Raquel C. Batista: Art Society Conflict 2019-2020

Raquel Carolina Batista is a Sophomore majoring in Communications and earning a certificate in Professional and Technical Writing at Florida International University. She is the former Historian and current Vice President for the HEARTS Art Club, an Honors College Leadership Council (HCLC) member and coordinator for the HCLC’s Social Media Committee, and Social Media Intern at Ujima Men’s Collective. She enjoys painting, drawing, reading, dancing, singing, weight training, practicing yoga, and of course eating food. One of her biggest dreams is to visit Italy, which she hopes to accomplish on a study abroad trip in 2021. Recently, she learned what a Renaissance woman is, and proudly calls herself one.

NORTON MUSEUM

“Take Flight Through Art” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Norton Museum of Art (9/22/19)

Dear reader,

It took two tries to get this shot, and even then, the philanthropists’ names are still cut off. I couldn’t help but smile at the sweet demeanors of the two security guards as they struggled to take this photo of me mimicking the flight of a butterfly. I was able to acquire Ricky’s name, but unfortunately, I forgot to ask for the other guard’s name (I simply referred to him as “Sir”).

Professor Bailly’s tour comprised of a chronological approach to the various “isms” of the art world. I traveled through the centuries on this day, making stops at Egyptian, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Roman, and countess other destinations. As a huge history nerd and lover of art, time passed smoothly for me, but it was not until I saw this artwork that I felt my heart flutter (every pun intended).

Damien Hirst’s “Untitled” reminded me immediately of the Aztec Calendar. I asked myself, “Why on Earth would someone create a calendar of butterflies? Was Hirst reflecting on the lifespan of butterflies, and how they follow a natural calendar from their time as caterpillars to their final flight?” I assumed it was painted, but upon closer inspection, I realized that this calendar is comprised of dead butterflies. My heart broke, and in that moment, I truly hoped that the creatures did not die painful deaths. Who are humans to take life as a way to express themselves? And yet every day, humans prove that they are capable of accomplishing this crime without blinking an eye.

I always get nostalgic when I am surrounded by art. From the moment I could pick up a crayon to sixteen years of age, I expressed myself through art without any hindrance. As responsibilities weighed down, the time for me to create art was pushed aside. Now, whenever I am surrounded by it, I simply want to cry from the longing. I hear every word that Professor Bailly says during his lectures, but my eyes and heart are drawn closer to every brush stroke, every blend of color, every symbol, every motif, every part of the artwork.

To Sofía, I promise to put more effort in following the class. As you said, I can always come back another day.

Thank you,
Raquel C. Batista

DEERING ESTATE

“Compartmentalizing: A Challenge” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Deering Estate (10/2/19)

Photo credit to IG @francine.mccauley

Dear reader,
 
My oldest friend and I had a serious conversation recently about the state of our friendship. To summarize, I discussed with Katherine how I felt neglected by her and frustrated with myself for allowing my emotions to overcome me so easily. After we smoothed things over, she said a few words that have resonated with me ever since. Katherine told me, “Raquel, you have a hard time compartmentalizing. I want you to work on that for yourself. How do you think I have survived living at home all these years? I compartmentalize.”
 
I have butter fingers. I always have and I always will. When I took my phone out to take a photo of the breathtaking Cutler Fossil site, I unsurprisingly dropped it. My phone landed right on the dip into the gravesite, and I shocked my classmates by inching towards the dip to retrieve it. After reassuring them that I would be cautious and successfully acquiring my phone, my classmate Francine held me longer in order to capture this shot.
 
I placed myself in a potentially dangerous situation in order to retrieve an object that is in no way worth my life. Putting things into perspective, people often prioritize insignificant things over what truly matters. In this moment, I should have taken everything in with my senses, instead of trying to capture it on camera to “save the memory.” People nowadays are lucky that they can save memories in readily available devices. Upon learning that the Tequesta Native Americans have essentially been wiped off the face of the Earth with no proper documentation of them, I was hit with the reality of how privileged we are.
 
With the help of my professor and class, I analyzed the hypocrisy and racism that people are capable of. Henry Flagler, the man considered the founder of Miami, dynamited Tequesta burial grounds in order to develop more land for his vision of the future of Miami. Professor Bailly and I discussed the underlying racism of this action. If the burial grounds belonged to white Christians, it would have been considered an atrocious act to dynamite the remains. For Flagler, his decision was simple to make given that the Tequesta were non-white and non-Christian. He wasn’t the only person who changed the true face of Miami. Once a swampland of sinkholes and diverse vegetation, Miami has gradually turned into a flat surface with little diversity through the acts of countless others. Americans claim to be on the right side of things but at times, can be hypocrites. We argue against the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, and yet are responsible for the deforestation of Miami’s vast and beautiful swampland.
 
On this day, I wanted so badly to give my undivided attention to every aspect of the Deering Estate excursion. Unfortunately, I could not compartmentalize. I tried so hard to focus on the beauty of the Cutler Fossil site, the hiking trails, the sinkholes, and finally the burial ground of the Tequesta, but the worries of my day-to-day life clouded my mind. I’m grateful for the knowledge given to me by Vanessa and Professor Bailly. Witnessing the dawn of humanity and learning of my geographic ancestors, the Tequesta, gave me a sense of peace through my struggle. It pains me how the Tequesta are essentially unknown due to a lack of documentation. From this I hope to learn how important it is to cherish every day and remember what truly matters. I promised myself that I would do my best to compartmentalize and enjoy the Deering Estate on my next visit. I am happy to say that I was able to succeed on the day of a painting party with a group of lovely people and wonderful manatees.
 
Thank you for your time,
Raquel C. Batista

MARGULIES and DE LA CRUZ COLLECTIONS

“A Business” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Margulies and De La Cruz Collections (10/16/19)

Margulies Collection

“What is the purpose of an art collection?” “What good comes from it?” Some may ask these questions with contempt, not understanding the underlying importance of art collections. They are an ever-evolving offering to the community. An offering of knowledge and sophistication, giving the eager an opportunity to receive artistic enlightenment.

Margulies said so himself, “If you stop collecting, you’re not moving forward.” Art collections themselves are maintained by balancing a constantly changing rhythm. The focus may be solely on paintings, but due to movement in the art world, may transition to photography. Such is the case of the Margulies Collection, which is filled with thought-provoking photography. A major characteristic of this collector is his love for sharing. Why else do you start a collection, but to share it with others? His generosity stretches far, far enough to gift Honors College students with knowledge of art, despite having little to no background in the art world themselves.

Who else loves to share and opens their doors to students? Why, De La Cruz of course. Another art collector who greatly values education and generosity. She went further to explain why it is important to share art with others. There are students who have little opportunity to enjoy the fruits of art due to financial barriers. De La Cruz’s generosity flows through her student programs, which give students the opportunity to travel to art institutions. The mission of these student programs is to enrich the students’ knowledge of art and give them a footing in the art world.

There is a refined, dignified air that is apparent when one steps into the Margulies and De La Cruz Collections. It is understood that this type of environment should be approached with composure. Art collections above all, are a business. Some lose sight of the business aspect and choose to enjoy art will full energy. Not to say that this is a mistake, but it is important to keep in mind a professional mindset within any business. Nonetheless, the most important thing to take from the collections is that they are in the business of serving people, by enlightening them with knowledge of the ever-changing art world.

VIZCAYA and LNS GALLERY

“The Flipside” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Vizcaya And LnS Gallery (10/30/19)

LnS Gallery – Photo credit to IG @johnwbailly

There are two topics at hand in this discussion.

1. Cultural Appropriation: To what extent is it too much or disrespectful?

2. The Art Collector’s World: Is it “high and mighty” or “down-to-Earth?”

Let us begin with the first topic. Black beans, fried eggs, and white rice. A staple Hispanic (sometimes coined by Cubans as their) dish that has become a go-to meal for most Miamians. A plate of food barely scratches the surface of cultural appropriation. An example where the surface of cultural appropriation is slammed into smithereens is James Deering of Villa Vizcaya, or what is now known as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Just a few blows include a triumphal arch and several victory posts (although Deering never won a war), mosaics and grottos (with no intention of religious enlightenment), Roman spirituality (primarily focused on sexuality), and paintings of children hung in a study room (despite Deering never having fathered children) alongside false books on shelves. The first sight as one enters the Vizcaya home is the Roman god of wine, Dionysus. Dionysus pouring wine as a welcome to Deering’s guests perfectly encapsulates the purpose of his home: pleasure at its fullest. Deering entertained himself and his guests, but at a price even greater than what it took to create his vision. The cultural appropriation throughout Vizcaya is grossly evident. The intention was never to offend, but instead to elicit excitement and wonder. What then is the fateful step that crosses the line between acceptable and unacceptable cultural appropriation? The term itself incorporates “unacknowledged” and “inappropriate” into its definition. Is it safe to say that Deering never asked for the permission of the entire countries of Italy and France and all followers of the various religions showcased throughout Vizcaya to incorporate their culture into his home? Yes, it is safe to say that. Despite this, it can be argued that because Deering never intended any harm, only joy and pleasure, his actions are not deplorable but instead amiable. Cultural appropriation is a delicate topic that must be examined without subjectivity, which is difficult to achieve given the personal denotations accompanying the word.

Now for topic two. The art world can be incredibly intimidating to just about anyone, from lowly Communications students to graduates of Art History. It is this unspoken hierarchy that creates an unwelcoming and oppressive atmosphere characteristic of this world. And yet, there are a few wonderful individuals that spring forth out of thin air. Individuals who are warm, welcoming, down-to-Earth, and remember that they are human, just like any other. Sergio Cernuda and Luisa Lignarolo are two of those spring flowers. Sergio’s words characterize the pair effortlessly: “The goal of a gallery is to create partnership and unity.” Heavy subjects were examined, including the taboo act of artists abandoning gallery partnerships and risks behind the pricing of artwork. Learning such information from the perspectives of two humble individuals can spark the interest of even the coldest and uninterested of students, even if some of them remain on their phones, too busy participating in a world other than the art one.

The art world is beautiful, and at times, even breathtaking. It also does an amazing job at concealing the shallowness and superiority of others. As observers, our focus should be on digging past this and finding what truly characterizes this complex world: partnership, unity, and progress.

ICA and WYNWOOD WALLS

“Genuine People” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at ICA and Wynwood Walls (11/13/19)

Yayoi Kusama everybody. Yayoi Kusama. A lady who looked in the mirror, acknowledged her sex, and kept moving forward into the unknown. She was born in 1929, entering a daunting time period. The twentieth century was characterized by wars, technological innovation, astronomical feats, and above all, intense gender and racial discrimination. As a woman of Japanese descent, Kusama’s ideas were stolen by men and credited to them. Although she drew from the works of men, such as Donald Judd and Jackson Pollock, Kusama explored beyond that. She utilizes polka dots because she loves them. She works with pumpkins because she loves them. No “high and mighty” mindset. No “I’m better than others because I know more” mindset. Just a woman expressing herself freely. A woman who gives others a platform to dive off of and appreciate an unforgettable experience. An experience that serves as a reminder of our minuteness in this vast universe.

I thought, “Aw man! I forgot to look up at the end of my video!” Then I asked myself, “Who cares?” This image isn’t about me. All the selfies and videos in this infinity room are futile. We don’t matter in this small space. The space is what matters. I spent the first thirty seconds cramming what I could into my photo library, but then I stopped. I chose to appreciate the last thirty seconds by wandering around. It was intimidating, breathtaking, and beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. All of my anger and frustration disappeared in this minute. As I exited the infinity room, the loss of Kusama’s artwork pained me greatly. I didn’t want to go back to the real world. I wanted to stay in her wonderland.

Yayoi Kusama has strived for peace all of her life. Her artwork is an offering of peace to others. I am grateful to her for gifting me this minute of peace.

UNTITLED, ART. and ART MIAMI

“Fifteen Minutes” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at UNTITLED, ART. and art miami (12/4/19)

The day passed in a blur. We flew through countless conversations with directors, curators, and artists. Most fairs tend to have a buzzing, energetic atmosphere. Art Basel is no exception. With home base set in Miami, Florida, the Magic City’s exuberance radiated throughout the fair. We saw people from all parts of the world. People from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean (just to name a few) showcased their artwork. This being my first time attending Art Basel’s satellite fairs, despite having lived in Miami all of my life, I had no idea what to truly expect. I was mentally preparing myself for a refined, dignified, and (to tell you the truth) stuffy atmosphere within the art world. I was wrong.

Listening was a major challenge. The architectural layout of UNTITLED, ART. paralleled an airplane. The air ducts were essentially vacuums that limited hearing. Despite this, I enjoyed listening to a warm and vibrant welcome by one of the directors who gave us a glimpse of what to expect at the fair. The tour comprised of walking briskly through several galleries, receiving generous explanations from artists and curators (that I could barely hear, unfortunately), and observing various forms of artwork ranging from tapestry to plant exhibitions.

The professor broke us for lunch and told us how to reach our next destination: art miami. This is when I was finally able to walk through the fair in peace. I sat outside to eat. My lunch companion was both a visual and auditory artwork. It comprised of suspended picture frames showing scenes of fleeing refugees and played gong music in the background. Here I observed UNTILED, ART. guests taking dramatic pictures of themselves in front of the artwork. I recalled making this same ignorant mistake in a past assignment. Although my goal was to use a dramatic picture of myself to emphasize the excess flair of the location I wrote about, it was a poor choice to use my own body as a model. I watched the guests, and all I could think was, “So this is how my professor felt when he saw my As Text picture. I understand now.” The purpose of this artwork is to reflect on the pain of the refugees, not to use it for a notable picture backdrop.

During our race through the fair, there was one painting that caught my eye intensely and I planned on searching for it after lunch. I panicked when I couldn’t find it, but with perseverance, I finally found my beloved painting. Time for the highlight of this As Text, UNTILED, ART. It has been many years since I picked up a paintbrush and worked with acrylic on canvas. I learned how to properly appreciate a work of art when I was younger. You don’t stare at it for a few minutes and just walk on. You give yourself time to observe and analyze every aspect of the artwork. I only had fifteen minutes. I looked at every brushstroke, line, color, pattern, design, and approach that the artist made to create his painting. I thought, “Oh my goodness, he must have had so much fun combining both traditional and new elements of art into one painting. He must have had so much fun carefully creating hair-thin lines, blending warm and cool colors, layering foreground onto background, and splashing paint all over the canvas.” It would have been a pleasure to see Tomokazu Matsuyama create “Ready Made Minus.” I started crying and couldn’t stop. I worried guests who were observing the painting and probably confused the curator. She was generous and gave me her time to describe the painting and artist after my many questions.

I knew that staying fifteen minutes to appreciate “Ready Made Minus” would make me late to art miami, but I made my decision. I apologize for my tardiness Professor Bailly, but I don’t regret it. Looking at Matsuyama’s artwork reminded me of why I don’t want to let go of the art world, despite its many negative characteristics. Throughout all walks of life, there will be negativity. Always. It is my job to push past this and focus on the positive, warmth, creativity, passion, and love that can be found within this lucrative business and other aspects of life.

I thank Art Basel and Professor Bailly for the opportunities to appreciate art and remember that “it’s all in our perception.”

Thank you for your time. Goodbye everybody.

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