Nicholas Pastrana: Miami as Text 2019-2020

Father-son bonding in Frankfurt, Germany.


My name is Nicholas Pastrana, I’m 18 years old and a sophmore. I’m currently a finance major, would like to pursue a double major in economics and complete the Pre-Law certificate because I have ambitions of going to law school. When I was enrolling in classes, this one in particular stood out to me because my family and I love travelling to experience the different works of art, architectural styles, and cultures of the world. My favorite artist has to be Vincent van Gogh, specifically his sailboats. I look forward to studying art and it’s influences on society more in depth in this class so that the next time I travel I’m not just interested in what looks nice, but in what has deeper meaning.

Norton as Text

In the Moment by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at the Norton Museum on 9/22/2019

Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera, 1884 by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

This past weekend I had the opportunity of visiting the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. We began on the third floor exploring the Greek’s affinity for the human body and progressed through the Gothic era idealizing spirits and nature. My interest grew through the renaissance period as artists began to explore the world again and merged science with art. It was around this point when my Professor, Mr. Bailey, explained that the value of an artwork was largely determined by its individuality; who did it first. I didn’t fully understand this until I came across Claude Monet’s Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera, 1884.

In this masterpiece, Monet attempts to capture the moment by leaving behind firm lines, using light and color to capture movement. In doing so, Monet paints the gardens in such a way that the observer may glance at the painting and for a split second perceive it as if they are looking through a window. I found this incredibly impressive because today we spend thousands of dollars on technology in attempt to “capture the moment” by taking a picture, while Monet, with no technology, was able to do so by hand with a brush and paint.

Deering Estate as Text

What Lies Below by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at the Deering Estate on 10/2/2019

Paleo-Indian Archaeological site at the Deering Estate, Miami-Dade County Florida.

My entire life I’ve lived in Palmetto Bay, Florida, no more than ten minutes away from the Deering Estate. When I was in primary school, since it was in the area, we commonly held “field-trips” at the Deering Estate. In fact, I could remember the man-made wooden path we followed from an elementary school field-trip where we ate lunch at the benches at the end of the path. Back then I thought the Deering Estate was cool because of all the big trees and fascinating bugs with complete ignorance for the extensive history beneath the soil.

This past week I had the privilege of learning the cultural history of the Deering Estate from our tour guide Vanessa and Professor Bailey. The “house” on the estate is a Spanish-influenced villa built by Charles Deering in 1900, accompanied by the “Richmond Cottage”, a more American styled inn. These architectural beauties sharply contradict the landscape of mangroves and ocean, and at the time the surrounding bohemian tribes.

We’ve modernized Miami so much that the indigenous landscape of the Deering Estate looks foreign. I found it perturbing to go from the man-made concrete jungle of Florida International University to the untainted nature of the Deering Estate and ponder the benefits of our industrialization versus the irreversible effects of our destruction.

On our first excursion we visited a Paleo-Indian archaeological site where we examined tools and poetry dating back millennia. I found the conch shell, stripped to the center to be used as a drill, among the most innovative and intriguing tools they had. It was impressive to think how far we’ve come that today I can stop by home-depot and buy an efficient and powerful, electric drill. Ten thousand years ago, the people living on the same soil as me, had to break down shells to use as hand-drills.

old Oak tree, encircled by Tequestan corpses at the Deering Estate, Miami-Dade County Florida.

Our second excursion led us to a Tequesta burial ground. This was the path I had remembered from primary school, which was slightly disturbing to recall that I was more interested in what I was going to have for lunch than the bodies beneath my feet. Nonetheless, I found the burial of the Tequesta’s fascinating. Although they did not share modern technologies, the Tequesta were obviously an organized group of people who shared religions and customs. We were brought to a large oak tree, which used to be a Gumbo Limbo tree where about a dozen Tequestas were buried in a circle around the base of the tree.

Wynwood as Text

What Makes Art, Art? by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Wynwood on 10/16/2019

Stalagmite of colors supported by wooden plank. De La Cruz Collection Wynwood.

This past week was my first visit to both the Margulies Collection and De La Cruz Collection in Wynwood. Both are private collections of contemporary art in Wynwood, Florida. First, at the Margulies Collection, attention was grabbed by a room full of silhouettes of people made of burlap sacks made by Magdalena Abakanowicz. It was a somber setting, with dozens of figures shaped like people, but lifeless. My professor explained the artists desire to portray and express the inhumanity of WWII, which in the stillness of the room, we all felt. What was impressive about the artworks like this at the Margulies Collection was how far they strayed from typical paintings yet could still invoke emotions in you as if they were the most detailed, colorful, and engaging works of Michelangelo.

In the De La Cruz Collection the walls were lined by paper printed with designs in black ink. I was shocked to see the statue of a fish holding a guitar and a stalagmite of colors rising from the floor. The stalagmite was created by an artist who dropped out of art school, as a rebuttal to the art community he put a piece of wood supporting the stalagmite as the Greeks would do to their statues. This continues the battle of contemporary art, proving art is more than just something that is nice to look at. Art can be anything that invokes, supports, or argues a belief.

Vizcaya as Text

Villas in the Americas by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at The Gardens of Vizcaya on 10/30/2019

The “living room” of the gardens. Vizcaya, Miami.
The entrance to one of the more hidden parts of the garden, usually where forbidden lovers would meet as specified benches. Vizcaya, Miami.

I was astounded when visiting the Deering Estate to see a Spanish villa build by Charles Deering in the mangroves of Miami. Little did I know that his brother, James Deering, had built a substantially larger European style villa just a few miles up the coast. I found irony in how grandiose and pretentious the home and gardens were and how Miami still holds that stereotype today. Nonetheless, if I were capable, of course I would purchase the estate for myself. I also appreciated the flow of nature and the home. Everything was very open and so the gardens felt like rooms of the house, but outdoors. It’s incredible to think about the amount of planning went into the estate, from its outdoor party rooms, to its secret lovers’ spots, to the massive barge, let alone the mansion itself!

After a complete tour of Vizcaya, we went to the LnS Gallery. There, we had the pleasure of speaking with Sergio Cernuda and Luisa Lignarolo about the art industry, the function of a gallery, and its pros and cons for an artist. I was shocked to find out that galleries take about fifty percent of the revenues of a piece of art they sell. But in reality, it makes sense because if not the artist has to take time from making art in order to market and sell the art, he/she has already made. Using the gallery, an artist can produce more consistent profits, and usually larger profits as well. I was also astounded by how little art galleries make. I had assumed that the people selling art works worth millions of dollars must also be raking in millions of dollars, but between the split with the artist, the overhead of the gallery, and expenses for public relations and marketing, the galleries don’t end up with much. Turns out the art business is a lot harder than just pouring wine and sweet-talking wealthy people.

Design District as Text

Contemporary Art in Contemporary Miami by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Institute of Contemporary Art and Wynwood Walls, Miami on 11/13/2019

Staring into infinity, in the Infinity Room. Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

We began our day at Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity room. The aesthetic of the room is incredible, as well as the ideology behind it. I found it amazing, looking around the room and only see myself, surrounded by these peculiar, brilliant, polka-dotted pumpkins. I could see why someone would want to spend the allotted minute inside of there reflecting upon their life or the lives around them. However, I’m disappointed to say that I, enraptured by the beauty of the room, spent the 10 seconds that my minute felt like, taking pictures. It was disturbing to hear how such an amazing artist was rejected so harshly by the world just 40 years ago. The patriarchy I learned of in the art world was astounding, I had no idea it had been so sexist, I had always imagined artists as a very forward thinking and openly expressive community. Especially in a city like New York. It is a shame she still resides in a mental health clinic, I think she’d appreciate how hard we’ve tried to become more accepting, not just as an art community, but the world in general.

Pieces of Hank Willis Thomas’ Unbranded. Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

I also found Hank Willis Thomas’ Unbranded series at the ICA very fascinating; In analyzing the subliminal messages of advertisements I found many positive reinforcements and negative concerns. For example, take the brands off the Absolute Vodka advertisement and you have a man towering over a lying woman in a bikini with drinks in his hand. It appears very provocative and very patriarchal. On the other hand, you have Coca Cola which shows a group of young boys who seem to be enjoying each others company sitting at the steps of an apartment building in what appears to be some large city. This advertisement was much more pleasant, it made me want to grab lunch and a coke with friends.

Afterwards, we rode over to Wynwood to see the Wynwood Walls. My professor then explained to us how powerful the investment in art can be towards a city. Craig Robins in particular was a huge influence to developing Wynwood into the art mongol its become. By hosting free art exhibits in his warehouse spaces he was able to raise the value of both the warehouse space and art considerably. Many people believe, and I’ve been guilty of it as well, that the corporate world and the art world are to separate entities that are not compatible. Craig Robins proves that when both worlds come together, they are capable of achieving great things.

Refinery at Wynwood Walls, Wynwood, Miami.

Miami Art as Text

The International Gallery by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at UNTITLED, ART. and ART MIAMI, on 12/14/2019

Entrance to UNTITLED, ART. Lummus Park, Miami.

I had heard of Art Basel before but had never made the effort to go nor was I aware that it included satellite fairs as well. This played into my astonishment as we approached the massive UNTITLED, ART. tent on the beach.

My assumptions that art fairs like this were overrun with snooty artists, their collectors, and the pretentious millionaires looking to purchase the art to show off to their dinner party guests were misinformed. Our class was pleasantly greeted by a lady associated with the fair who informed us of the hundred-twenty-six exhibitors at UNTITLED, ART. She went on to explain how galleries apply to join the art fair by submitting an application of pieces they believe they’d like to display up to a year in advance. Then, she re-enforced the ideas our professor, Mr. Bailly, had taught us of the value of reputation and integrity of artists and galleries and how that plays into the monetary value of their pieces. As a business major, I found this fascinating because in the unregulated art market a blue square painted by one artist may be worth hundreds of times more than a blue square painted by another in contrast to the corporate world where two cars of similar quality are going to be worth about the same monetary value.

Unfortunately, being set on the beach of Miami, even in winter, the temperature is still extremely hot. The air vents were on full-blast which occasionally made it hard to hear but I preferred it to the blaring heat melting us all. The most impressive part I found about the structure of the fair was the long lanes which one could walk down with exhibitors lining each side. From many points of view, you may look down and see three or four styles of artwork from a plethora of artists from galleries located in several different continents. This degree of global inclusion gives people an opportunity at education that otherwise you’d need to travel the globe for, so I’m glad I got the opportunity to attend.

ST. MICHEAL by Godfried Donkor, Gallery 1957, UNTITLED, ART., Miami.

My favorite exhibition at UNTITLED, ART. was one from Gallery 1957, a contemporary art gallery from Ghana, Africa. The gallery’s director, Victoria Cooke told us of the three artists she had on display, Joana Choumali, Godfried Donkor, and Simphiwe Mbunyuza, and their backgrounds. I appreciated that she was able to provide and Instagram to the gallery and their artists which I thought was a great idea to appeal to the younger people interested in the art. Godfried Donkor’s artworks peaked my interest the most, where he depicts prominent African boxers with Baroque circular golden halo’s in appreciation for their contribution to the sport as well as recognition of equality and freedom for their race.

Upon finishing our tour of UNTITLED, ART. our class took a break for lunch then went to Biscayne Bay for Art Miami. Art Miami was even larger with over a hundred-seventy-eight galleries. I really enjoyed how these contemporary artworks commonly challenged our ideas of society, but in a thought-provoking way rather than aggressive. It wasn’t like having someone tell you “your ideas are wrong, you are wrong, you are bad” or vice versa “you are good, and they are bad”, viewing the art and admiring its purpose was like having someone ask you “have you thought of it this way?”. Which helped me keep and indulge in an open mind.

Bakehouse Art Complex as Text

The House of Artists by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, on 1/15/2020

Two-sided embroidery artwork by Carrie Sieh, on display at Bakehouse Art Complex Exhibition.

The Bakehouse Art Complex’s exterior is deceiving of the value of the interior. My class and I were greeted by the Acting Director of Bakehouse Art Complex; Cathy Leff. She told us about Bakehouse’s history; how a group of artists turned the industrial bakery into a safe-haven for artists. Bakehouse was established as a non-profit made to develop and support artists, giving them workspaces and helping them with exhibitions. Inside the building is a maze of white hallways lined with doors which all have a nametag on them, the name of the artist whose studio is behind the door. It’s incredible to think about all the amazing minds simultaneously working behind the walls.

First, we walked through and exhibition that the Bakehouse was holding. We were kindly toured by the exhibition’s curator, then went on to explore the maze of art studios. Eventually we came to a door with the nametag “Rhea Leonard”. She invited us into her studio; all of her walls were lined with sketches and drawings of all sizes. Rhea went on to explain that she was an African American artist, she focuses her works a lot on the African American body which usually ties back to African Americans and their place in society. Her works were impressive in both their beauty and symbolism. In many of her drawings Rhea focuses the attention of the viewer by using black or gold to contrast the grays in the rest of the picture. I also found interesting how she would sketch out her works on a small piece of paper then gradually sketch it bigger until it was more-or-less the size that she wanted. Unfortunately, she explained, sometimes a drawing will look really good when it’s small but will not be what she envisioned when it’s larger. After meeting Rhea, we continued outside where we met another two artists working on renovating a trunk into a living space. In just the few hours we visited I fell in love with Bakehouse’s mission, accomplishments, and atmosphere. I had no idea such endeavors existed, let alone thrived like Bakehouse does. Their staff and artists both welcoming and come together to form an amazing place for artistic development and education.

Rubell Museum as Text

An Artist is Not Limited to Their Brush by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Rubell Museum and Michael Loveland’s studio, on 1/29/2020

Father supporting his son’s beastiality, Paul McCarthy, on display at Rubell Museum.

Our tour guide explained to us that the Rubell Museum started as a collection by Don and Mira Rubell. The Rubell’s enjoyed doing studio visits to the artists to learn about their works. The collection hosts artworks from dozens of artists including Jeff Koons, Charles Ray, and Paul McCarthy. I found Charles Ray’s works particularly fascinating because I enjoyed the way they mocked narcissism. The Rubell Museum has several very sexual pieces on display, while some people found them too aggressive, I thought it was appropriate because they addressed issues that need to be talked about regardless of being taboo. For example, Paul McCarthy’s work of a father visibly supporting his son’s beastiality. I believe McCarthy’s work makes an analogy to the father’s role to teach their son to either objectify or appreciate women.

Michael Loveland describing one of his collages about a neighborhood he helped make historic to avoid over-development.

After lunch, my class and I had the privilege of visiting Michael Loveland’s studio. Loveland shared with us his experiences moving to New York in order to assimilate into the art world, but how he actually found more success moving back to Miami. Michael Loveland doesn’t limit himself to a paintbrush and paint, instead he makes his pieces mostly out of things he finds in the streets. His collages are made of symbols of the stories that they tell. When describing his collages Loveland said; “They don’t need to necessarily look pretty, they just need to do something for me.” The most interesting idea Loveland shared was keeping your own artworks. Loveland makes it a point of keep a piece from each series that he does, this way he can always be a holder of his work. I agreed with Loveland that it would be sad to get to the end of your career as an artist and not own any of your works.

Printmaking as Text

Hands-on Art by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU, at Miami-Dade College Printmaking Class on 2/13/20

Learning from the Pro.

I had only heard of printmaking in the sense of making books and newspapers. This past week I had the opportunity to learn the art of printmaking with Professor Basile at Miami-Dade College. My class arrived in the afternoon to her printmaking room at the College of Arts and Philosophy. She explained in depth the process of making a print; the ink, the tools to take out the ink and prepare it for the glass, and how to work the print press. I was very impressed by how inviting Professor Basile was, she had only known my professor before that day but treated my class as if we were one of her own. Wiping the ink off the glass was interesting because unlike other artworks where the artists puts stuff together or puts colors onto a medium, prints are made from removing the ink. We only worked with black ink but by depending on how much we wiped off we were able to create dozens of shades between white, grey, and black. Professor Basile also taught us about using cut-outs of paper to create designs in our prints, which left our prints with tons of figures otherwise difficult to make.

My first Print!

The print I made was of space and I was able to make a planet and spaceship. I used a cut out of paper with ruffled edges to wipe a circle around the planet giving it the impression of rings. Using a rag, I pressed dots with soft edges around the glass which left “stars”. Overall it was a fun and informative experience. I really enjoyed being able to learn about the art and it’s creation process through a hands-on approach.

Deering Estate as Text (Marine)

Where Land Meets Water by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at the Deering Estate on 4/26/2020

The Deering Estate’s Boat Basin

In my previous posts on the Deering Estate, I wrote mostly about the land and its conservational efforts towards the land and wildlife living on it. However, the Deering Estate works with marine life as well. The Deering Estate sits on a body of water called Biscayne Bay and has several amenities relating to the water. Biscayne Bay is a body of which accounts for most of the water surrounding Miami. The Bay serves as a sanctuary for marine wildlife including; manatee, fish, and crustaceans. I can speak from personal experience; Biscayne Bay has a ton of young lobsters in it. Due to over-harvesting, in Miami you’re only allowed to harvest lobsters outside of Biscayne Bay now. The Bay acts as a nursery to ensure that the lobsters grow and reproduce so that we don’t harvest the species to extinction. The Deering Estate, well aware of crisis like these, makes it a point to educate their guests on these problems and their solutions.

The Deering Estate holds three amnesties where guests can interact with Biscayne Bay; the Boat Basin, People’s Dock, and Deering Point. Additionally, the Deering Estate offers canoe rides to Chicken Key, which is a body of land covered in mangroves but teeming with wildlife about a mile offshore. The Boat Basin allows the visitors to get up close to manatees, sharks, turtles, sharks, and dolphin. It’s most common to see manatee in the Boat Basin as the love to congregate and mate there. No watercrafts are allowed in the Boat Basin to protect the wildlife. The People’s Dock is open to the public free of charge, people go there to fish, have picnics, and admire Biscayne Bay. Guests also visit the People’s Dock to watch the sunrise since it faces East. You can find the People’s Dock east of the Visitor’s Center. Deering Point is a non-motorized watercraft dock, here people launch canoes, kayaks, and kitesurf. When visiting Deering Point you will usually find people having picnics, children playing in the mangroves, people fishing the canal, and teenagers – though prohibited – jumping off the bridge into the water. Though these amenities and their services the Deering Estate provides guests ample opportunity to learn about and interact with marine life.

South Beach as Text

The Designs Behind the Shoreline by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Miami Beach on 4/26/2020

Miami Beach’s shoreline

When you hear “Miami” what comes to mind? South Beach. You think of the neon lights, beach-side hotels and café’s, sports cars, nightclubs, and beautiful beaches. Interestingly, the architecture of Ocean Drive and the Art Deco neighborhood was largely influenced in 1922 by an event that occurred across the globe. The opening of the Tomb of King Tutankhamen. In the tomb were linear designs which appealed to American and European artists and architects. Back in Miami, this translated to linear designs of buildings and linear designs on buildings.

Another fascinating aspect of the Art Deco neighborhood’s architecture is their use of pastel colors on whites. This is drawn upon in Mediterranean architecture and shares congruencies with Coral Gables’ Mediterranean Revival architecture. At night, driving down Ocean Drive you’ll be greeted with flashy neon lights, but during the day you’ll see white and soft-toned buildings with pastels reflective of the nearby ocean, sky, and sand. These added colors nicely complement the buildings and landscape, they give me the impression I’m in an 80’s movie every time I drive down Ocean Drive.

The Mediterranean Ziggurat structure, pyramids which each level smaller than the level below it, can also be seen along the Art Deco skyline. Many of the rooftops of apartment buildings are ziggurats. The relief art, or sculptures carved into the material they are being created on, is also seen in Mediterranean architecture. Relief art decorates hotels, restaurants, and even corporate business buildings around Miami Beach, it’s not uncommon to see the beautiful relief art of flowers, trees, or figures of people. Miami Beach’s architecture was not only influenced by Mediterranean architecture, it’s also influenced by the design of automobiles, plants, ships, machinery, and more. I just found the Mediterranean aspects most interesting to write about as they have been the most captivating to me when I’ve visited Miami Beach. The truth is Miami’s architecture, like its people, is a melting pot of cultures.

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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