Marielisa Villasmil: Miami as Text 2019

Hey! My name is Marielisa and I’m a pre-med student at FIU hoping to get a B.S. in Biology and potentially a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies as well. I want to be a doctor in the future, but I wasn’t always set on this. When I first applied to FIU I was actually an Exploratory Humanities and Arts major! However, I later decided the arts fit my life more as a hobby and the sciences made more sense as a career since I’ve always really wanted to help people. I play (or rather used to play) piano and violin, and I also like to paint/draw on my free time although I’m still learning. One of the main reasons I signed up for this class was, not only because I found it so interesting and exciting, but in hopes to never lose my creative side. I’m really excited for this class because I’ve been wanting to try different things and find new hobbies and interests. Overall, I really think this class will help me do that, as well as help me have a greater understanding and appreciation for art!

Picture taken by Sofia Guerra on 09/22/19

NORTON AS TEXT: “Art is Art” by Marielisa Villasmil of FIU at Norton’s Museum of Art

I recently stumbled upon the phrase “Art is art. Everything else is everything else” by Ad Reinhardt. And I couldn’t help but think, “well duh.” Whenever I looked up the definition of art, the answer was always along the lines of ‘art has no limits, art can be anything and everything.’ So, that includes a painting, music, or even a toddler’s scribbles with crayon on the wall. And although the phrase that “art is art” seemed so ambiguous, I accepted anything labelled as art with open arms. Looking at Claude Monet’s “Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera” was no different. It was serenity with screaming emotion. At a closer look, the details made the piece look so chaotic but a few feet back, it all came together in order. It was different and it was bold, as art has the power to be. And I loved it. But to think that at its time Monet’s technique could be seen as controversial or a threat was baffling. Wait a minute, were there rules to art I didn’t know about? I thought art was art, no question about it. But that very definition of art that we don’t even think twice about today wasn’t always as such. Tradition was something so interconnected with art that for Monet to even challenge it shook the world. But it’s thanks to him and other artists like him that we have the Impressionism era. A time where art made a shift and gained a different perspective. Suddenly, art could be more natural and with a major shift in light and color. In my opinion, this is when the true definition of art we know today was born. Art is art. It will never change but will never stay the same either.

Picture taken by Patricia Menéndez

DEERING AS TEXT: “This is Miami” by Marielisa Villasmil of FIU at Deering Estate

            If someone were to ask me “What is Miami” a few days back, I would’ve gone on a tangent about palm trees and overcrowded beaches. But thanks to the Deering estate, I realized Miami is so much more.

            We hiked through the wildlife of Miami and reached a historical landmark of Miami’s history, a Paleo-Indian sinkhole. This site is where the oldest remains have been found along with fossils and tools dating back thousands of years ago, like a mammoth’s tooth nearly 27 thousand years old. Going down into the site and just taking it all in was astounding and made me realize just how deep Miami’s roots really go. Never before had I been this close to such an archeological site and been this in touch with nature. It makes me wonder if myself or even my generation will ever contribute even a fraction to Miami’s culture as this site does. Will we leave an imprint on the sand?

            The experience didn’t end there. Another hike took us to yet another pivotal spot of Miami’s culture, a preserved Tequesta burial grounds more than 500 years old surrounded by untamed wildlife. At first it seemed like the surrounding woods covered the site and, in a sense, covering history. But in reality, the engulfing of the surrounded wildlife is a perfect example of how nature and history coexists in the city of Miami. If you were to ask me what Miami is now, the real Miami, I’d say: Miami is deep-rooted and raw. Miami is old and new. Miami tells a story. What’s yours?

Picture taken by Vicky Menache

WYNWOOD AS TEXT: “Art through time” by Marielisa Villasmil of FIU at Margulies Collection and de la Cruz collection

            If you were to follow art from the very beginning to now, you wouldn’t see much change. From body painting to sculptures, the message is the same. Art is whatever you want it to be. Art can be expressive and poetic, but it can also be very clear and simple. Art can be unique or ordinary. Art is art and that hasn’t changed in the hundreds of years that we can observe. What has changed through time is the medium of art. Visiting both art collections, I was able to witness that. From photographers to painters to sculptors to artists, art has continued to be expressive and open minded. The communication aspect of art has never changed, but materials are less limited now. 

            Think about Marcel Duchamp. His works of art, especially the urinal, are the most influential artist of the 20th century. He reinvented to way art was perceived. He took ordinary items that were not art and claimed them to be art. John Chamberlain was also huge influence on the art world. He created art from any kinds of things he found lying around anywhere, like car parts. Artists like these have faced rejection and disproval by how they have created art but thanks to them, art has continued to evolve and branch out into the huge cloud of possibilities it is now. And thanks to collections like the Margulies and de la Cruz, the public is able to see how art has come to be what it is today. 

Picture taken by Vicky Menache

VIZCAYA AS TEXT: “The mix of Cultures” by Marielisa Villasmil of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and LnS Gallery

            I used to think Vizcaya was just a pretty old house in coral gables with a really nice yard. That statement still holds true but besides its beauty, Vizcaya is so important to art and to Miami’s culture. James Deering was able to put his fortune into making one of Miami’s most important pieces of history and culture. He created a unique look by mixing cultures of Europe and Miami that has become a brand of Coral Gables and Miami itself. But is Vizcaya really a creation from European inspiration or is it cultural appropriation? Vizcaya has many elements that almost don’t fit it being that it’s in Miami. For example, there’s a victory arch at the very front of the museum when Deering had never led or won a war. Then you add portraits over the house of family members and children when they had no actual connection to Deering himself, it was a facade. 

            Which makes you think, am I supposed to see Vizcaya as a piece of historic beauty and a huge contribution to Miami’s culture or is this just one man’s way of appropriating European culture and flaunting his wealth in the process? But like everything debated in the art world there’s never a right or easy answer. 

            A complete 360 to Vizcaya was the LnS Gallery. This was an establishment not based on wealth or appropriation but based on the foundation that art was the boss and the gallery was just there to give it a platform to shine. This was such an interesting experience because up until now we had not seen art for its quantitative value which can be just as important as what it represents and means for culture. 

Picture taken by me (Marielisa Villasmil)

DESIGN DISTRICT AS TEXT: “Societal Art” by Marielisa Villasmil of FIU at Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami and Wynwood Walls

Overall, the most popular art and the art that we rave about have been art of the past. But we don’t talk nearly as much about the art from today, the ones that actively influence our culture. Yayoi Kusama is a prime example of that art. She immersed into New York action art and has now become an icon for expressionism, minimalism, pop art and feminist art according to many critics. She had made polka dots her signature and now pumpkins as well, both of which are seen throughout her Infinity Mirror Rooms. The “All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins” infinity mirrored room was absolutely mesmerizing. One minute inside is barely enough to really capture the different elements that are brought together in this work of art, like light, and shadows, depth, space, and dimensions. Kusama’s art is so unique, not just because of her creativity with the art but also how society has responded to her art. It’s almost revolutionary how social media and technology has made Kusama and her art thrive. Her art has become the center of attraction for years now, where people make lines of 2 hours to see her work. As the ICA tour guide said to us, culture had to catch up with her.

            Another example of how today’s art is embedded into Miami’s culture and society is Wynwood itself. This art is where street and graffiti art started in Miami and where it has flourished, attracting thousands of tourists a year. It is also art that has a business as well. Many artists create works of art in this area for commissions or for important events like Art Basal. But regardless of it being for business or not, Wynwood is a pivotal spot where art is the star and it is a huge part of our culture.

Collage made by myself (Marielisa Villasmil)
Left picture: Xavier Cortada’s “Letters to the future”
Middle: Stallman, “Robot Heart” oil on canvas
Right (circle): Kenneth Noland’s “Mysteries: Wild Heart” acrylic on canvas

ART MIAMI AS TEXT: “In the name of A.R.T.” by Marielisa Villasmil of FIU at Art Miami and UNTITLED, ART

Attending two of the biggest art fairs during Miami Art Week was an experience like no other. Never being to an art fair before, I almost felt like a fish out of water surrounded by works by so many amazing artists but in an amazing way. For about 6 weeks, we had been learning about art from different world but more importantly how it connected with Miami’s community and visiting Art Miami and Untitled, Art was the perfect summary to that.

The beauty of the art world is that looking at art can be a completely different experience for people depending on their approach. Before this class, I would sometimes see art, but I wouldn’t give it the appreciation it deserved if I thought it wasn’t what I liked. But now, no matter my initial reaction to it, I am so much more inclined to stop and appreciate it and especially learn more about it. Once my approach changed, art has become much more valuable to me.  

Collage made by me (Marielisa Villasmil) via
Left picture: Me at UNTITLED, ART
Right (circle): Joana Choumali, “Trapped Soul” (mixed media, embroidery and collage) via

I have the amazing art gallery directors and curators that took the time to talk to our class about their gallery and artwork to thank for that, like Victoria Cooke, director of Gallery 1957. She really helped paint the colorful world of Joana Choumali, one of the artists the gallery represents. Her work is nothing of the ordinary. Instead, it’s everything contemporary art represents: different and bold. While she uses some traditional mediums of art, like embroidery and collage, she manages to combine them seamlessly in harmony to create art like nothing I’ve seen before. Choumali’s work also resonated with me so much because of how she is expanding representation of artists from Ghana in the art world. 

Collage made by me (Marielisa Villasmil) via
Left picture: Peter Halley, “Super 30” Acrylic, day-glo acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas

Middle picture: Punkmetender
Right: Deborah Butterfield, “Lili’u” cast bronze

The beauty of art and its medium was really exemplified at Art Miami with its cutting-edge pieces. One artist that really stood out was Peter Halley and his take on the modern world with Super 30. This was a piece that was very eye catching since it practically pops out from the wall with its neon colors and textured work. But once again, only after learning about what it represented did this painting really becomes something I could relate to and appreciate to its fullest. Super 30 seems to depict society today where people just live in a box they call home, travel in cars which are really just boxes with wheels, to go to work which that is nothing but another box. Having a painting be so minimalistic in nature, yet be so bold in its meaning is exactly what it means to create art. 

This experience has been such a perfect synthesis of what I have learned throughout the about art and its importance. I feel like I am better able to view art as a comprehensive creative work by passionate artists. Overall, I also learned to appreciate how these artists contributed to the community. Miami is built on art, and art fairs as big as this one really exemplifies that. Artists’ contribution to society is often overlooked, but their contribution brings enjoyment and enrichment to people’s lives. 

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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