Sophia Gandarillas: Miami as Text 2019-2020


My name is Sophia Gandarillas and I attend Florida International University. I’m a pre-health student currently obtaining two degrees, one in Biological Sciences and the other in Interdisciplinary Studies with minors in Chemistry and Spanish. I have always loved art and I believe this passion was instilled in me by my abuelo, who was an artist. I’m excited to be seeing the art that South Florida has to offer as I have not seen much of it thus far. In the picture above I am standing with my favorite painting, Irises by Van Gogh.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Norton as Text

As I studied the piece “Roses” by Charles Ethan Porter I was immediately drawn to the soft, yet powerful use of the colors found in the petals of the roses. These colors, when coupled with the simple and deeper tones of the vase and the background, allow the focus to be drawn to the beautiful flowers. Charles Ethan Porter, an African American artist, became well known for his floral compositions. His composition is very formal, yet he adds in a casual note with the flower and petals that have fallen loose. The composition also has an aspect, balanced asymmetry, which is very pleasing to the eye and is a common characteristic of Aesthetic art movement. His loose portrayal of the still-life is a very familiar style to me personally as I grew up seeing my abuelo paint in such a style. Whether from far away or up close, these roses bring a sort of peace and entrancement the longer one observes the detail and depth of painting. 

The pieces throughout the Norton were all very unique in style and it was interesting to the evolution of art and styles employed as time progressed from the gothic era into what we can see today in the contemporary art world. It opened my eyes to the process of the introduction and later acceptance of what at the time was considered radical artistic styles and ideas depicted by artists such as Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Sir Peter Paul Ruben, Picasso, Monet, and many others throughout many time periods and eras.

Blast to the Past

Deering as Text

Hiking through the hot, dense, humid, mosquito filled environment native to South Florida, and specifically Miami, was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I have had to date. It was such a shock to see contrast between the urban city of Miami and the rugged natural landscape. What I found more shocking was the fact that people were able to live so adeptly in such a landscape filled with snakes, mosquitos, poison oak, poison ivy, and many other menacing native species for so long without the common luxuries we have today. 

During our hike through the Deering estate’s many acres of natural preserve lands we encountered two burial grounds, one that had the remains of paleo Indians and other now extinct species dating as far back as 10,000-12,000 years ago, and another contained the remains of the now extinct Tequesta Native American tribe. It was interesting to learn the history of Miami and learn about who inhabited the America’s before the arrival of Columbus and other European explorers and colonizers. Based on the remains that were found we were able to learn about how the native tribes used conch shells, mammoth teeth, and other bones and objects as tools to help them successfully inhabit the area. We were also able to see how there was trade between the native tribes in the north and south of Florida. 

It’s important to know the roots of where we so casually live and to think about how the areas on which we live were inhabited by a different kind of people who experienced our surroundings much differently than we see them today. They knew a Miami that we barely get to see in today’s society since so much modernization, development, and encroachment on natural landscapes has occurred. However, visiting the Deering Estate and going on a hike through the beautiful land, it was like a transportation back in time and an eye-opening experience and encounter. It gives us the chance and space to be able to examine what the real Miami is.

Boundless Thoughts

Wynwood as Text

The Margulies collection was a comprehensive and very unique collection of contemporary art. One of the most interesting pieces in this collection, was the instillation of some pieces that Paulo Ventura used in some of his photographs. These small-scale buildings and houses were made by hand and were then used in his photographs to make them appear to be paintings. One of aspects I liked most about the collection was that there were many types of mediums on display throughout. There were many mediums such as videos, projections, cartoons, cement rooms, photographs, sculptures, and even 250 body molds made out of burlap along with many others. It was interesting to see how as a group we all were individually asked what we believe to be art and think about the ideas and concepts behind the pieces. Contemporary art has the purpose of asking us to step out of our boundaries and constraints with the intention of asking a variety of subjective questions.  

The De La Cruz collection was my favorite collection of the day. This collection was more comprehensive, more organized, and more enjoyable in my opinion when compared to the Margulies collection. The large open spaces accentuated the beauty of contemporary art and displayed the diversity that is found within this art movement and style. The diverse display of mediums, styles, and even the ideas behind the art were all very interesting to learn about. The concepts and idea behind a lot of the art pieces were not only moving but were also, at times, subjective to the audience and individual. This idea behind contemporary art is so different to that of previous art movements and periods. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to ponder what I believed to be art and being able to see bigger themes and meanings behind some of the works. Some of them, such as the work pictured above, explored the kindness of nurses during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and brought us back to how lonely and isolating being affected with AIDS was. It served the purpose of showing how times have evolved but how many of the same ideas and issues still are relevant today. Contemporary art is known to have no boundaries, and this allows the audience to have boundless thoughts and ideas when considering each and every piece. 

Making a Name for Oneself

Vizcaya as Text

Walking through the grounds of the Vizcaya property took me not only to another era but to what felt like another country. The Mediterranean style villa seems as though it is straight from the beautiful coasts of Italy or Spain. It was built by a man, James Deering, who wanted so hard to build a title and a name for himself and he eventually succeeded. He did so on the backs of Bahamian workers and slaves but still won the respect of other wealthy men and families since it was custom to own and use slaves. His desire for the grandiose and opulence is seen in every detail and aspect of his home and its surrounding area. It could easily be seen that he loved to divulge in the hedonistic things in life based on all of the architectural details of his home and gardens, such as the court yards, the statue of the god of wine in his entry way, the lovers’ benches throughout the property, and many more hidden details throughout. Although these things may not have much symbolism today, they were well known symbols back in the time he was popular. James Deering, the creator and owner of the property, created this home to build a name for himself and ended up creating and predicting the culture that is associated with Miami today. He became known for his hedonistic lifestyle and Miami and South Beach are known for very similar reasons today. He built this home and it was basically one of the only large, modern, opulent homes in the south. He connected what is now known to be Miami to the rest of the country which was revolutionary in the establishment of Florida. It was interesting to immerse myself into the past, it was as if I had walked into another century upon walking onto the premises. It was also interesting to learn about the history of Miami before it became the metropolis it is today.

The LnS Gallery was an experience like no other. The owners of the gallery opened the door and introduced me to the business side of the art world. I never would have thought it would be so complex or even so dark. It was outrageous to me that so many galleries blatantly take advantage of artists who are trying to just make a living. Being an artist is so risky not only because it’s not a steady income but also because it’s so easy for galleries to take advantage of artists due to the fact that artists don’t always know the worth of their work. It was so interesting to see how this gallery makes sure to put a lot of effort to make sure that everything is fair and that no one gets undercut by any deals. The effort and care they show towards clients seems like a rarity in their world.

What Will Your Reflection Show?

Design District as Text

While being at the Design District, we stopped by the Institute of Contemporary Art and got the opportunity to not only see their collection but also their feature exhibition of Yayoi Kasuma’s “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.” Being able to experience the infinity room was something so surreal and awe-inspiring. Time seemed to slow in the instillation, and it gave a me a strange and almost psychedelic feeling to see the infinite reflections of myself in an infinite sea of pumpkins. The vast peculiarity of what you see all around you was oddly comforting due to the warmth in color of the pumpkins and the perfection of the dots on the pumpkins that add just the right amount of shadowing to dim the lights radiating from the pumpkins. Kasuma was able to achieve a perfect balance that it left me in a state of awe and wonder. This experience was followed by a tour of the actual museum and later, Wynwood. The Institute of Contemporary Art has a vast collection of art but also specifically a vast collection of Sterling Ruby’s art. His art is very diverse in mediums and often does not have any meaning behind it. This leaves it all up to the interpretation of the audience which is a very progressive and interesting way of creating.

Walking through the streets of the design district it was obvious that art is a very important factor in the area as it was all over the buildings and streets. Learning about how Wynwood developed into the area it is today was interesting. Before it became the art hive it is today, Wynwood was an industrial center full of warehouses and mechanic shops. It was a very poor area with high crime. Eventually investors saw potential and began buying warehouses and placing art in them. This trend developed and grew in size and led to the booming area of Wynwood we know today. The investment of art in a city or area is one of the best investments that can be done to increase the value of and state of living in a city.  

A World Like No Other

Miami Art as Text

UNTITLED Miami Beach

These two works of art are by a Ghanaian artist, Joana Choumali. She started her career as a photographer but as her health declined, she was unable to travel to photograph. She then began experimenting with new mediums. She began to mix her original method with newly developed talents such as sewing, and her artistic expression blossomed into beautiful works such as these. These consist of photographs which are layered on one another, printed on a canvas, and then hand embroidered. These works take months at a time to complete and her works do not often get larger than these. The gallery that brought her works to the US for the fair is Gallery 1957 located In Accra, Ghana. They primarily show artworks from artists located in West Africa and the diaspora. The director of the gallery, Victoria Alice Cooke, was present at the fair and had the opportunity to explain the difficulty and costliness of the transportation of artwork out of Ghana. This made me realize how much of an investment and a gamble this type of happening is because if the art isn’t bought, there will not be a high return or profit on the investment, and there might even be a loss. The director then spoke about how hard it was to also obtain the artists visas out of the country and how difficult it can be because of the fact that the Ghanaian society is not accustomed to the movement of art and visas are difficult to obtain. However, the foreign markets are often the places where the artworks are able to sell more readily therefore it is necessary to have worldwide exhibitions to obtain that type of global representation for these artists whom work so hard on their beautiful creations and deserve such recognition. The UNTITLED event is predominantly a primary market for galleries and artists from all over the world to have the opportunity to receive international recognition and expand their reach.

Art Miami

Art Miami is predominantly a secondary market for galleries and individuals to sell previously owned and purchased artworks. This makes it a market for a wide array of artistic styles, mediums, and world-renowned artworks. This includes artworks by artists such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Fernando Botero, and many more. I was particularly interested in an artist whom had illustrated my favorite artwork by Van Gogh. It is Pavel Acosta’s Irises by Vincent Van Gogh. He is a Cuban artist from Camaguey, based in America, who creates collages from interesting mediums to present his own take on famous artworks. This one uses white, dry paint on sheetrock. He uses these materials to shed a light on the difficulty of life in a communist Cuba where materials for art are impossible to obtain, and the society is often suffocating. He often took the chipping paint off of buildings in order to have material to create with. His monochromatic art also highlights the technique rather than the vibrant colors used in the original artwork. He reminds his audience that although the irises in the original artwork by Van Gogh are vibrant, there is no vibrancy in all life’s moments, especially when considering the history of Van Gogh’s original artwork and life. Overall, this event allows people access to buy a wide variety of artworks as well as the public the ability to enjoy the artworks that are being displayed for sale.

More than Meets the Eye

Bakehouse as Text

Fountainhead Studios is an open and accepting place where artists have an affordable space to create, which not only promotes conversation but also encourages change within our communities. Whose mission is to promote diversity, tolerance, respect, and inspiration in the world. They not only want to have an impact on the lives of individual artists, but also to impact the local community and spread the messages of their artists. This encourages acceptance and change where needed. One of the artists that creates at Fountainhead is Alex Nuñez, whose work is picture above. She explained to us that while creating her work she has a personal motive or meaning behind each work; however, she does not offer it the audience, but rather allows the audience to see what they can come to realize while looking at it. These types of works are often the most powerful as sometimes an image says more than words. The things that an individual can come to realize while reflecting upon an art piece can be just as powerful as the message an artist personally gives the work. This is important because it offers an opportunity for voices to be heard in different outlets. This can inspire the audience to think about the world around them, promote conversation, and even inspire change, which is what Fountainhead promotes as their mission.

Remember, Let’s Talk About It.

Rubell as Text

The Rubell Museum is one of the largest private collections that exists in South Florida, and with their current 36 total exhibitions, this instillation shown above stood out the most. It may not be the most shocking or even the most challenging to society, but it left me contemplating. It’s this enormous instillation by Carl Andre called Llano Estacado, Dallas, Texas, which displays 81 pieces of western red cedar. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27th occurred two days prior to my visit to the Rubell Museum on January 29th. Having just heard the story of a holocaust survivor, Julius Einstein, I was reminded of this tragedy while standing in the midst of all the lumber. The instillation reminded me of the survivors and how each individual has a story to tell. Furthermore, we must preserve the memory of the genocide that occurred to prevent a reoccurrence and to stop the genocides that still occur today in places such as Rwanda. It reminded me that people go through such horrors even after the world saw the atrocities that were committed throughout Europe. It should remind us to stand up for others and to spread love rather than hate. Overall, this installation in the Rubell Museum was the most influential to me, but contemporary art offers more than what this piece shows. The Rubell Museum’s collection displays artwork that has potential to spark conflict with society. The collection calls attention to topics that are controversial, abrasive, or offensive. However, it allows an opportunity for the audience to become a part of a broader conversation that is usually avoided or hard to talk about. Art can be a gateway for communication and the exhibitions on display surely offer a strong communicatory pathway with strong yet sometimes subtle messages.

Something New

MDC Printmaking as Text

As we have taken a deep dive into the art world, we have visited artists’ studios and looked into the process of each artist and how it is that they create. However, to create art is something that we have not done previously. Professor Bailly introduced us to Jennifer Basile, a professor at Miami Dade College. She taught us the concept of printmaking, specifically how to create a monoprint. Professor Basile demonstrated how to lay out, mix, soften, and roll out the black ink. She then went through the rest of the process making sure to explain with great detail. She showed us how to create texture and different types of marks within the ink. After finishing, it was our turn to be creative and make a piece of our own. The above image shows my first monoprint in which I decided to explore different textures and experiment with the process. After rolling it through the press, I peeled it off the glass and revealed the final printed image. Monoprints are one of a kind images that are unique in their existence. This is what makes it interesting, it will be the only of its kind to exist. In a sense, each artist is unique in their own way and this class has given the opportunity to study different artists and go through their processes and how they are able to create what they do. To put yourself in the shoes of those that we study is one of the best ways to get a feel for how artists live, work, and create. However, it can also help you discover how you yourself are an artist and expose you to the variety of types of art that exist. It opened my eyes to a unique part of the art society that I had yet to experience.

The Second Time Around

Deering Estate as Text

The Deering Estate is a unique hub that offers a look into the past, which is often hard to find in the bustling, modern city of Miami. Created in the 1920’s, the site itself was one of the first of its kind in the area and was also very modern due to its many innovative amenities. This shows that even in the beginning, Miami was home to innovation. However, the Deering Estate that was first created has grown in many ways into what it is today. Although not as modern as Miami’s newly erected skyscrapers, it offers a plethora of innovative ideas and is home to many types of growth. It offers an incredible array of cultural events, conservational efforts, and educational opportunities that stimulates community, environmental, and personal growth. It offers an extensive view of the history of the land, spanning up to 10,000 years ago with the Paleo-Indians, followed by the Tequesta civilization, then the building of this estate with the use of African American and Afro-Bahamian slaves. This shows that the land on which we walk now is very troubled in its past and has seen diverse sets of people walk its shores. The settlements which Miami has seen are constantly changing as civilizations continue to evolve over time. However, many times as civilizations are changing, it can be easy to forget that we must care for the land around us. The Deering Estate does the most to not only teach people of the importance of taking care of the land, but also has many efforts in the conservation and preservation of our ecosystems. It invests its efforts in preserving the original ecosystem present when Charles Deering created the Estate.

The Estate invites people to learn about how they can help the environment, and even hosts events such as Chicken Key Cleanup among others. It promotes community involvement and education, two important aspects of its mission. The Deering Estate hosts a plethora of cultural events, such as a poetry reading by Richard Blanco. It invests in community growth, the personal growth of its visitors, and the growth of the land into a healthy ecosystem for the abundant natural life and visitors to enjoy.

Welcome to South Beach

Miami Beach as Text

South Beach is an area within Miami Beach that is famous for its beautiful Art Deco buildings, luxurious beaches, and its glamourous aura. However, the lesser known parts of its history are just as important as what it is known for today.

The barrier island of Miami Beach began as a palmetto and mangrove filled island, infested with mosquitos and high humidity. It was home to abundant wildlife and freshwater springs. Miami, on the mainland, was a small multiracial community where people would often take their boats to Ocean Beach, which is what they called Miami Beach at the time.

It was soon bought by a well-known visionary of that time, Carl Fisher, in 1912. Carl Fisher is not only responsible for the development of Miami Beach, but it is well known that during this era, Miami became a segregated community and began to grow exponentially with the arrival of the railroad. The environmentally rich land was destroyed to make space for the sandy beach ideals of its developers. Habitat destruction led to species reduction and the freshwater springs were destroyed due to dredging and filled with saltwater. However, it led to the construction of what is now a world-famous tourist destination.

Parts of South Beach’s rich history are that of the Jewish community, the efforts of Barbara Baer Capitman, the place of Gianni Versace’s final breath, and the building of its world-famous hotels. The history of the Jewish community is highlighted in the Jewish Museum of Florida–FIU. It tells of their more than 250 years’ worth of history, as well as their segregation and discrimination. This discrimination meant that they were not allowed to stay in certain hotels, nor were they allowed to live north of 5th Street.

Barbara Baer Capitman is well known as the woman who fought to protect the Art Deco neighborhood. Her activism made the Art Deco neighborhood of South Beach into a National Historic District, the first one of the 20th century. She also co-founded the Miami Design Preservation League which continues her efforts to preserve the distinctiveness of the neighborhood. A neighborhood which is characterized by ten characteristics and aesthetic devices. These are seen in the many hotels and buildings such as the Park Central Hotel, Tiffany, The Breakwater, Essex House, The Carlyle, The McAlpin, Señor Frogs, and Colony Theatre among many more.

Another sad point in this famous area’s history is that of Gianni Versace’s death. Among the many Art Deco style buildings there is a Mediterranean revival building. This mansion, Villa Casa Casuarina, famously known as the Versace Mansion was not only the home of the world-renowned designer but was also the place of his death at the hands of a deranged man. Versace played a large role in the history of South Beach previous to his death and was even essential in the redefinition of the city’s culture into an open and more accepting one.

South Beach’s past has many negative and positive points in its history, but they have all shaped this area into what it is today. Its rich history tells the stories of the diverse sets of people who have lived on the land prior to and after its development. It tells stories of habitat destruction, oppression and discrimination, and even death. However, it has seen triumph in its preservation, has seen the evolution of ideas which are more accepting of diverse peoples, and has come to be a place of bliss with the rolling of the waves and the natural sea breeze.

Information used was found at

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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