hedonistic, it has its more beautiful and natural features. For example, the Betsy Poetry Rail, in an alleyway by the Betsy Hotel, displays poems of many authors who have influenced Miami through their writing. One especially distinguished artist includes Richard Blanco and his poem “Some Days the Sea.” In his poem, he emphasizes the beauty of the ocean and its environment, as well as its constant transformation. Apart from that, many walls around Ocean Drive have Relief Art, which portrays abstract depictions of plants and animals.
With its architecture, art, events, and flamboyant culture, Miami Beach is a paradise like no other.