Vox Student Blog

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.

Reference:

  • 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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