Vox Student Blog

Andrea Sofia R. Matos: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photograph taken by Gabriela Del Monte/CC by 4.0

Andrea Sofia R. Matos is a junior majoring in Art History with a minor in Photography at Florida International University. Passionate for the art and culture of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the African Diaspora, she aspires to be a curator. She has had the privilege of working with various art institutions in Miami and Puerto Rico, which have challenged her visual literacy and exposed her to the contemporary art scene. As part of Art Society Conflict, Andrea desires to expand her knowledge in art and the history of Florida’s most vibrant city.

Deering as Text

“To Belong,” by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at Deering Estate on September 9, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Every generation is tackled with the exhausting question of identity, communal belonging to specific coordinates. Most of our life, we are told to affirm with conviction the “inherent” character of the spiritual practice, class, and community we are linked to. As we navigated through the outdoors of the estate, I found myself wondering how one could possibly engage the idea of identity in a land of so many. This terrain saw Paleo-Indian’s hunt. It observed how the Tequesta created tools and pottery and witnessed Seminole blood spilled in a gruesome war. These acres watched as European colonizers settled, as runaway slaves of the Caribbean took shelter, and as it was later purchased by the Richmond and Deering families.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

To further layer the identity question to this experience, we made our way into the structures located on-site. We paced towards a Spanish inspired villa through roman archways with decorated capitals of distinctive tropical animals whose exterior holds beautifully sculpted Islamic arches. We find ourselves in a room with a checkered floor and a high ceiling, the very room which once hung paintings by Rembrandt and El Greco in its walls. As we continued the tour of this magical space, we were guided into a dark room with French-inspired catholic mosaics—these lit up the room just enough to see the Chinese artifacts in the adjacent wall. 

The director of the Deering Estate, Jennifer Tisthammer, invited us to the rooftop that oversees a fantastic view of the estate and Biscayne Bay. She asks us another question I don’t have the answer to, the problem of preservation. Who decides what’s important enough to conserve and what is not? Who are we to say markings found on red ceramic roof tiles aren’t just as important as paintings only a floor below?

Failing to fathom how such a wide range of cultures, histories, and ideas have met within the 18-inch poured concrete walls, we sneak into the second structure. This wooden cottage breathes every time you take a step within it. One can almost hear the footsteps of the hundreds of travelers looking for comfort some 90 years ago. Science and religion coexist once we walk through a narrow hallway filled with botanical drawings of native plants that leads us to the kitchen. And right in the middle, the kitchen keeps a framed white and blue Spanish tile mosaic.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Eventually, I can process some of the information as we make our way to our destination, a Chinese bridge built by Afro-Bahamian workers. Only to remember that in an explosion gone wrong at the People’s Dock just south of the Estate, six of these very workers died, which nobody chose to recognize or honor. I stood still in the middle of the colorful bridge piecing the experience, the histories, and the cultures together little by little as we stared into the wilderness. 

Yet, the question stands, who are we amidst this cultural fusion? Can anybody belong in the very soil who remembers Paleo-Indians hunting and the Tequesta gathering? It’s amidst this identity crisis where the answer lies. It’s the freedom our young bodies feel when we parade through these paths without fully grasping the absurdity of this terrain’s massive historical exchange. In a land so diverse, we all belong. 

South Beach as Text

“The Glamour Facade”, by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at South Beach Walking Tour on September 23, 2020. 

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

When they teach us about segregation, they often talk about the subject as if it happened in a time far from our own. Little emphasis is given to the closeness of the “Black Codes” and “Jim Crow” laws —which existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968, only 52 years ago—that openly discriminated African Americans and other nonwhite groups. It is uncommon to sit through a lecture that explicitly informs us of the policies that ensured black people and their fellow third-class citizens could not achieve the progress they were promised and would not benefit from the “American dream.”

This deliberate ignorance has blinded us from the contemporary violations of civic rights and the microaggressions that continue to haunt the marginalized groups in our society. We often forget that through the exploitation and underpaid labor of black and brown bodies, the very cities and attractions we now enjoy were built.

The City of Miami Beach is home to various cultural and artistic attractions such as museums, artist residencies, Art Basel, and Art Deco architecture’s most extensive collection globally. Its vibrant nightlife, with regularly packed live music venues, restaurants, and bars only steps away from the beach, makes this city one of the most visited destinations. However, concealed behind its flashy neon signs and liberal flags is a long and repulsive history of discrimination. 

Destroyed of its original blooming ecosystem of sandbars and mangroves lead by white upper-class businessmen with a god complex, Miami Beach is a perfect example of a city that was never meant to be. Laborers worked under severe conditions to clear the mangroves, deepen the water channels surrounding it and fill the area with sand and soil found elsewhere. This brief recollection helps us understand the lengths the ambitions of men will go to ensure a life of glamor, even at the expense of its community and environment. 

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Ever since the first constructions begun in Miami Beach, segregation laws permitted African Americans’ expulsion from its borders. African Americans could only enter in two conditions: as a worker or entertainer, and even then, they were not allowed to live in the municipality. Black tourists could not stay at the hotels on the beach and would only be permitted on specific beaches and others only on Mondays. Jews were another marginalized group that suffered maltreatment. Their skin color allowed them access to buy properties and visit beaches, hotels, restaurants, and other venues but restricted them doing so only south of 5th street. 

Recent events in our sociopolitical climate have unearthed that racism and xenophobia are issues that haven’t been appropriately solved or given the necessary attention. To this day, north of 5th street continues to be an area privileged by the presence of heavily guarded police and many active maintenance and custodian teams, more so than in the south. So, as we paraded through the empty streets of Ocean Drive, it was evident that even 52 years after the end of Jim Crow, we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Bakehouse as Text

“The Parallels of Art and Science” by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex on October 7, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

The minute we walked into the gallery, we came across giant wooden structures scattered all around the space. This site-specific installation, titled “Future Pacific,” is a work in-the-making by Miami-based artist Lauren Shapiro housed in the Bakehouse Art Complex. Shapiro’s project develops as a collaboration with the research of marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger, whose objective is to create urgency for preserving the coral reef’s essential role for the environment. Academia often makes science and art into diametrical oppositions, but Shapiro and Silbiger are looking to enhance each other’s practice to preserve the most important aquatic species.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Shapiro’s practice focuses on viewing the parallels of art and science to create an interactive exhibition that enhances the environmental literacy of the community. Typically, museums and gallery spaces prohibit physical interaction with any exhibition or artwork, yet here we are encouraged to participate and get our hands dirty. There were no restrictions; we were free to explore the different possibilities the materials allow us. Our job was to press the clay into the silicone molds of coral skeletons and reef animal bones to adhere to the big wooden structures that, when finished, will transform into an artistic representation of a fossilized coral reef.

Shapiro invited us to view her studio where buckets of new and old clay filled the entirety of the space. It was interesting to see her whole process, from making the clay to the final product of 100% recycled material. Moreover, it allowed us to immerse ourselves personally, not just in the artmaking, but also in the artist’s daily routine. 

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

We conversed about the oceans’ importance and the harmful impact our everyday activities cause during our time there. I distinctively remember Professor Bailly tells us: “If trees are the lungs of the earth, coral reefs are the lungs of the ocean,” this statement got me thinking about the issue of deforestation and how we are doing the same to our oceans.  We live in a connected world, yet we have chosen to disassociate and ignore the damage we have caused. I am proud to have been part of a project that asked of its participants to be more conscious of the environment and demanded us to do introspection in how we contribute to the destruction of our marine ecosystems.  

Rubell as Text

“Museum Magic,” by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at Rubell Museum on October 21, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

The art world is like the human body, where different parts with different functions ultimately come together to experience life. Similarly, the art world is an industry that divides itself into three major components: the art market, art institutions (both private and public), and academia. People often like to keep these three sections separate, unable to coexist, yet most don’t understand that, like the body, they collaborate to perform as efficiently as possible.

The formerly called Rubell Family Collection is a private art collection located in Miami, Florida, that began with the joined efforts of Don and Mera Rubell 54 years ago. The Rubell Museum is one of the world’s most significant contemporary art collections and a first-rate example of synthesizing the three major components within the art world.  The Rubell’s acquire the artworks through the private art market, which gives them the freedom to display and champion artists they believe in and are seminal to the city’s cultural development and the world. To emphasize their public mission, the museum has implemented programs that invite local students to engage with the art and artists. It welcomes art historians, curators, and artists to participate in their internships and artists’ residencies. I believe it is through this fusion that the Rubell Museum succeeds.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

The museum’s diverse and generous selection of artists from different countries and ethnic backgrounds was one of the most impressive things to behold. Given the grandeur of the 36 galleries within the museum, it’s not a surprise that the collection houses grand installations and hundred-foot paintings. Never shying from a controversial topic, the museum holds many shocking pieces that would not be viewed elsewhere if it were not for the private acquisition.

Since our lives became consumed by the pandemic, I had not visited a museum, and, as a regular museum-goer, this was an emotional trip. As cliché, as it sounds art, has always been an encouraging force throughout my life, and in these months of isolation, I had forgotten just how much life art grants me. Walking through the carefully curated walls is magical to me; it transports me to another universe. At that moment, the museum becomes the gatekeeper to different worlds, where numerous stories are allowed space for others to see, and that, to me, is the power of art.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Deering Hike as Text

“A Breath of the Wild,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Deering Estate on November 3, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

On Wednesday morning, I woke up with many worries on my mind and found it hard to breathe. Crumbling anxiety from the United States Presidential Election and the coronavirus pandemic’s months-long concerns invaded my mind restlessly. Once I was able to catch my breath I realized it was finally the day I would venture through the Deering Estate’s magical ecosystems.

We often forget that the ground we walk on has been touched by thousands, if not millions of people, from the Paleo-Indians to the Afro-Bahamians to the tourist escaping the north’s cold weather. It is rare that within a metropolis as young as Miami, we find spaces that can transport us to a time 10,000 years back. We traveled through mangroves, pine rocklands, meadows, and hardwood hammocks as our geographical ancestors once did to find various ecosystems working together to survive.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

As we trekked on through the wilderness, the fact that we were still in Miami and that we hadn’t crossed an invisible portal to another world was unfathomable. It was hard not to be consumed by the beauty of nature in its most natural state. I was mesmerized by the beautiful patterns created by the light escaping through the interconnected web of tree branches and firmly rooted mangroves.

As we continued to explore, I forced myself to imagine what life was like for the people before me thousands of years ago. I could imagine them walking side by side, finding the tools they would need to hunt, drill, and dig. I could visualize them gathering plants and the food necessary for their survival. And I could envision them bathing and drinking from the pools of freshwater and using the variety of trees to build their homes, canoes, and tools. I couldn’t help but ask myself what would’ve become such a complex society had it not been from their annihilation.

Once we reached the Tequesta Burial Mound, the energy shifted. Combatant feelings of joy and sadness made their way into my mind. This place was only a reminder of the massacre our most ancient ancestors suffered upon the arrival of greedy men looking to colonize and exterminate anyone who stood in their way. As I reached the closest I could be to the burial site, I realized that sitting on top of this mound, of 18 Tequesta burials, is an enormous oak tree that I choose to believe carries, in its roots and branches, the very souls of the Tequesta live on. And I could breathe with ease again.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Everglades as Text

“Nature’s Mosaic,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 13, 2021.

After a tumultuous year riddled with a global pandemic, political dilemmas, ecological disasters, and social upheaval, a trip to the Everglades seemed like a wonderful opportunity to start a new year right. Away from the Miamian metropolis’ bustling streets lies thousands of acres of land dedicated to preserving the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

As we immersed ourselves into the wilderness, becoming one with nature, slogging through the towering cypress trees made everyday worries seem ridiculous and foolish. So much time of our lives is wasted in reminiscing the past and anxiously planning our future that we forget there’s nothing like living in the present. There’s nothing that makes one more present than smelling the fresh air, feeling the wind on your face, and hearing the birds sing. It serves almost as a reminder to take a breath, to look up at the sky, and rejoice in the fact that there’s life at its purest when you’re surrounded by water and earth. The crystal water was a testament that even the muddiest of environments hold balance and beauty.

Perhaps my favorite part of this unforgettable day was when our guide and park ranger Dylann Turffs, made us quietly stand still where no cars could be heard to fully appreciate the space we were exploring. She then read us a poem by Anne McCrary Sullivan that validated the feelings I had when standing still in the middle of the cypress.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

“[…] I am inconsequential here

I am inconsequential everywhere

but here I have no illusions

whatever dies dies

whatever gets devoured gets devoured

waters rise and fall clouds move,

the buzzing profusion continues […]”

In a land so close to our homes is an oasis of raw nature. A dynamic variety of ecosystems makes the Everglades one of nature’s most impressive mosaics. There is something otherworldly about the artworks one finds in nature. No man, despite ability and drive, can replicate the complexity of patterns, colors, lines, and forms magically given to us through the environment’s imagination. There’s no limit to what this complex ecological system can provide us, and it is why it’s so important we make an effort to care for this world’s life source.

Wynwood as Text

“New Perspectives,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at The Margulies Collection and Locust Projects on January 27, 2021.

Our first stop of the day was the Margulies Collection in Wynwood, and I was excited as ever to finally visit one of the most talked-about private collections in Miami. This excellent warehouse houses an exciting range of contemporary art worldwide, but perhaps their most impressive feature is the massive photographic collection at their disposal. The photographs take a unique space within the warehouse and are displayed salon-style along a long hallway, and it was this impressive display of the photographs that consumed me, I was in awe.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

During our time in the Locust Projects to view their newest exhibition/installation titled “Made by Dusk”, we met Mette Tommerup, the artist. This exhibition is the third installment of an exhibition trilogy where she transforms the space and calls for a state of ethereal stillness and reflection. The spiritual informs the installation as Tommerup draws inspiration from Freya, the Nordic Goddess of love, war, and transformation.

Top left photograph taken by Skyler Hayman. The remaining photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

As a person who has been acquainted with art and its history since high school, every time I venture into a new museum, exhibition, or collection, I find myself looking for technical and artistic clues that indicate the piece’s intention. I pay attention to the artwork’s context regarding the time it was produced and the visual composition, and the elements and materials that merge into the work before me.  I am not an expert at observing art, but I am passionate about what I am looking at. However, when one studies art history, it is easier to be consumed by the technicalities and academic aspects of viewing art rather than entering an exhibition and letting my mind wander. During our time in Margulies Collection and Locust Projects, my classmates reminded me of the importance of the raw and emotional connection with art. Their instinctive reactions, whether it was love, hate, or disregard for the pieces within these collections, made my understanding of them all the better. A few of my classmates showed powerful feelings about the value of an artwork, the artist’s intention and application, and the final product itself that made the conversations more exciting and thought provoking. I appreciated and questioned the works around me from a new perspective through them.  More often than not, the reaction of someone not as educated in the arts is more impressive than those who have spent their whole lives immersed in it.

Bill Baggs as Text

“New Lessons,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park on February 10, 2021.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Our experience at Bill Baggs State Park did not disappoint. Ranger Shane Zigler was a great addition to our time there as he provided interesting insights about the history of Key Biscayne and the Lighthouse. Professor Bailly helped us put things in a global perspective and gain context on Key Biscayne’s importance from its first settlers, the Tequesta, to the Spaniards who settled and the modernization efforts that began after Florida became part of the United States of America. As we walked the path that lay in front of us, I always wondered how this piece of land could have looked like when the Tequesta were here. It is their stories I long to hear and record in my mind forever. Yet when many people think of the Tequesta about Key Biscayne, they only focus on the famous incident known as the attack on July 23, 1836, during the Seminole Wars, in which they (Tequesta) took the lighthouse. However, it is essential to remember that this event did not happen without cause.  The Tequesta decided to take this course of action because they were being massacred all over the South and kept being pushed down further and further every time. It then became clear they could either fight or be exterminated. To say that the Tequesta were treated poorly is to oversimplify this situation’s gravity. This is the reason I sympathized when they attacked the lighthouse; they were sending a message of resilience and defiance. It’s a victory nobody will ever be able to take away from them.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Since I first moved to South Florida three years ago from Puerto Rico, I have to admit that I underwent tremendous struggle to adapt to life here. I was quick to judge a big city because of the culture shock I experienced and the bubble of my everyday life. The months turned into years of me judging a place I knew absolutely nothing about; then, I took this class that explores the real Miami, and I am left utterly speechless. Through these immersive lectures, I reflect on how wrong I was about South Florida. I let my ignorance and lack of experience taint the beauty of a land so rich in history and culture.

River of Grass as Text

“No Man’s Land,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Everglades National Park on February 24, 2021.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

 For a second time this semester, we went to explore the Everglades National Park. Having only ventured through a small portion of this ecosystem, we uncovered new spaces of this wonderful wilderness. This time around, we focused on the Everglades’ human history, from the man-made disasters to the preservation efforts that others have started to reverse the damage done. The whole day I was going back and forth in history, trying to wrap my head around the hardships the land I was happily exploring had gone through. 

As we have learned throughout the semester, humans have lived in the Florida Everglades as far back as 15,000 years ago. The two major tribes that were living as hunter-gatherers were the Calusa and the Tequesta. The Everglades had remained untouched 300 years after the first Spaniard arrived in Florida until the State decided they could begin selling their “worthless swampland” for profit. Among the industrialist responsible for the quick deterioration of the Everglades was Hamilton Disston, Henry Flagler, and Richard J. Bolles. All of which have been praised in one way or another for Florida’s development, yet little is said about the natural and human impact of their so-called “vision”. The same vision that led them to declare a war against nature and Florida’s native inhabitants, all to begin converting the northern Everglades into suburbs, and sugar plantations. Through it all it has been mostly women, like Marjory Stoneman Douglas and others who led the most radical groups of preservation and restoration of the land in South Florida. These women were the ones who knew the true ecological value of the Everglades and decided to make awareness of the damage done.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

It is overwhelming to learn how ambitious man’s greed is to get to the point of such an ecological disaster. And to make matters worse on the very land that had been cared for hundreds of years before by the Native Americans. These tribes whose members were brutally murdered by the first Spanish and English conquistadors and by the Americans years later were the ones who held the true vision and the answers to natural harmony. By eradicating them and erasing any contribution, or role played in Florida’s history was how these developers could implement their business models and how they got awarded with the titles of “pioneers.” This disconnection from nature, separating humans from the natural world, has lasted to this very day and comes from the obliteration of the Native Americans that have survived from the political and socioeconomic institutions.

When researching erasure and ownership, I came across several accounts of different Native American tribes that understood and continue to affirm that nature provides all that we need to survive. Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Wolf Clan of the Seneca Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy explains that the earth is our mother, and the plants and animals are our relatives. When asked about ownership he recalls when the first colonizers arrived, how the chiefs of the time laughed when asked about the ownership of the land saying, “How can you buy land?” For its their belief that land cannot be owned, dominated or possessed, simply put the earth was only under their care and protection. I long to see what Florida would have looked like had we treated the inhabitants of this land with humanity. What would our mindset and our life be like had we just sat down and listened to their divine instructions to respect life, above everything else.

Frost Art Museum as Text

“Decolonizing our Museum,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum on March 12, 2021.

Our society is filled with racist and misogynistic institutions that have never felt the pressure to change because white supremacy has made consistent efforts to keep minority groups from climbing up the ranks to the change-making positions that could begin to change this narrative. Museums as cultural institutions have always been seen as holy temples and societal change leaders where artists could present their controversial and modern ideas. However, throughout history, the artists allowed in those rooms and allowed to voice those opinions were white men and never women, people of colors, or any who didn’t fit in the Anglo-Saxon and heteronormative norm. The administration of these institutions isn’t the only thing that is being done wrong in museums; there is still a huge representation problem. The modern museum is unquestionably intertwined with the history of colonization, specifically since these collections were started by wealthy collectors who traveled extensively and brought back artifacts from third-world countries and displayed them in their homes.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

An interesting conversation that popped up during our visit to the Frost Art Museum was in Pepe Mar’s “Tesoro”, an exhibition that in its core seeks to recontextualize artworks and artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection, was the placement and intention behind a group of artifacts and masks. In one of its sections, an installation features many masks from different cultures, all for them to be dumped in an explosive and colorful wallpaper, which begs the question if these masks are thrown to be just that, decorative wallpaper which perpetuates a larger colonial mindset. In many cases, museums tend to lose the human connection these works may have had at one beginning. On this wall, masks of various indigenous cultures are displayed side by side. Even though Pepe Mar intends to “come together” and surpass our differences, I think his curatorial choice of placing the masks leaves a wide door open to the wrong type of interpretation. Of not giving these artifacts the dignity they deserve. Like how in oceanic cultures, masks are used at different times of the year to honor their spirits and ancestors.

With an increasing consciousness of the oppressive, racist, and misogynistic tendencies being practiced in these institutions, more leadership roles within cultural and artistic organizations have been given to women and people of color. In recent years, museum workers and museum-goers have an abundance of initiatives to “decolonize” the museum. Decolonizing the museum is a new movement that forces these institutions to take drastic measures to change the way they present artwork, curate and diversify their collections and exhibitions. This new movement seeks to ask these museums to listen to the underrepresented communities and move their colonial mindset of privilege and authority to provide a platform for horizontal and equitable conversations.

Overall, the Frost has always been an institution that engages in controversial conversations and champions underrepresented artists and regions such as the Caribbean and Latin American, and the Latinx diasporic community.

Coral Gables as Text

“The Racist Fairyland,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at the City Coral Gables on March 24, 2021.

As a person who comes from very humble beginnings, when I walk or drive through Coral Gables, I always feel out of place. The wealthy neighborhoods with big houses, ample roads, and freshly cut grass are just a few of the undeniable opulence indicators compared to its bordering cities. And although the idea of “The Gables” came from a man of modest upbringing, the city itself was always meant to be what it is today, very rich, prosperous, and extremely out of touch with the rest of its southern Floridian reality. As can be expected of a city built entirely on a dream, a utopia of sorts, where he could convert all the fantastical things he read into his reality. When planning what he sought to accomplish, George Merrick once wrote:

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

“I dream of the home of the Fairies and Fays,
on the isles of the calm southern sky,
Of the fanciful turrets and towers ablaze
In the flood of the rays from on high…”

During the Florida land boom of the 1920s, Merrick began the project that had resided in the depths of his imagination since he was a boy, making one of the first planned communities that we know now as Coral Gables. He sought collaborators to help him develop the city’s signature architecture style called Mediterranean Revival to resemble Southern Spain built by the Moors. Like much of South Florida, pioneers and visionaries are always credited for creating a city, but little is said about the people who literally built it. The development and building of Coral Gables are owed to the labor of Bahamian immigrants to South Florida. These workers were incredibly proficient in making coral rock into a malleable material and converting the rocky country into rich farmland. Merrick was right, but shouldn’t be praised, to credit their expertise. He once explained, “In the Bahamas, there is the same coral rock; and the Bahamians knew how to plant on it, and how to use it, and they knew too that all kinds of tropical trees would grow and thrive on this rock. They, too, had a vital influence upon our civilization in bringing in their own commonly used trees, vegetables, and fruits.”

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

However lovely the sentiment to credit them as they are not acknowledged further than a few lines on a piece of paper. To this day, Coral Gables has never been a neighborhood that openly welcomes non-whites, with a population of 91.85% White/White Hispanic, as reported on the 2020 US Census. “The Gables” and its founder never meant to welcome a non-white population. Merrick is explicitly known to have made racist segregationist beliefs and advocated for racist policies throughout his career as a developer and his role as head of the Miami-Dade Planning Board. He went as far as saying before a Miami Board of Realtors meeting that the “removal of Black residents [is] fundamental in achieving the goals for the rest of Miami.” What is most shocking about all of this is how it is an issue that persists today, visible for all to see the moment anyone passes the city lines into Coral Gables.

Vizcaya as Text

“Our last visit: Vizcaya,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on April 7th, 2021.

Involving nearly a tenth of Miami’s population in its construction, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the most significant projects and legacies of one James Deering. Known for his role as the treasurer and then vice-president of the Deering Harvester Company was a man whose love for European culture and antiquities characterized his vision for his landmark Vizcaya. In 1912 Deering acquired the land from Mary Brickell as a somewhat retired bachelor and set out to build his dream home in South Florida’s jungle hammock. With the help of Paul Chalfin, Burrall Hoffman, and Diego Suarez and thousands of Bahamian stonemasons and workers, a lavish Italian-Mediterranean revival waterfront villa with spacious Renaissance revival gardens and a detail-oriented architectural interior full of European, Asian, and American furnishing, art, and antiquities that go back thousands of years. He was part of the out-of-touch elite who romanticized the colonization of the Americas and Europeans’ expeditions.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Utilizing his incredible wealth, he had access to travel extensively through Europe. He collected the highest forms of art he desired, and, in a way, it provided him the ability to borrow culture without question. The furnishings and decors themselves are priceless items such as a rug that belonged to King Ferdinand of Spain’s grandfather and the base of a table from Pompeii’s ruins. Besides these wonders from old European culture, he included modern features such as elevators, a modern phone system, fire control, and central heating. With this combination of the old and the new, he added illusion and mystery to his story, creating a façade of sorts, all within the norms of his extravagant and lavish lifestyle present in the statement that was Vizcaya. Just like in his interior, Deering wanted in his garden the presence of both Europe and Miami. This is why even in his garden, he made sure to infuse classical Italian and French design mixed into the subtropical flora. His use of stone and his interest in the light’s modulation also showcase his need to create an environment that welcomed his passion for Europe and his love of Miami.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

An interesting quote that I found when researching Vizcaya and Deering further was Kathryn Chapman Harwood, writer of “The Lives of Vizcaya: Annals of a Great House,” who says that “Although Vizcaya speaks of the 16th, the 17th, and the 18th centuries, of the Renaissance, baroque, rococo, neoclassic, there still hangs in the air, in the manner of living the house illustrates so well, the most fascinating memory of all. There is the still intact vision of a whole social class just moments before its familiar world shattered.” Her book focuses on the recently found priceless documents and records that were evidence of the lost stories of the people who worked there and an agonizing tale of its complex conception for the short five years; Deering was able to enjoy it. I will say, I have a love and hate relationship with Mr. James Deering but will always acknowledge him as being one of the people who truly set-in stone (literally) and somehow predicted what Miami would become a hundred years later.

Trent Martino: Miami as Text 2020-2021


Me with my first electric guitar that I got during Summer 2020

Hello Everyone! My name is Trent, and I am a student at Florida International University, and I am taking John Bailley’s 2020-2021 Art Society Conflict course. My major is Electrical Engineering, but I’d say that my interests are far greater than just math and science. Ever since I was a young child, I was in love with just about everything related to the arts. My notebooks were filled with doodles of action heroes, obscure vehicles and of course, some of my favorite animals. When I was in middle school, I played violin in our school orchestra at Southwood Middle School. I’d say that while the violin was not necessarily my passion, I definitely developed a love for playing and making music. Now, as a hobby I am trying to learn to play the guitar. Middle school was also where I got in to skateboarding, which has been a passion of mine since.

As I got older, I started to become more interested in politics and the way people operate, and how we got to where we are. I am excited to learn in this class not only how people think, but how they express what they think through art and how these two things shape my home city of Miami.

Deering as Text

“Miami’s Home of History” by Trent Martino of FIU at Deering Estate

September 9, 2020

Your first impressions of the Deering Estate might be misleading if you have never been there before. The drive to the property will take you through some very modern neighborhoods, and in particular Miami fashion, none of the houses seem to belong next to each other, and they all creep right up to this historic site. However, once you step on to the property you will get to experience how breath-taking it is.

Our class as we walk through the entrance of the Deering Estate

The history at the Deering Estate begins many years before John Deering ever stepped foot on the property. The original inhabitants of this land was a tribe of indigenous people known as the Tequesta. Inside the Richmond cottage, there is a display of some of the artifacts and tools that were made and used by the Tequesta’s.

The older of the two houses on the property, the Richmond Cottage, was originally constructed in 1896 by S. H. Richmond, and was reconstructed by his wife Edith Richmond in 1900. 16 years before Charles Deering purchased the property. After Edith did some renovations to the property, the Richmond Cottage acted as the southernmost hospitality resource in the United States. The docks right behind the cottage made it an ideal spot for wealthy travelers looking for a tropical get-away along the Atlantic coast.

The other main building on the property is the Stone House. The stone house was build after Charles Deering purchased the property. Construction began in 1922 and took about a year to complete. This house served as the primary residency of Charles Deering and his family when they were in South Florida.

A view of the western side of the Stone House
A view from the top of the Stone House, looking northeast towards the coast

The architecture of the Stone House is probably the best physical representation of Miami that you can find. It was designed by Charles Deering, who was a European white guy from Maine, and much of the construction on the Stone House was done by One of his inspirations for the building came from Islamic architecture, which can be seen from the pointed and onion-shaped arches along the outside of the building. What is even more fascinating is that this building, designed by a white man, inspired by Islamic architecture, was built by a ton of other ethnic minorities from around the area.

I believe that the construction of the Stone House points to an amazing quality of Miami: a bunch of cultures and ethnic groups coming together in one giant melting pot, forever living with each other, giving and taking influence, so much so until original ideas are hard to pinpoint as they mesh together.

South Beach as Text

“Strip of History” by Trent Martino of FIU in South Beach

September 23, 2020

This week, Professor Bailley took us on a trip around South Beach in Miami. As a South Florida native, I have been to South Beach many times in my life, and to be quite honest, I was not excited for this trip at first. I think that since I have lived in such close proximity to the area my whole life, I had become jaded to what the atmosphere of South Beach was. To me, it was just crowded beaches with weird building and over-priced food. But I put my trust in Professor Bailly to show me something new. In all honesty, he blew my mind. He was able to introduce me to so many amazing and interesting things about Miami, and I am so glad that I was able to take this tour with him. I now have a much deeper appreciation for South Beach, and Miami as a whole.

I used to think that the architecture on South Beach was just a random mess of strange buildings with no rhyme or reason to them. While this may be true for some, I now understand that the style of South Beach is totally unique, and each building is essentially a piece of fine art. The reason why it looks so disorganized is because each person who wanted to make a building had their own vision in mind for the architectural style, and walking down the street is like walking through time, seeing how ideas and tastes change as Miami developed. Professor Bailley informed us on the major design styles: “Mediterranean revival,” “Miami Modern” or “MiMo,” “Art Deco,” and while this is not necessarily a style, there are some old western style building along South Beach as well. I think that out of all of them, my favorite design styles are MiMo and Art Deco. Those two look extremely unique, and I don’t think that I have seen those design styles any where else. But to be honest, I never took the time to appreciate them until now.

I like how Miami is very different from other places. While I still think that it’s “messy” in terms of its style, I now appreciate that mess as people trying to experiment with different things, and to express themselves through the designs of their businesses. And in the end, I think that is what South Beach is all about: expression and freedom.

I think another aspect of this trip that made this trip especially interested is that we went during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, South Beach was pretty much vacant. While there were some people there, it was absolutely nothing like a typical day in Miami. A lot of the famous businesses were closed to the public and even some public facilities were as well. While this may seem like a bummer, I think it really gave us an opportunity to see and appreciate everything without the added stress of trying to navigate around crowds of pedestrians.

Here you can see just how empty South Beach was during our trip. Compared to a normal day, this makes South Beach look like a total ghost town. Even the restaurants were almost begging for our business as we were passing by.

Bakehouse as Text

“Repurpose for a Purpose” by Trent Martino of FIU at the Bakehouse Art Complex

October 7, 2020

The Bakehouse in Wynwood is currently working on a fantastic exhibit that is using art to teach the public about an extremely important scientific issue. The leading artist, Lauren Shapiro, is working with environmental scientists to create an exhibit that is going to show people the damage that we are doing to the Earth’s coral reefs.

Coral reefs are a vital part of our ecosystem, and without them, tons of ocean life will perish, and consequently, much of the life on land will follow with it, since so much of the two environments depend on each other. There are many ways we pollute the ocean, including trash that escapes into the ocean, runoff from farmland, construction along the coast, over fishing, and much much more. All of these things can cause the coral to go through a process called “coral bleaching,” which is where they lose their color as they die. Lauren Shapiro and the artists she works with are using clay to demonstrate this process. Lauren worked with a group of scientists that create realistic 3D models of coral, and she used those to make molds out of a silicone-based substance. She then uses those molds to make clay versions of those different pieces of coral. They also built these massive wooden structures that the clay gets placed on. Over time, the clay will dry up, becoming pale and cracked, and also fall off of the wood, to visually simulate what happens to our coral reefs due to our negligence.

The silicone molds that Lauren made using 3D models of coral reefs from researchers
Some of the clay models that were made using the silicone molds

I think that the best part of this exhibit is that it beautifully combines a scientific issue with an artist application. I think that the hardest part of conveying a message as important as climate is that the information and the consequences can be difficult to explain with words alone. In order to show people the real consequences, we need artists that can think of amazing ideas like this that will really resonate with people. I hope that more artists get the opportunity to make informational exhibits like this, and I hope more scientists are open to doing the same.

Rubell as Text

“Private Ownership for Public Benefit” by Trent Martino of FIU at Rubell Family Collection Art Museum

October 21, 2020

The Rubell Museum is a fantastic and beautiful gem within Miami. I have never been to an art museum like it before, and Professor Bailey was able to explain to me why that is, and why it is so important.

The Rubell Museum is privately owned by the Rubell family. It is, in every sense, their own personal art collection that the family opens up to the public. Since it is a privately-owned museum, they are allowed to display whatever they want to. A lot of artwork in their museum could be considered controversial. There are many sexually-explicit pieces of art here. It is quite shocking if you are not used to see this type of stuff in a professional setting (well, an art museum is considered to be “professional” to me), but to be honest, it was very refreshing and enlightening. It was not disturbing, but just surprising. Being exposed to how vulnerable many of these artists can be when they express their art really changed my perspective on what art can be. If this were not a private collection, and was instead operated by as a government entity, they would never have shown the type of artwork that is currently in the Rubell Museum.

Let me be clear that the Rubell Museum contains a lot more than just sexually-explicit art. They have an expansive collection of contemporary art (all of the pictures that I took at the museum are some examples of the kind of artwork that can be found here at the Rubell Museum. I just think that being able to display artwork that is controversial is important. Professor Bailly made the point that artwork as explicit as the pieces displayed at the Rubell Museum would never be allowed to be put up at any government-owned facility, such as the Frost Art Museum at FIU. I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing that FIU would not put up this type of art, I just believe that everything needs its place, and the Rubell Museum has the freedom to display what other institutions cannot.

I know that these revelations may seem trivial to others, but these are things that I never really considered before. This trip allowed me to learn more about the world of contemporary art, and how much it matters.

Deering Hike as Text

“Authentic Miami” by Trent Martino of FIU at Deering Estate

November 4, 2020

Today, we went on a special hike through the Deering Estate that is not normally open to the public. On this hike, we got to see what Miami was originally like, with all of the natural habitats still (barely) untouched by modern development.

Through the Deering Estate, there are many natural areas that seem vastly different, but coexist right next to each other naturally. There is a grove of mangroves, sitting on top of the water, right next to a dessert-like field of pine trees. This is the most beautiful site I have ever seen in South Florida. I think it is amazing that the Deering Estate has preserved these natural areas. I am a huge fan of maintaining nature, and I think that every effort that humans make to destroy or alter natural habitats is a crime against the Earth, so seeing such a beautiful place being preserved is a very comforting thing.

One of the coolest things that I saw during the whole hike are these massive chunks of limestone (although Professor Bailley called it by a different name, I cannot think of it at the moment) that have been cut into and formed by the water that flows through and around it. There are even caves made from this naturally-cut limestone, and it blows my mind when you think about how long these rocks and these waters must have been here for these sights to have been formed.

Not only has the nature of the Deering Estate been protected, but relics of the native population have also been kept intact. Throughout the site, you can find the tools that were used by the native people who originally lived here, and they are made out of shells! These tools can be found all over the place, hidden in the muddy waters around the mangroves. You can see how the shells were broken and sharpened into tools such as knives and digging tools. Professor Bailly was willing to show us these tools, and holding them was a cool experience to see how innovative the native people were. What is even more amazing is that all of these small tools remained in the area after all these years of urban development and massive storms.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Miami: Conflicting History; Contradictory Values” by Trent Martino of FIU in Downtown Miami

November 25, 2020

For this days lecture, Professor Bailly took us on a walk around Downtown Miami. We got to see some historical sights and learn more about the city. From this trip, I learned more about how Miami became a city and its early days of being incorporated.

The first house built in Miami, which belonged to an interracial couple

Before Miami was a city, it was used as farmland by some of the first big investors in the area. In one of the parks within the city, there are two historic buildings (however, this is not their original location, this is where the local government decided to place them as a way to preserve them). One of them is the first house ever built in the Miami area, which was made by a German immigrant who married a black woman who already had children from a previous marriage. So this is a white man who has a black wife and black stepchildren, and to make it even better, he would later befriend native people in the area and would have them over for dinner. This really is a great story of how Miami is, a diverse group of people from different backgrounds coming to sit at a table together.

The other historic building does not have as happy of a story, but it is still very important and very interesting. It was a small hut-like building, which was built by and used to house slaves. However, it did not remain that way. Throughout Miami’s history, it took on many roles as community buildings, even serving as a courthouse, where actual trials took place!

Plaque commemorating Major Dade outside of the Miami Dade Courthouse

When Americans wanted to colonize the original area of Miami, it was inhabited by Seminoles, which was a group mixed of displaced natives and escaped slaves. One of the American military groups that was coming to attack the Seminoles was lead by Major Francis Langhorne Dade. He led 117 men down through South Florida and was ambushed by around 200 Seminoles, and Major Dade and all of his men perished. Learning this, I think it’s weird that we deiced to name our county after a man who died trying to kill another group of people for the sake of colonization. What’s even more bizarre is the plaque that’s on the Miami Dade Courthouse, with its description of the events that occurred. I’ll leave it here for you to discover.

Statue of Henry Flagler that can be seen outside of the courthouse in Downtown Miami

When Miami was about to become a city, the residents in the area had to vote to determine whether or not to incorporate the area as a city. Henry Flagler was a major proponent for making Miami a city, and argued that his workers should have the right to vote since they worked and lived on the land. He was able to get his workers the ability to vote, and Miami became incorporated as a city. Afterwards, Flagler kicked out 300 of his black workers, and then segregated them into a town that he designated as Colored Town, which is now Overtown. I understand that Flager was extremely important to the development of Miami, but I still think that it is important that everyone living here learns about the bad things that he did as well. As professor Bailly put it, “He brought the railroads to Miami, but he also brought segregation.” On that note, I think it is inappropriate that, right in front of the plaque commemorating Major Dade in front of the Miami-Dade Courthouse, a building that is supposed to represent unbiased justice, there is a statue of Henry Flagler.

Exploding bowl of oranges and orange peels
Graffiti under bridge going over the Miami river

Even though Miami has a pretty rough history, it is still worth mentioning that it is a great hub of art and culture. On just our little walk, I was able to see two great pieces of public art. One of them is a broken statue of a bowl of oranges, exploding with pieces of the bowl and parts of the orange flying everywhere, which is next to the Government Center Station for the Metro Mover. The other piece is some street art found under one of the bridges going over the Miami river. This is a good reminder of how Miami can be really ugly from one perspective, with its gentrification and class segregation, but it can also be really beautiful with its dedication to art.

Everglades as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Everglades National Park

This class trip was to the Everglades National Park down in my hometown of Homestead, Florida. I can’t lie, I did not expect to do anything new on this trip, since I no stranger to the Everglades, but of course, Professor Bailly went and totally surprised me. We did something that, not only have I never done before, but I have also never heard of it: slough-slogging!

Unfortunately, due to the nature of slough-slogging, I was too chicken to bring my phone along on this trip, so I do not have any pictures available.

                A slough-slog through the Everglades is a (very) wet walk through any spot that is not specifically roped off. What surprised me the most is that, unlike at other parks that I have been to, just about the entirety of the Everglades is accessible to visitors. The park ranger told me that, as long as you abide by the rules of the park (which are basically to not litter, don’t remove anything from the park, and don’t destroy anything), you are free to go about your business and explore the park as much as you please. This came as a really big surprise to me. I have been to the Everglades countless times throughout my life, I even have an annual pass to the park. But aside from going there to do some fishing in the canals or walk on the hiking trails, I didn’t do much else. It never occurred to me that I could just walk off the trails and, pretty much literally, just jump right into the waters. On our walk, we really went off into the deep end. I got well beyond waist-deep in the water, and I almost got much, much deeper due to some soft ground and nearly sunk through. By the way, if you plan on going out to the Everglades to have a slough-slog of your own, bring a long walking stick so you can test the ground ahead and around you, to make sure that it’s solid. Other than that, the walk itself is very nice and easy. The water was cold, but after a few minutes I got used to it. I didn’t get to see any animals up close, but there were plenty of nice birds that I got to see from afar. Overall, I must say that it was an experience unlike any other that I have had in my entire life.

                One of the coolest things that we did on the walk was stopping to get quiet and listen to the wilderness around us. As the water settled from our walking, my ears became filled with the sounds of birds talking to each other, frogs croaking in the distance, and something splash up in the water (was it an animal, a leaf, or Professor Bailly catching up from getting previously distracted? No one knows!). Even though we were sitting there in the wild waters, where we understood alligators and snakes lived, it was incredibly calming. Then, after a moment of peace and quiet, the park ranger volunteered to read a poem to us, which was written by someone who was doing the same thing as us: just sitting there in the water of the Everglades. It was a surreal experience, and I hope that everyone gets the opportunity to do something like this.

Margulies Collection as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at the Margulies Collection

January 27, 2020

The Margulies Collection is a nice little spot in the Wynwood area of Miami, tucked right up next to I-95. On the outside it may not seem that interesting. A big, gray block in a town filled with bright graffiti and colorful in-your-face buildings with massive murals on them might make it seem boring. But that is because this building doesn’t need to use art on the outside to get your attention. It’s what’s on the inside that matters, and it houses an amazing contemporary art collection.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with very interesting pieces of artwork, however, if you visit in the future, you may be greeted by something else, as the museum rotates its collections quite regularly. However, when I came, you get smacked in the face with some deeply emotional stuff. To your right there is (currently) a massive collection of figures made out of what appears to be burlap sacks, but with their heads missing. From what the museum employee told us about the artist and this piece in particular, it sounded to me like she was describing how situations in life can lead us to dehumanize other people.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

To the opposite wall of where you can find the piece above, there is a wall of some abstract art where the artist was turning the idea of a canvas and make that the focus of this collection. There are many different ways the artist took the idea of a canvas and distorted it and rearranged the components of it to make them look like completely different things. I think this is a good example of how art can be anything, you just need to find something that inspires you and then make it yours. I am particularly fond of the small blue one with the wooden cross in it. It looks like he took the canvas and almost inverted it, taking the outer edges and putting them into the center of the artwork.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

One of the most interesting pieces in the entire collection is this bizarre display of a woman’s face being projected onto a doll that has its head buried under a mattress. The woman whose face was on the doll was talking sporadically, with many displays of rapid changes from happiness to deep despair, almost as if she were representing a mental patient or someone on some serious psychedelics. It was definitely one of the strangest things that I have ever seen, and the medium of the art was also incredibly unique compared to everything that I have ever seen before. Clearly my classmates must have been entranced by it as well, since it was the one we spent the most time staring at and talking about. One thing that this piece had me thinking about was how technology used in art is a medium that is in a particularly unique type of danger. As technology advances, we stop producing old versions of what we once had. One day, the light bulb in that projector will die out, or the laser for reading the DVD in this DVD player will burn out, or even the disk itself will no longer be usable. What will happen to this artwork then, when we run out of these components that are left over? If we replace the projector with more modern one, will the piece of art still be the same? I think these are incredibly interesting questions that the art world, and quite frankly even the world of science and technology, have to consider.

Overall, I believe that the Margulies Collection is a really unique spot to check out. There are many, many different collections and displays that I have not talked about, and i think that everyone who visits Miami should come take a look at what they have on display. It is worth mentioning that all Florida students can get into the museum for free when they show the staff their student ID card. If you can, I highly recommend you go check it out.

Bill Baggs as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Here is a great picture of the lighthouse from the path that you walk down to see it. The view of it in between the palm trees is really something amazing.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC / BY 4.0

This was yet another trip to a place that I have heard of numerous times but have never gotten the chance to go to. We got to go to the world-renowned Bill Baggs Florida State Park, and not only that, we got a fantastic tour from one of the park rangers. We got to learn about the rich history of Biscayne Bay, which is where the park is located, and we got to help by doing a beach clean-up.

On this trip, I not only learned that Biscayne Bay has a deep and rich history, but that its history is constantly being developed and reimagined as historians get more facts straight through discovering lost documents or other methods. Due to the evolving history of the area though, the park ranger really stressed the fact that there are a lot of misconceptions about Biscayne Bay and South Florida, as there are a lot of people who grew up hearing a story or learning about specific events that we now know are not all that accurate to the real story. I think that this interesting dynamic highlights one of the strange things about the United States (and the America’s in general) in that, while the country was introduced to Europe in the time that they had written history, the native people of the Americas did not. This leaves us with a very one-sided account of the events that took place. For example, we can read all about how Ponce de Leone came to Florida and made his adventures, but we don’t really have a way to understand how the native population reacted to his arrival. We lac that historical context, and therefore we will never know exactly what happened. Of course, this is just one example, as the history of the Americas is filled with examples just like it. But this highlights just how misconstrued we can be when it comes to learning about history, and as I meditated on this, I began to realize just how delicate history can be. If a person really wanted to, or even just was not careful enough, they could make a whole group of people completely disappear from human memory. Even something like a natural disaster could occur, causing not only a massive loss of life, but also a loss of documentation of those lives. This gave me a much deeper appreciation for historians. They seem to be working against time in order to preserve it. It’s a very interesting dynamic that I don’t get to ponder on all that often, but it felt nice to be able to give them a moment of thought.

Other than being an interesting historical site, Bill Baggs is a very beautiful beach. If you visit it, then it will come as no surprise that it is regularly ranked in the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Without a doubt, it deserves this title. As mentioned before, it is in Biscayne Bay, which is closed off from the rest of Miami, so it’s a much quieter area by comparison. There is also the giant lighthouse, which is a relic from the early American colonization of the area around the year 1825 (more can be read about it on the Florida State Parks website). It is often a great place for people to take pictures, and there was even a photoshoot happening when we were having our tour. On There are many other neat places that you can find on the beach, such as the old cottage that was used to house the workers for the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself has an interesting historical story to it as well. Not only did it serve as a beacon to signal to those at sea of the nearing shore, but it was also nearly burned down in a Seminole retaliation against colonization. This one landmark itself can display the varied and colored history of Miami.

Of course, another thing that cannot go without mentioning is the wildlife that can be found here. Being a beach, there are of course many sea creatures that you can see. While we were having lunch near the water, I was able to see some small crabs crawling on the rocks, and some small fishes swimming around, close to the shore. There is also a rare species of butterfly found here, that was once thought to be extinct (the name escapes from my memory, but I was able to capture a picture of it). Of course, there are also the common rodents as well. Before our beach clean-up activity, we encountered some raccoons that seem to have grown rather fondly of humans (especially those that leave them snacks). Overall, the wildlife is interesting, but if that is not something that you are particularly interested in, that is by far not the only thing that you can do at this lovely place.

I think that as a native to South Florida, it is worth mentioning the reason why I never visited this spot. That is because, it being in Biscayne Bay, it is quite removed from the rest of Miami and South Florida. The neighborhood leading into the part is something unlike the rest of the city. It is a much quieter area and gives off the impression of being a more upper-class neighborhood. It is almost on what is essentially an island: it is difficult to get to, as it took me nearly an hour due to that lovely Miami traffic. I’m not trying to discredit the park for this (of course, because it’s not like they can just get up and move) but I think that it brings up an interesting point to how accessible these sites can be. While it is “open to the public,” I’m afraid that most of the public may not have much of a desire to come witness it, even though it really is a nice and beautiful park right on our backdoor.

River of Grass as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Everglades National Park

Every time Professor Bailly takes us to the Everglades I find a new thing to love about them. It is really amazing at how much freedom visitors have when they come to this national park. Out of all of the times I visited as a younger child, I would have never thought to just start walking into the various fields that surround you. As a matter of fact, I almost instinctively thought that the only places you were allowed to go were the paths and walking trails. However, according to the park ranger reassured me that just about every bit of the everglades was open to the public (minus, of course, areas that are roped off and have signs that say otherwise). If you manage to get to the Everglades, I encourage you to walk off the trails as we did. Here are some of the things that you may be able to see.

Solution holes

Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Walking through the marshes

Well, I suppose some people might disagree with me calling these areas “marshes,” but I had a hard time finding a term that can accurately encompass the land that we walked through. The Everglades is such a diverse ecosystem that you truly can completely change your surroundings just by walking a few yards.

I must admit that I was too afraid to bring my phone through the wetlands, so pretty much all of the pictures from here on out were taken by my fantastic classmates, who were braver than I was.

The view right next to the solution hole that we visited. Normally the land is covered in water, but due to the specific weather conditions that occurred in the area, the land is bone dry, covered in dirt and rocks.
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Our class walking off-trail
Photo Taken by Jennifer Quintero / CC BY 4.0

BEHOLD! The oldest standing structure in Miami!
Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero / CC BY 4.0

This was a great reminder of just how beautiful South Florida really is. It has a unique blend of organisms that grow together like nowhere else. The unfortunate part is, this area is in great danger from the effects of climate change. If we are not careful, then I feat that we will lose this beautiful landscape. I hope that everyone can see just how important this really is, and choose to act on it.

Frost as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU at the Frost Art Museum at FIU

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

For this class visit, we went to the First Art Museum. We visited two of the museum exhibits. One of them was a collection from a Venezuelan artist who was obsessed with roses, and the other was a collection of different artworks that were in the museums storage, arranged by a curator who worked at the museum. Although these two exhibits were vastly different in their content and the way they came to the musuem, they both had one thing in common, which is that they are both heavily dependent on the way they were curated.

The first collection that we visited is titled “Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display.” It is filled entirely with works from a Venezuelan artist named Roberto Obregon. Obregon was a man who was absolutely obsessed with roses. Through a period of 30 years, he took apart, cataloged and observed three dozen roses. He has sketches of roses, outlines of their petals, and even samples of petals that have been attacked by bugs. Everything in this collection is really bizarre and amazing. The one striking thing about this collection, though, is that Obregon had no involvement in its layout. Instead, what happened was, a group of artists got access to his collection works, were able to take them, and make all of the displays for his work. I think that this is extremely interesting. Here, we have a collection of a featured artist, where the artist had no involvement in how their work is being show to and shared with other people.

The other part of the museum that we visited is basically a curators playhouse. From what I understand, the curator goes through pieces of art in the museums storage vault, finds some that have a common theme, and then makes a display out of them. This one is made by Pepe Mar, and he calls it “Tesoro.” One of these rooms is called the “Cabinet of Curiosities.” An actual cabinet of curiosities is one where that a person will build as they travel and collect little nick knacks and whatnots from the places that they visited. Here, the curator tried to amplify that idea by placing a bunch of art pieces from different cultural regions in one room, all over the place. This lead to an interesting discussion with Professor Bailly about this specific piece, which contains several masks from different parts of the world, all hung up together with a playful background. The conversation that this sparked was around the question: “Is this offensive?” I think it definitely is. To me, it looks like it’s just a messy arrangement of items that represent different peoples cultural roots. To me, I think that they deserve more respect than just becoming someone’s art project. What also got me bothered was the fact that on the collections page on the First website, the curator is described as caring about the cultures that the artworks come from. I believe that if they truly cared, then they may find a way to at least incorporate some way for visitors to learn where they come from.

Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/ BY 4.0

From both of these exhibits, it got me to think about something: “Are curators artists?” When I think about this question, I want to say no. To me,a curator is just a person who organizes art, but are themselves not really artists. They’re almost just fancy interior designers. They are also not necessarily making anything, they are just taking what someone else made, and are putting their own spin on it. However, I do think that there are some important differences. The Obregon collection is a group of people organizing a collection in honor of the artist. The Tesoro one, on the other hand, is an artist looking at works that other people made, and just arranging them as they please with seemingly no regard for who made them, and then placing their name on it. The latter case, to me, makes curating seem like a fancy term for appropriating. Of course, I do not believe that the artist had any ill intent, nor do I believe that the Frost museum did, but I still that that this is interesting to think about.

Coral Gables as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU in Coral Gables and at the Biltmore Hotel

Wednesday March 24, 2021

This trip was split into two different events. For the first part, we had a tour of the Coral Gables Museum and then had a walking tour around the area, getting a historical perspective on the city and the area. The second part of the days trip was spent on an extensive tour of the Biltmore hotel, which has a lot of history in it itself.

Before this class I had no idea how much history Coral Gables really held. As it turns out, it is a fairly old city. In the early 1900s, the United States government installed a program to fund cities to make them more attractive, and to increase the population and the number of visitors. Fortunately for Coral Gables (and South Florida at large), they were selected as one of the cities for this project. These investments lead to the city prospering, allowing it to become what it is today.

Coral Gables City Hall. Out front is a statue of George Merrick, the founder of Coral Gables.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0
Bird from the birdcage inside the Biltmore’s lobby
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

During the second part of the days class, we got a tour of the Biltmore Hotel. The lady who gave us the tour was incredibly knowledgeable on the history of the building, and to be honest, it was a lot more interesting that I originally thought it would be. The Biltmore is a building that holds a lot of history. Since it was built in 1926. I think that the most interesting moment in the hotels history was when it was converted into an impromptu military base during World War II. During this time, it was used as a military hospital, and much of the original interior design was covered or altered according to government and military regulations for such a facility. The original flooring was covered with linoleum, the windows were sealed shut, and many of the rooms were sectioned off or split up. Even after the war, it was still used as a hospital for Veterans Affairs, and was even used to house the medical school for the University of Miami. Eventually a new VA hospital was built, and the hotel was abandoned for several years. Then through.a government program to maintain historic landmarks, they gave the city of Coral Gables full ownership of the hotel, and it was then restored. You can still see some of the scars from the way out was converted into a military base, but for the most part it seems to be in pretty good standing.

This is the Biltmore’s bell tower. It really is an impressive site when you get to see it from the courtyard.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

Vizcaya as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Wednesday April 7, 2021

This curtain hanger, which appears to look like a dragon, can be seen on columns around the center of the courtyard at the center of the building
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

For this class we went to the famous Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which was originally built in 1923 by James Deering. It is an incredible site, and it is both unlike anything else in Miami,while also encapsulating everything that there is to love about Miami. It is unique in the way it designed. Throughout the whole property, it feels like you are walking through some sort of Italian Renaissance wonderland. There are gorgeous statues, big, tall and open roofs, and the furniture inside is magnificent. However, even though it looks grandiose, there is a playful aspect to it. It’s as if James Deering and his designers knew what they were doing and saying: Yes, our place is better than your place. At every turn, it feels like Deering was trying to show off as best as he could that he had good taste, and the money to back it up. Every single piece of the property seems hand selected, down to the ornaments used to hold curtains open (shown here to the right).

However, fancy curtain holders are far from the limit to the grandiosity that is the Vizcaya estate. I don’t think that I am able to express just how over-done everything feels at this amazing place. Another great example is the breakwater that doubles at a party platform right off the coast in the part behind the property.

Here you can see a large caravel hanging like a chandelier from the ceiling right at the main entrance of the house.
Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/BY 4.0

Two interesting motifs that you can find in throughout the building are seahorses and ships. The story goes that James Deering wanted to make the symbol of the estate a large sailing ship (I believe it was a caravel), while his lead designer wanted it to be a sea horse. You can tell that they had a constant battle over these two ideas, as both can be seen adorned on many different objects in different sections of the property. However, as you can probably assume, since Deering was the proper owner of the proeprty, there are quite a few more notable caravels seen around the property. Personally, I believe that they are both great symbols, and I quite like how they are both placed throughout the property.

There is one more excellent part of the estate that i just love. In the back entrance of the main house, there is a statue of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and, among other things, fertility. He is often depicted as what is basically a party animal, engaging in orgies and debauchery. As professor Bailly pointed out, this is almost the perfect depiction of how Miami is in the modern world. This is a city known for its night life, and people flock here from all around the world to engage in this extravagant party lifestyle, and James Deering set the tone for this nearly a century ago.

Skyler Hayman: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Skyler Hayman in 2020 by Judenjy Jean

Hello reader. My name is Skyler Hayman, but everyone calls me Sky. I identify as a non-binary queer human being who was born and raised in Miami, FL and birthed from two immigrant parents who are originally from Nicaragua. All pronouns are welcomed and so are your comments. I am a junior at Florida International University double majoring in International Business and Marketing. Art has always and will always hold a special spot in my heart as it is a way to connect with other human beings through time and space. In the future, I hope to become a product/project manager, but my goal in life is to gain as many memories and experiences as I can.

Deering As Test: “Category Is… Richmond Realness” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Deering Estate

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 inside the Richmond Cottage in the Deering Estate

Fashion is an art form that is constantly changing, improving, and being reinvented.

As seen in the photo above it is an example of what a wealthy woman of those times would consider fashionable. It’s the early 1900’s in Miami and women suffered in heat to be with the trends and seen as a respectable person. Keep in mind that this is a layered outfit with small torso to show off a feminine figure, but at the cost of being uncomfortable, sweaty, and most likely tired.

We now know, that fashion is different all around the world and at times, weather is a factor on deciding what’s trendy and what is allowed to be worn. This was the type of fashion that not only did the Deerings’ wear but was also encouraged for those around them to be presentable too, including the help.

Similarities from those times to now are body types. When looking up fashion from this era, it shows women who have a small waist and a long gown, could be signifying long legs. Models now are continuing this trend by being thin and having long legs. Differences now are that the world of fashion is being more acceptable to other skin colors, but also taking in account of the women that belong to different cultures. Don’t forget that women in general are allowed to show more skin now in certain part of the world.

Overall, having a peak at not only this time era, but also the location, we see they type of culture that was brewing in Miami at this time. The Richmond Cottage was converted into an Inn but not only was it a resting place for people, but also a temporary moment for different visitors to share their differences and similarities in what they wore and their culture from either their part of Florida or elsewhere.

South Beach As Text: “Don’t White People Own This?” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at South Beach

Collage of photos taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 in South Beach

As we begin to go further into our explorations of Miami, South Beach is a place that could never be skipped over. South Beach has gone by and still goes by many names, but the history of the place will remain the same.

Walking through the streets of South Beach and not only was it a unique experience, but an actual walk through memory lane. Buildings have been torn down, renovated, rebuilt, or even kept the same. Seeing the history of these buildings speak through their names and even their architecture.

Having gone through these streets and their history, the string that ties them all together are the white people that have navigated it’s history into the future. Did the big white names actually construct these buildings? No. They have called the shots about who can live there and who can hang out there and exactly where all these things happen.

To this day, the segregated parts of South Beach still continue to be separated. Everything below 5th street is not blocked off and not protected the same way everything above 5th street is. Above 5th street there are blockades that don’t allow cars to drive through those streets which have been places because of the pandemic, but still protect only those buildings. Many buildings have been built in an Art Deco style down this side of South Beach that have kept authenticity of these buildings, but were only protected by another white person.

South Beach today is now the center of Miami, regardless of geographic location. It’s our main attraction that’s placed in the intros of movies and shows, but it is our duty to learn its history which will overall deepen our love and appreciation for Miami.

Bakehouse As Text: “Science But Make It Artsy” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Bakehouse

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 inside the Bakehouse

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word coral reef? Did you think of some ocean somewhere? Coral reefs are one of the most essential ecosystems of the sea. Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea in which they provide a home to many species and are also protectors. Worst part is, they’re depleting and it’s our fault.

So how do you tell the world about something sad and scary, but in a way that won’t make them want to ignore the issue? Art. While at the bakehouse, science was being explained through art and its medium was clay. Repurposed clay was being given the chance to explain science through a story that still being created. Coral reef molds, clay, and a lot of teamwork is telling a scary story about how our coral reefs are depleting and it’s our fault, but there are way we can help.

This is just one of many examples of how science can communicate through art. This time it’s an exhibit about a lost city found underwater using clay, but next time it could be a movie or a painting. This project does not only show how science and art can be intertwined, but how any subjects can come together and still relay a message.

Rubell As Text: “Rubells Take On Contemporary Art” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Rubell Museum Contemporary Arts Foundation

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 inside the Rubell Museum Contemporary Art Foundation

It has been said before that art is a story that each person interprets differently. Aside from being a story. art is a freedom of expression that is used to communicate with people through space and time. So what exactly is the image above telling you?

The Rubell family started with one art work that they were paying with weekly installments to now becoming one of the biggest contemporary art collections in North America. They know that art is not made to be transactions being passed around for one individual, but rather to share with the world. The art works are on display without censorship in their rawest form.

Contemporary art is more of a modern art which makes this museum more reachable to it’s visitors by being able to connect with them. Some art works may seem confusing and hard to understand and other art works look astonishing and beautiful. However, they all fall under the genre of contemporary art because they are from artists living today.

Each of these art works have a background on how and why it was made. Many times artists do not want to provide too much of an explanation behind their work only because they want to leave those consuming it to interpret it for themselves. How do you see contemporary art now?

Deering Hike As Text: “Nature: Where Past Meets Present” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Deering Estate

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 during a hike of the Deering Estate

Aside from the mosquitos buzzing in one’s ear, the climbing temperatures, and occasional breeze, during this hike the past presented itself to its future but our present.

Water in nature is a life-support for all who drink from it. It was a feast for those who eat of its living organisms. In the past, hunters and gatherers would take complete advantage of a place like this one. Not only did it provide a nourishing and thirst-quenching experience, but it also provided them with food to survive until they encounter another opportunity like this one.

Nature provided rocks that were at times perfectly shaped to skin a fish, sharpen a spear, or even dig a hole in the ground. It was nature’s way of helping out the humans in the past. Nature continues to do these things whether or not humankind has advanced far from it. This is where the present meets the past, which is their future.

We now see parts of nature like these or even at times find the same tools they used back then in those places at this time and think how fascinating it is or think how they survive and definitely surprised to how far we have come.

Nature continues to live on in the same way as it used to even to certain animals. Those species who don’t have the power, mentally or physically, to move past the times of hunter and gatherer. We have done damage to these places, but we most also give back to the places who helped us get here.

Downtown Miami As Text: “Dear Tequestas, I’m Sorry” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Downtown Miami

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 during a walking tour of Downtown Miami

Downtown Miami today is the hub to find all different types of people ranging from culture, socioeconomic status, sexuality, religion etc. and it can be seen with the architecture of the buildings, the people walking the streets, and even the type of places to eat. But before all the sights to see, there were Native Americans residing there. They were pushed down south then moved again just so Downtown could become Downtown.

The Tequestas were a tribe like many others that were forcibly removed from many places just so that non natives could steal their land and turn them into whatever they wanted. The history of Downtown Miami is not spoken of much because we are too occupied with concentrating on the diversity of right now. People of color built Miami, but we only acknowledge the ones who were forcing these people to build.

However, houses like in the image above give an exceptional story. An interracial couple lived in that home. A white man was married to his black wife and they had kids and took care of them in that house. Interracial couples seem normal to us now, but were a huge controversy back in those times. This is what Miami is truly about. Downtown Miami itself is a mixture of all different kinds of people with different backgrounds and who have different experiences.

Downtown Miami is even home to other histories. There is a piece of the Berlin Wall in front of the Miami-Dade College that has it’s own story with the past dean. Downtown Miami is a wonderful place that is a very important place for many people. The history of it and those who worked for it to get there is not spoken about enough or one to truly acknowledge and appreciate it.

Mangroves As Text: “Pick Up After Yourselves” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Deering Estate

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2020 while canoeing in the mangroves of the Deering Estate

This is now my third time visiting the Deering Estate. Every single time I go, it seems like I am stepping into a whole new world. From the Richmond Cottage to the hike trail, to now this. The mangroves at the Deering Estate. The weather was nice, the people were, great and the water was beautiful.

However, like many beautiful things in nature, the deeper you look the sooner you’ll find how humans have ruined it. Before getting to work, we had the opportunity to canoe deep within the mangroves and have a moment to take in its beauty. The crabs crawling on the branches, the spiders weaving their webs, and fellow classmates tipping their canoe. This experience was an unforgettable one.

After some fun, it was time to remember why we were there. This was more than just picking up trash from humans that got entangled within the mangroves. This was an apology to mother nature. We were able to recover a lot of trash that were thrown off boats and somehow got into the mangroves. I was one of the students who tipped over their canoe so I was figuratively and literally submersed within the mangroves. Wet and all, we continued to pick up after others. After our canoes were filled with trash and soaking wet students, we paddled our way back to shore to dispose of what we collected. The only message I can share is, pick up after yourselves.

Everglades As Text: “Slough Slogging Adventures” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Everglades National Park

Photos taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 in Everglades National Park

When talking to any Floridian, they know the general area of where the Everglades are. Even referring to it as “the Everglades” was very Floridian of me. However, not everyone knows how it works or even the history of it. Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. As more and more people came down, they began to redirect water flow and build on the Everglades which has now become towns people live in. There are efforts to restore the water flow and to maintain the land that wasn’t completely destroyed when making South Florida.

I am not new to the Everglades nor am I new to slough slogging. However, passing down the opportunity to go on such an adventure again, especially with new people and great guideS, is impossible. This time, I got to slough slog in a new area that is truly breathtaking as can be seen on the left of the photo above. It was the same activity, but in a new location with new people and new information made it feel like I was doing it for the first time.

After a brief lunch intermission, I was thrown into a new area where there was a boardwalk trail that allowed me to continue to see a different side of the Everglades. This side can be seen on the right of the photo provided from above. This trail seemed brighter and more open all while maintaining an adventurous scene. Birds catching prey, mating, and even defecating set the scene that could be shared with first time visitors and avid bird watchers.

Lastly, a few of us took the extra step and went on another mini trail right next to this one, which again felt like a whole new scene. I don’t know how mother nature does it, but what I do know is that sights and experiences like these can not be passed on. Everglades National Park is more than just a swamp, but rather a world of worlds of beautiful explorations that needs to be taken advantage of.

Margulies As Text: “Contemporary Art Exhibit A” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Margulies Collection at the Warehouse

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 inside the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse

As we know, contemporary art is the art of the modern day world. It’s unexplainable yet interesting. To some people they just see a 5 year olds art class project and others can feel the intent and emotion of each artist and understand the concept. The difference lies in one aspect, art education.

While touring the collection, there were many moments where I questioned myself “Do I lack the art education to understand this?” and most times I did until later where the piece was explained to me and I was able to understand how the artist was able to obtain that piece. Some art works spoke for themselves. It was able to communicate its purpose by making one feel the art with their eyes or the space it was in.

The best part about going to see art with others is that each person is able to interpret the art in their own different way. We came across an artwork that was made entirely of rocks. To most of us, it was a beautiful piece of artwork that came from nature until a classmate spoke up and was able to see that even though it was a nice piece, it was harmful to the environment that these rocks were taken from. A business person, an environmentalist, and an artist all saw the same piece and all took away something different and that relates back to my statement that art is a way to connect with other human beings through time and space.

This collection is one that I recommend one goes to see without judgement and reservations about art, but an open mind that is open to seeing the artwork from different perspectives.

Bill Baggs As Text: “Lighthouse Tales” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

And there I was again, diving into history through the landmarks that were there and stories told by people who heard it from other people who heard it from the friends of the people who experienced it. Hearing about who built the land and who claimed it and who discovered it and slightly distracted by those who were there standing in front of me. Standing in the shade of the same lighthouse we weren’t allowed to enter because of the pandemic. Hearing the same ocean waves those before me have heard and those after me might not get to hear.

Applying previous knowledge of people before us like the Tequestas and the Afro-Bahamians and seeing how they would’ve lived in this area. Using the lenses of the past and trying to see our present in their future. Runaway slaves seeking freedom in the same place people are now taking photoshoots and having lunch. Seeing a home built in the middle of it all that didn’t belong there with its two chimneys in Miami, Florida…. the sunshine state.

Our fun didn’t stop there. After having a sweet encounter with the wildlife in the man made area of trees planted there to rejuvenate the place and bring back the beauty of it, it was time to have a beach cleanup. It was our time to give back to the same Earth that provided stories, tales, and a gorgeous view. Walking alongside the water still thinking about the history of the people before me. Wondering if they showered or played on the same beach I am cleaning up. These were the tales provided to us while standing next to a lighthouse that has been there for years and more years to come.

River of Grass As Text: “Abandoned Tomato Farm” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Everglades National Park

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 in Everglades National Park

Looking at the image above, tell me what you see. If you answered some grass and the sky, you’re correct. But I promise you it’s way more than just that. What’s not captured in the photo is actually how wet and muddy the floor where the grass stands really is.

Before our wild adventure, we had a walk through the past visiting an old missile sight in the Everglades. Seeing a missile sight and knowing that back in the day if need be, the U.S. government would’ve cause tremendous damage to the this unique ecosystem. Shortly after this small blast to the past, we actually dove into the everglades.

It wasn’t my first trip to the Everglades and I highly doubt it’ll be my last. We were on this long journey to see a farmer’s house that was in the middle of this abandoned tomato farm that turned into a habitat for animals who have been forced into this sanctuary. Our class stomped and tracked through this terrain and now we have left our mark in this spot of the Everglades. Our adventure was also filled with iconic sights of spoonbills that soared through the sky.

Frost As Text: “Rose Petals” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at FIU

Photo taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at FIU

Back in another museum. Connecting with humans through which connects us all through time and space. Diving into other cultures and the minds of artists through what they’ve made and the way the curators choose to tell their story. Learning that before art there was science which later turned into art, but can be used in science to this day. Standing in the middle of a gallery of rose petals that weren’t red or yellow, but black to show their shape and way of being. Seeing the same images scientists see and seeing science through our artistic eyes.

Applying the artistic knowledge bestowed onto me by a wise professor, we took our artsy lenses and went up to the third floor and no longer saw labels of things but rather unlabeled art standing next to other unlabeled art. Making educated guesses of what the artist meant to say or if they meant to say anything at all. Having deeper conversations and meaning behind each art piece and wondering if the art on display was offensive or disrespectful. Sitting on a bench which was limited to one person due to the pandemic and wondering if the so-called angel in the art piece was disappointed or asking for help. Art pieces framed in parts of furniture because the artist couldn’t afford more than that and it was now being dissected by a bunch of young adults who think they know what art means.

Our sight learning turned into hands-on learning once we were given some art tools and expected to make something meaningful or extravagant when being handed a rose and some paint. After opening my mind’s eye and making something I could be proud of, we were then given a psychological test. Not knowing it was a psychological test, our minds opened once more and released what we could, given the guides in front of us. Art not only connects all human beings through time and space but it also reveals what a particular human being’s mind is in that time and in that space. Revealing to me that I see sexuality as a “prison bitch” spoke volumes and it shows how the artists of the floors and I think differently, but are both considered artists to some degree.

Coral Gables As Text: “The Gables” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Coral Gables Museum, Coral Gables, & Biltmore Hotel

Photos taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 at Coral Gables Museum & Biltmore Hotel

Another museum, another history lesson. Coral Gables is a well-known part of Miami. It’s an area that is known for it scenery, money, and history. We were able to get a peak into the past by visiting the Coral Gables Museum which used to be a fire rescue station, police department, and even an old courthouse. Standing in the same spot criminals spent the night in felt scandalous and exciting. Standing in the same spot the fire engines would storm out of was a thrilling experience. Walking the same halls past presidents have walked felt inspiring. I was now learning about the area where I would pass through and visit my whole life and learning exactly how it got its name. I was a business student looking at history with my artistic eyes.

If you’re familiar with this class and my experience in this non-traditional lecture, you know the fun never ends there. After taking a time machine to the past, we took a walk in the present while talking about the future. Walking the streets of Coral Gables Making educated guesses of what the artist meant to say or if they meant to say anything at all. Having conversations about keeping the antique style of Coral Gables . Strutting the streets where restaurants and businesses stood together and flags from different countries hung right over them. The streets lead us to a time capsule and we visited the expensive, haunted, historical iconic…

Biltmore Hotel. Walking in was seeing the people of the present being present in a past location where they were the people of the future. The only way I could describe this experience is if Cinderella were to walk in Prince Charming’s Castle before the bippity boppity boo. The scenery can only be described as vintage wealthy glamour. Being led around by such a knowledgable tour guide. Seeing the possible events that probably made stories and dramas of the rooms there.

Vizcaya As Text: “Man Made Beauty” by Skyler Hayman of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Photos taken by Skyler Hayman in 2021 at Vizcaya Museum & Garden

My life couldn’t have continued without coming to see this place. Vizcaya Museum and Garden was the highlight of this entire course. Aside from the people and moments shared with them, lectures given, and many other aspects, this man made beauty was the best end to our journey as a class. This wasn’t just another museum, but we were walking in a palace built by James Deering. James had a vision for a mansion and because of his resources, his vision became a reality and what a beautiful reality it was.

The beauty began at the entrance where there were signs guiding visitors to parking spaces. It was like entering the prettiest part of the jungle. A short walk and I found myself with my jaw dropped and eyes widened by the astonished beauty that was Vizcaya. The entrance itself looked as if the trees were welcoming us into a magical place. Upon entering, a statue of a god was looking down on us and my mind began to wonder, how did James come up with such a beautiful concept. Later learning that the entrance we entered wasn’t even the main entrance, I could only imagine what lied ahead. What I saw next, my own imagination couldn’t even compete. A body of water looking onto a balcony where it told me to leave serious things behind and trust me that I did. Passing through the rooms of the house and through secret passage ways made me feel just as boujee as James Deering might have felt.

If being inside the mansion wasn’t enough, we were able to lose ourselves and truly leave all serious things behind and just frolic throughout the garden. Stepping outside and going into the garden felt almost angelic. The trees whispering and telling us to dance, the leaves laughing in the wind, and even the rocks we stepped on humming to the song that nature was singing in that garden. James Deering took on the challenge on creating what he wanted nature and beauty to mean and he did wonderfully. Fountains and secret gardens were just the remains of the stories that happened in the garden. All lessons learned about Afro-Bahamians, Spaniards, building art styles, etc. were all tied back to into this palace. What a great end to a wonderful class, Vizcaya Museum & Garden.

Author: Skyler Hayman

Jesse Velazquez: Miami as Text 2020-2021

As I travel through space and time on this rock we call Earth, I hope to partake in as many riveting experiences as I can. Currently studying biology at FIU, my dream is to research different ecosystems around the nation and hopefully the world. The realization that we have such a short amount of time to experience our lives has driven me to learn about new philosophies and new outlooks on life. I believe this course will allow me to appreciate my home city of Miami in a new light, acknowledging the untold histories and unspoken forms of expression evident through the constant change Miami endures. I strive to make everyday an adventure.

Deering as Text

“Take Care Not to Burn Your Bridges” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Deering Estate on September 9, 2020

Photo taken by Annette Cruz / FIU Honors

Before South Florida has become the cultural epicenter it is today, Charles Deering made his home in what is now known as Cutler Bay. Surrounded by the lush green jungle that is the pine rocklands and wetlands, he erected a lone bridge to aid him cross a creek on his evening walks around his estate. Unbeknownst to him, the bridge has become a symbol of much more.

As the lands of Florida were developed, the natural flow of water from the Okeechobee was greatly disturbed. The creek that this bridge was built over had now disappeared. The bridge stood for years as a glimpse of what used to be. It was not until recently, scientists have been able to restore this flow of water through the use of new technologies (Staletovich, Wetland). As a research assistant currently studying the effects the draining of the Everglades have done to the native flora and fauna, it brought joy to my heart to know that there is a chance for change.

During our time at the estate, we were asked what art meant to us. This question resonated with me as I took this course to try and understand what art can mean to me. I still wouldn’t be able to give a clear answer but the bridge came to mind. Built by the hands of black men on land they were eventually restricted from inhabiting, in an ode to an architectural style that originated halfway across the world, now standing as a testament to the past and how man is able to correct the wrongs of his elders; I believe nothing in the estate truly encapsulates what art can mean than the Chinese Bridge.

I can’t help wonder what others in the early 1900s must have felt when coming across the bridge. In the middle of what was then nowhere, stands a brightly colored bridge with intricate designs reminiscent of a distant land. It is evident Charles Deering tried to bring different aspects from around the world to his home. I wish I could ask the men building it what they thought. It amazes me how much can change in only 100 years.

Source: Staletovich, J. Urban wetland at Deering Estate offers glimpse at successful Everglades restoration. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article1962423.html.

South Beach as Text

“The Drug Store Massacre” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at South Beach on September 23, 2020

The “world famous Hollywood Landmark.”

When I was about ten years old, one of the scenes that was forever imprinted in my mind from Scarface was the chainsaw bathroom scene. I believe it was that scene that set the tone for the rest of the film. The story of a man in search of the American Dream is a story that hits close to home for many Cubans that have migrated to Miami. You would imagine that a movie that has brought so much attention to Miami would be celebrated.

As we walked down Ocean Drive, the streets told stories of a time before. Light blues and curved lines, reminiscent of the ocean waves. Wide buildings structured like cruise ships. The buildings gave me a sense of optimism from the past, the buildings were designed to be an everlasting aesthetic. A prediction of the future from the past. The neon accents that outline the strong lines at night add to the sense of modernity. For the most part, each building was designed to stay.

The trend continued until we came across a CVS. The building was a flat and dull structure. There was no idea being expressed, no lines to move your eyes, no colors to elicit emotion. The developers completely rejected the South Beach design, it was a disrespect to those who had a vision for the future of Miami. Then as we approach the building, in a small corner away from view reads a sign. “This scene depicts the chainsaw massacre (from Scarface) and is a world famous Hollywood Landmark.” To add insult to injury, they have transformed what housed an iconic scene in film to an incorporated drug store.

It seems that this theme of disregarding the past is prevalent in the development of Miami. The entirety of this city is based on the destruction of wildlife and homes of minorities. The history of Miami is a history of massacres. This class continues to open my eyes to the reality of this world and how humans have so recklessly altered it.

Bakehouse as Text

“Sea of Change” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Bakehouse Art Complex on October 7, 2020

Photo taken by John Bailly / FIU Honors

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution scientists have warned the public of the dangers of the American lifestyle. Thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted daily by human activity. Whether through the use of cars or from industry, these greenhouse gases have settled into the ocean. With unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the ocean has begun to acidify. With such rapid change in ocean chemistry, many organisms are at risk. Corals have been one of the biggest groups affected by ocean acidification.

As a student focusing on environmental biology, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the science of global warming. Constantly reading articles and studies about the harm humans have done to the planet, at times one can feel hopeless. Speaking with Lauren Shapiro made me realize how inclusive science can be. I have always appreciated music and art, but never tried to combine it with my love for science. I believe there is so much ground that can be covered this way. It was inspiring to hear from artists bringing awareness to heal our local ecosystems.

The best way to seek support from all walks of life is to find something everyone can connect to. Lauren’s project is a means to connect with the public. There aren’t many opportunities when one can have a hands-on experience like this project allows. Being a direct part of an art piece inspires people to take part in art projects of their own and makes the topic in focus fun and digestible to the everyday person. As we were able to recreate a coral reef system using molds crafted from real corals, I wanted to learn more about these beautiful creatures.

As Lauren stated, scientists and artists can gain a lot from each other. A collaboration of knowledge at this scale can produce life changing results. I hope to do something similar with science in my future. My goal is to lead research initiatives in different parts of the world, while connecting with local artists. I hope I can spread my message of conservation wherever I go with the community through song or visual art, motivating the youth to pursue a life in the arts and sciences.

Rubell Museum as Text

“Rude Boys on Ice” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Rubell Museum on October 21, 2020

When I first saw this piece, I immediately thought of the two-tone ska movement of the 1980s. Black and white photographs of men dancing in full suits were a staple of this genre. The “rude boy” aesthetic became synonymous with the entrancing upstrokes of ska guitar. The most famous dance of this scene was the skank, a march-like dance in which the body would swing along to the music. Circular mosh pits filled with skankers was a common sight in this scene.

As I read about the artists thoughts behind this piece, I tried to put myself in his shoes.  My interpretation of the piece is that Robert Longo was trying to capture the commotion and kinetic energy behind music. His whole approach to this piece was similar to the way one would write a song.

This piece opened my mind to the true meaning of violence. What is the true definition of violence? Where is the line drawn when an act is seen as violent or expressive. From the outside a mosh pit may seem like a cesspool of anarchy and hate. Once you are in, it feels like a natural flow of energy. The movements are an extension of the song. I believe these pictures are meant to highlight the relationship between man and violence.

This trip to the art museum was an unexpected experience. I have never really sat down and observed art to try and understand its meaning. I would like to immerse myself in more similar conversations. Hearing how others view things and often times the world can open one’s mind to new outlooks. I hope to view things more like an artist in my life.

Deering Hike as Text

“The Dead and Mounded” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Deering Estate on November 4, 2020

The incessant rains and hurricane force winds that hit the coast of south Florida make it almost impossible to give current Floridians an idea of how life before colonization was. Luckily for historians and appreciators of Florida’s history, the nomadic Tequesta tribe have offered a peak into their lives. In the Deering Estate Nature Reserve stands a large oak tree towering over a large mound.

Photo of Tequesta Burial Mound by Jesse Velazquez

The mound holds over ten bodies of tribal members, all forming a circle. In a time when energy was conserved because one’s next meal was never promised, it took the manpower of at least 15 men to form this hill and bury the dead.

I find it extremely powerful that the members of the Tequesta tribe decided to plant an oak tree at the top of the mound. Whether they transplanted an already developed tree or placed a seed to be nourished by the decomposing bodies of their fallen members, an understanding of the cycles of nature and giving back to the land that provides to them is obviously present. I believe this was a site of prayer or ritual practice. I am sure this became a place of contemplation, possibly a place of gratitude for the seasons and good weather. The tree grows up and out to the sun. Oak trees are some of the biggest trees in south Florida.

Such a sacred monument to their elders tells a lot of the morals of the Tequesta tribe. Unlike many depictions of native Americans as savage warriors ravaging lands, the mound shows that they mourned their lost brothers and sisters. They reflected on their lives and the significance of family. I believe we have much to learn from our past.

Downtown Miami as Text

“The Hand That Feeds, Also Kills” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at Downtown Miami on November 25, 2020

The more I learn of Miami and the world, the more I realize the extent to which humans have taken it upon themselves to completely alter it. I sometimes forget that places like New York City and downtown Miami were once thriving ecosystems full of flora and fauna. As the professor mentioned, I tried to truly immerse myself into the world that was before. I like to imagine a time-lapse of the land. A land devoid of concrete structures, covered in green. I wonder what the natives thought when they saw the Spanish ships of Ponce de Leon land on their shores. It would have impossible to imagine that in a few centuries their lands will be tainted with buildings replicating the architecture of this distant land. The influence these “visitors” have completely overshadow that of the original inhabitants. Paths that have been used for hundred of years will be renamed as streets of the white man. Statues will be erected glorifying these white men, giving no appreciation for the natives for years to come.

Though I do wish the natural landscape could have been preserved more carefully, there is a point when I believe you must accept what has happened and look to the positives. Miami has become a cultural center evident through the different influences in architecture and languages. As we walked through the city, graffiti was present all throughout. Whether a full mural or a simple tag, it is the voice of an unheard group trying to be noticed. Similar to cave paintings the Tequesta may have done, those that inhabit the inner city try to say something with their art. The more I learn about Miami the stronger my love-hate relationship grows.

The Everglades As Text

“The Tranquil and the Inconsequential” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Everglades National Park on January 14, 2021

The Amber Bloom / Photo Taken by Jesse Velazquez

The reason I have been drawn so much to nature is the same the poet spoke of in “Pahayokee.” To me, nature reminds me of my true role in the world. The ties to work and stress are all cut loose. I am surrounded by the untouched. There is no deadline, there is no worry. We have become so entangled in our own personal problems we forget of the constant balance found in nature. Every push has a pull, every up has its down. There is no waste in nature, everything serves its unique purpose. All processes happen at the pace it was meant to be. The trees grow, the water flows, and life is but a means of supporting another. A cycle that knows no good nor bad, only the necessary.

I remind myself that this is not an escape, but a reminder of the truth. Park Ranger Dylann Turffs spoke of the disconnect among people and the natural world. I believe the more people reach out and spend time in the outdoors, they will realize the importance of conservation efforts. These efforts are not merely for the preservation of land that is “nice to look at,” but a protection of what is true on this Earth. Millions of years of evolution have led to the world we live in now, and in a mere hundreds we may lose it all. Every day it seems we are told of new ways we are different from each other; things that pull us apart as people. Nature is the only thing we all truly have in common.

The Margulies Collection as Text

“A Struggle, the Same” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Margulies Collection on January 27, 2021

Photo taken by Jesse Velazquez

The story of humanity is one of plight and pain. Through the hardships we face, we are able to come together. In these moments of vulnerability we see our true strength. Many of the pieces at the Marguiles Collection emphasize the different aspects of human struggle. Whether it be through the hunger many people face, or the persecution and hate others encounter, every group has a story to tell.

These are the stories in which we learn from each other as a people. It can inspire people and give them hope for brighter days ahead. It can also serve as a reminder of travesties of the past and how to learn from our mistakes. I was personally drawn to Depression Bread Line by George Segal and Hurma by Magdalena Abakanowicz. Both pieces reflect a time in different countries that face a similar struggle. One’s next meal was not promised, it was unknown whether a father could provide for his family.

The stories my grandfather would tell me of his time in Cuba came to mind as I learned more of these pieces. Like Abakanowicz, both saw first hand the injustices brought on by the Soviet rule. People were seen almost like livestock in a cattle farm, they were just heads to feed. At many times, they still did not receive many basic needs. Though capitalism is not perfect, I believe there is more oppurtunity to make something of yourself from whatever background you come from in America. Individuality is an important aspect of the American culture. I believe this idea is shown in Segal’s portrayal of American’s waiting in soup kitchens during the Great Depression. Each man in line has his face highlighted in green, a great contrast to the headless bodies of the Hurma piece. Though these were incredibly harsh times in America, there was always a respect put to each American. The Fireside chats by President Franklin D. Roosevelt acted as words of promise to the American people. As families sat next to their radios at night, it seemed as if they were directly talking to the president, continually offering support. No one felt alone in their time of need.

Though we are living in unprecedented times, I am inspired by the possibilities of how humanity will flourish once we overcome.

Bill Baggs As Text

“Sands of Yesterday” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park on February 10, 2021

Photographs taken by Jesse Velazquez

My dad used to tell me of the days when Bill Baggs was a dense forest. Monkeys that escaped from the Crandon Park Zoo made new homes in the large Australian pines that surrounded the coast, often throwing things at the beach visitors. Now it seems that raccoons have taken their place, stealing food instead. Though Hurricane Andrew completely swept down what had stood, it gave the park an opportunity to start fresh in a new direction. Now covered with a vast array of native plants, the park may seem unrecognizable to patrons of the past. The only thing that remains is the lighthouse.

Originally discovered by Ponce de Leon (as far as we are told) in 1513, Cape Florida was seen as a paradise of the new world. It wasn’t until 1825 that the original lighthouse had finished its original construction. Shortly after during the Seminole Wars, the natives attacked the homestead at which the lighthouse stood. They believed they were fighting back their oppressors who continued to cast them out of their own land. The two lone land keepers fought back as much as they could. They rain into the lighthouse in hopes of finding protection, but it seemed to be more of a trap. The natives lit the lighthouse on fire and the men were forced out into the observation deck. Hoping for a quick death, the men threw the last gunpowder they had into the fire, causing a massive explosion. Though one of the men died, the explosion was not enough to bring the lighthouse down. Soon after the lighthouse was restored and erected another 30 feet.

For nearly 200 years the barrier island has stood as a point of hope and recline. Acting as a last meeting point before slaves ran away to the Bahamas, the beach was the last glimpse of America many had before they reached freedom. The lighthouse stands as a beacon into the night, a light that guides those who are lost, and a reminder of what has been. Through many hardships, nothing has been able to bring down the lighthouse.

I have made many day trips to the park, yet I was completely unaware of the story it had to tell. I hope we may come back as a class and enjoy our paradise at home.


  • Thompson, John W. B. “The Attack on the Lighthouse” (text of a letter from Thompson to the editor of the Charleston Courier), in Drimmer, Frederick. Editor. 1985. Captured by the Indians. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

River of Grass as Text

“Holding the Untouchable” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Everglades National Park on March 3, 2021

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Every class, Professor Bailly reminds us to make the most of our experiences. I used to believe this only applied to overtly extravagant times in our lives, like the big trip I’ve planned months ahead of time or the day of my graduation. I’ve learned in quarantine that every day should be held to the same regard, no matter what you do. It’s easy to find the little things to appreciate, if you know where to look.

This class in the Everglades especially reminded me how simple these pleasures can be. The sunset’s last shimmers of amber on the green leaves shifting in the wind, making your favorite person laugh, or making conversation with someone you’ve never met that opens you to new friendships. It was truly a great day.

The life we live is all dependent on the mindset we have. In the late sixties, the world as we know it was at the brink of collapse, and the agents of destruction were stored in our backyard. We have now advanced past the need to perpetrate such fear among the population. We have been given a chance, now reminded by the pandemic, to grow from these past ideas and flourish in a new direction of hope.

The Everglades and its ancient landscape are an example of how beauty can persevere through intense hardships and be restored to new heights if proper care is given. I hope to visit the Everglades in a couple years time and see the newly developed landscape on the land we ventured this week.

Frost Art Museum as Text

“Flowers Everywhere” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Frost Art Museum on March 11, 2021

Collection of petals, photo taken by Jesse Velazquez

Given to him by friend who soon lost his life, Roberto Obregon spent years dissecting what makes a rose meant to him. Classifying the individual components that make up the physical body of the rose, and taking a deeper dive into the emotional connotations a rose may have, Obregon hopes to show viewers the complexities of relationships and life through a rose.

I believe his infatuation of the roses originated from the strifes he faced in his life. Not always beautiful, sometimes painful, but always sight to behold. The thorns of the rose remind one of the hardships you face, but it is overshadowed by the flower; similar to the moments you remember most with the ones you love. It was impressive to see how Obregon was able to shine a new light on a flower that has become a somewhat cliche and commercial symbol of affection.

Another impressive work of art we observed was the mural commissioned by Carlos Alfonzo. In this piece he seems to come to terms with his loss of life. The fragility of life is on display in his final piece, reflecting the different phases of his life. Whether in the city of Miami, or from his upbringing in Cuba, he reflects his life with the bright colors of the city and Caribbean. Every day I come to FIU, I’ve passed by the mural and never realized the importance of the work.

The AIDs epidemic continue to have lasting effects on culture and society today. Art serves as record of the struggles of people in different eras of history, even so recently as only thirty years ago. I believe it is great to see pieces of art installed across the campus of FIU, reminding students of these struggles and the hardships that bring us together.

Coral Gables as Text

“The City of Wanting Moor” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Frost Art Museum on March 25, 2021

Influences from other lands. Photos taken by Jesse Velazquez

When George Merrick came to South Florida in the 1920s, he had a vision for what the land could become. His mind often drifted as he worked on his guava plantation, taking him to the places he read about. He would often revisit the story What was at the time seen as a waste of land, Merrick designed and developed a city straight out of the pages of his favorite stories. This city would eventually become Coral Gables.

As you walk through the city, elements of the coral limestone rock have been incorporated into many homes and buildings. Clay tiles crown almost every home, and the colors remind one of the summer. George Merrick hoped to bring the culture and charm of Spain and the Mediterranean to Miami. He wanted to design a city for the middle class to have access to the amenities that were once offered only to the rich.

Sadly, it seems this original vision has started to fade. Coral Gables is notoriously expensive to live in, and majority white. The University of Miami has a tuition rate that requires only those with a great scholarship or high income to enroll. Where there is beauty, there will be money, and it seems that Coral Gables is no exception.

I will still enjoy walking through Coral Gable’s Miracle Mile, and taking a dive into the famous Venetian Pool, but I will know it no longer stands for what was intended. It seems that Miami is a place of opportunity and dream, but this innocent hope is easily clouded by dollar signs and power.

Vizcaya As Text

“Where Ecstasy Calls Home” by Jesse Velazquez of FIU at the Frost Art Museum on March 25, 2021

Dionysus greets guests to the estate of ecstasy. Photo taken by Jesse Velazquez

When one has worked the majority of their adult life working to amass a fortune beyond comprehension, what better way to reward yourself than with a palace of pleasure? Beginning construction in 1914, John Deering designed his estate in the untouched Miami coast as a testament to his life and his triumphs. Secluded from almost all government authority, the mansion served as a hub for all forms of debauchery and ecstasy. Late night parties riddled of sex and alcohol were common occurrences. It seems that James Deering not only set the model for the architecture that would dominate South Florida, but also conceived this mindset that would develop into the “Miami lifestyle.”

Bringing artifacts and art pieces from Europe, Deering ensured to encapsulate all forms of high class living. From the priceless carpet owned by the historical Queen Isabella of Spain, to the incorporation of modern technologies of the time, no walk of life could ignore the class and wealth that radiated from the estate.

It seems that Deering often had trouble finding his own identity, he believed he had to masquerade as someone of old power. He had no ties to ancient aristocrats or nobility, so he created his own figure to aspire to; the spanish explorer Vizcaino. His riches were not enough, he wanted to be the hero of his own story. He wanted to claim new land for himself, like the king of his own castle. Similarly to Graceland and the King of Rock and Roll, Vizcaya served as an irrefutable proclamation of power.

Though every room tells a different story, Vizcaya has a unified message and feeling. It is an oasis, seperated from reality. As you enter you are immediately envious, imagining the wonderful times Deering may have had there. I hope to live a life of beautiful and new experiences as James Deering.

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