Art Society Conflict: Patricia M. Menendez

Photo by Nathalie Menendez.

My name is Patricia M. Menendez, and I am a junior at Florida International University pursuing a B.S. in Digital Communication and Media and a B.A. in Sustainability and the Environment. In the near future I hope to be working with an environmental-based company that educates and enlightens the public through a multimedia platform. Through this course, I hope to enhance my creative side and gain more knowledge not only about the world of art but its role in shaping and documenting societal progression. I believe that this course will help me decipher the environment (or society) my work will take me to, as well as help me capture its essence.

Norton Museum of Art

“Augmented Reality” by Patricia M. Menendez at Norton Museum of Art September 22, 2019

Patricia looking at Monet’s Gardens of the Villa Moreno. Photo by Nicholas Pastrana.

From Peter Paul Rubens’ to Pablo Picasso’s work, it was strange to me how I have never heard of the Norton Museum of Art prior to Art Society Conflict. Before our class visit, I did not know the different eras/ genres of art or how we got from the Gothic era to today’s boundless era. However, after seeing all that the Norton had to offer, my favorite piece was Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera (1884) by Claude Monet.

As soon as I came across this painting I was captivated by its vibrant colors, unique brush strokes and landscape. I felt as though I was transported from the Norton to the Moreno Gardens. By capturing movement, Monet created a sort of augmented reality of the Moreno Gardens. He achieved this capture by manipulating light and color in a way that makes the painting come to life. I could almost hear the wind whistling through the leaves, feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, hear the crunch of the dirt below my feet, and see the building in the distance get closer with every step I took. It is not about what the painting is or how the painting came to be, it is what the painting makes you feel that is important. This is what Monet prioritizes within his work.

Monet is known as the founder of impressionism, and that is what this painting did to me. It left an impression of peace and beauty that can only be found in the natural world, yet exists in this painting as well. As I gazed at this painting, the line between art and reality slowly blurred and I felt as though I was standing right beside Monet as he was painting this very piece.

Deering Estate and the Tequesta

“Visiting the Real Miami” by Patricia M. Menendez at Deering Estate October 2, 2019

One of only two burial mounds in the world of the Tequesta Tribe under a Live Oak. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

Miami is known for its sandy beaches, party culture and coastal skyline. Instead of being known for its past, it is known for its present. Unlike most cities, Miami’s history seems to have disappeared behind the bright lights of South Beach and pounding music of Ocean Drive. Although it is history, it still happened and the remains of it can still be found in places like Deering Estate.

Deering Estate was established by wealthy industrialist and environmentalist, Charles Deering in the late 1900s. In the estate you can find the Spanish-inspired Stone House, an expansive landscape that welcomes you to the Biscayne Bay, and many of Florida’s native flora and fauna. What many do not know is that before Deering, the land was also home to the Tequesta, one of the first Native American tribes of Southeast Florida. They lived in the Miami before Flagler’s railroads, before Deering, and before land was taken away from the wild. They lived in the real Miami, and our class got a taste of that life as we ventured through the archaeological and protected areas of Deering Estate.

Professor Bailly looking for Tequesta tools at one of the protected sites. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

As we hiked through the sites, I disconnected from the present and connected with my hometown’s past. As we dodged poison wood and poison ivy in the forest, I couldn’t help but imagine that I might be walking in the same pathways as my city’s ancestors. The Tequesta did not have bug spray, shoes or sunscreen. All they had was nature to rely on, and we relied on nature to tell us about them. The remains of the Tequesta tribe can be found throughout all these sites, from hand tools to pottery pieces.

Patricia in the Cutler Fossil Site. Photo by Marielisa Villasmil.

We have come so far from where the Tequesta began, but it is important to remember what lived in the trees and inside the wilderness of Miami before we came to it. These hikes made me realize the importance of not only my family’s past, but also my city’s. Who we are is not only based on our family and culture, but also our home. Through these hikes I gained a deeper appreciation for Miami, its history, and its environment.

I followed the footsteps of the Tequesta for a day, but will remember the journey for a lifetime. The hike left me with a feeling of self-fulfillment because now I know a part of the truth about my home and, in turn, myself.

Wynwood – The Marguiles and De La Cruz Collection

“Breaking Barriers” by Patricia M. Menendez at Wynwood October 16, 2019

Oftentimes with art, the question I find myself coming back to always is “what is art?” Our class’ visit to the Marguiles Collection and De La Cruz Collection in Wynwood helped me answer this question. Both collections did not feature traditional art and both collections might not be of interest to everyone in society. Although these two collections were different in terms of pieces, both valued that art can be anything and focused on those that seemed to break the barriers on the very definition of art.

After visiting both collections, the piece that touched me the most was Anslem Kiefer’s Geheimnis der Farne, 2007 (The Secret of the Ferns). Kiefer is a German artist who was born in 1945, at the end of World War II. Needless to say Kiefer’s piece was inspired by the war and Holocaust survivor, Paul Cejan’s poem Geheimnis de Farne, which is what the installation is named after.

Patricia looking into Kiefer’s Geheimnis der Farne concrete sculptures at the Marguiles Collection in Wynwood. Photo by Ruth Shmueli.

Geheimnis de Farne is comprised of 48 framed pictures, and in each one lies a pressed fern or tainted children’s clothes. Kiefer notes that ferns were “the first trees” and that they can say more about our history than we know. In the center of the room you can also find two concrete structures that symbolize the gas chambers used in concentration camps.

The piece immerses you into Germany post World War II. It brings you the gas chambers and it shows you the destruction of playgrounds with the cracked terracotta in the frames. It makes you question our past, our world and our humanity. Kiefer, as many artists, internalized the Duchampian Theory through his work by breaking the boundaries of art. Although his piece is outstanding to look at, it is also profound in meaning. Just as Martin Z. Marguiles told our class, it is not about the piece itself, but rather the story behind it that gives it substance.

I have always been intrigued by World War II and the Holocaust, and Kiefer’s installation takes me to the time that I have only read about in textbooks and the web. While examining the towering concrete structures, chills went down my spine thinking of the horrors that occurred in and out of them. Similarly, looking at the pictures made me feel like a kid looking at their favorite place in shambles because of hatred, but the sight of the fern made me hold on to hope for new life and a new beginning.

Art is whatever you want it to be. It is undefined and it is boundless. For me, art is what makes me feel something and makes me question the human condition, which is exactly what Kiefer’s installation achieved.

Vizcaya and LnS Gallery

“Challenging the Status-quo” by Patricia M. Menendez at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and the LnS Gallery October 30, 2019

Inside the Main House of Vizcaya Professor Bailly demonstrates to students the struggle between Paul Chalfin and James Deering on picking the symbol of Vizcaya – the seahorse or a Spanish ship. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

I have been to Vizcaya a couple of times prior to this course, but I had never seen it in the same light that our class trip had. Before, Vizcaya to me was a mansion that was owned by a duke that had picturesque gardens. Now, Vizcaya to me is a symbol of Miami, a merger between cultures, and a representation of the identity of most of the people who call the city home.

From a villa housing various art pieces, to a building selling various art pieces, aside from admiring the collection and taste of James Deering and his art curator, Paul Chalfin, our class also visited the LnS gallery. The gallery represents 18 local and up-and-coming artists, and is owned by Sergio Cernuda and Luisa Lignarolo. Like Deering, LnS looks for pieces they like, and showcase it to the best of their ability. Ultimately, between the two locations, my favorite was Vizcaya.

Dining room of the Main House of Vizcaya. The two portraits hung in the back wall of the room were chosen because the people painted had the last name of Deering and were of noble descent. They are not, in any way, related to James Deering. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

Evidently, James Deering did not care for the opinions of others. Deering was a man of pleasure and fun. He designed his villa in a way that prepared Miami for its latest title – the party city. The fact that he structured his gardens in a way that challenged nature, encouraged a “sinful” culture, and gave himself the title of Duke, makes me wonder of the man behind the mansion.

Ruth Shmueli and Patricia on the bench in the Secret Garden grotto in Vizcaya’s gardens. Photo by Marielisa Villasmil.

However out of all the spots of Villa Vizcaya, my favorite was the grotto of the Secret Garden. I could almost picture myself hiding behind the walls of the limestone caves to avoid being caught meeting a secret lover on Venus’ bench. The grotto made me feel as though I was not in Miami anymore, but somewhere like Paris or Florence, in a castle of some sort. It seemed out of place yet blended beautifully with its architectural choices and pleasant atmosphere, as most of the villa does.

Although Deering had no care for rules, he did seem to appreciate South Florida’s unique environment. Almost every part of the gardens’ architecture was made of limestone. Even one of the cave-like structures had a mosaic of shells, which speaks true to Miami’s environment.

Vizcaya is a treasure to the art world, architecture world and Miami’s world. Till this day, Deering’s attitude of building his own identity radiates through the city. James Deering challenged the societal norm on American life for instead of sticking to the nation’s design, he brought the culture and elegancy of another and made it his own. Since the 1900s, Miami has not been a single culture; it has been whatever you make it to be.

Design District – The Institute of Contemporary Art and Wynwood Walls

“Changing Culture” by Patricia M. Menendez at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and Wynwood Walls November 13, 2019

In his 1969 Playboy interview, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan was asked why can artists and not scientists foresee technological change. His response was as follows:

“Because inherent in the artist’s creative inspiration is the process of subliminally sniffing out environmental change. It’s always been the artist who perceives the alterations in man caused by a new medium, who recognizes that the future is the present, and uses his work to prepare the ground for it.”

I think this statement can also be applied to how artists can foresee cultural change before society does.

Piece of clothing from Sterling Ruby’s fashion line in his installation at ICA Miami. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

In this ASC class, we visited the ICA and Wynwood Walls, two places where art that predicted cultural change and changed culture lie. In Wynwood Walls, street art was made into the new art for aesthetics and jackpots for social media. While the ICA carried pieces from Yayoi Kusama and Sterling Ruby, who challenged society and defined art by their own terms. However, Yayoi Kusama’s infinity room, “All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins,” in the ICA was my favorite piece and the one that reminded me of McLuhan’s statement the most.

Kusama, a Japanese female artist, is often thought of as someone who was ahead of her time, and that it was the culture that had to catch up with her. Even though she began creating in the 1960s, it was not until the ’90s that the world began to realize the depth and beauty of her work. She knew before the culture did that the future of art would be that in which immerses the audience emotionally and physically. In such a way that twists their minds and very nature of being.

Patricia in Kusama’s infinity room at the ICA Miami. Photo by Patricia Menendez.

As soon as I entered Kusama’s room I felt as though I entered a time machine and was transported into a whole other dimension. A dimension that was filled with only me…and pumpkins. Although the subject of pumpkins was strange, I do admit that they were in some way comforting to me because of their warm hues and playful pattern and figures. Just as the room gave me a warm-fuzzy feeling, I also fell into a meditative state. For a few seconds I tried to make sense of the room and the science behind the mirrors. After a few more seconds I abandoned this idea and then started thinking about why has documenting an experience over actually experiencing it become more important. Then, in my last few seconds I thought of how simple life was when I was a young kid, because the pumpkins reminded me of a playground setting.

Thus, a minute was not enough to enjoy Kusama’s infinity room to the fullest, but it was enough to realize that art can trigger you in many ways, and that powerful art triggers you to look further beyond the space and into yourself (even if it does so literally).

Art Basel – UNTITLED, Art and Art Miami

“Meaning Over Appearance” by Patricia M. Menendez at the UNTITLED, Art Fair and Art Miami December 4, 2019

I had never attended one of Miami’s Art Fairs during Miami Art Week, nor had I known that Art Basel was only the main fair out of 19 until this course. At both UNTITLED, Art and Art Miami, our class experienced art from all parts of the world, from San Francisco to Ghana to South Korea. Each piece had a story behind its creation and each had a meaning beyond its appearance. For most pieces in both art fairs, once the piece’s meaning was sought, it became an almost entirely different piece.

Patricia looking at Joana Choumali’s Sometimes I wonder if they can hear it as well in UNTITLED, Art Miami Beach. Photo by Ruth Shmueli.

In UNTITLED, the piece that stood out to me the most was Joana Choumali’s Sometimes I wonder if they can hear it as well. The piece is from her series “Alba’hian,” which means the first light of day in the Agni language (a native tribe in Côte d’Ivoire). For over a year now, Choumali has woken up every morning at 5 a.m. and walked across the cities of Africa, taking pictures of what she sees while absorbing the world around her; hence, the name of the series. The base of the piece is a landscape photograph that Choumali usually takes between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. She then uses a mixed technique of collage, embroidery, quiliting and photomontage to create different layers of ethereal fabrics intertwined with other images she takes during her walks, such as people, streets, or other objects.

What I enjoy about the piece is that it combines different mediums to create one whole, unprecedented medium. Choumali created these pieces as a form of self-exploration, and as you look at them they generate and trigger different emotions within you. Because of the dandelions, calming colors, and misplacement of the characters in the piece it almost seems as though it were something from a dream. Since I have a love for dandelions, I was drawn to the piece, especially since Choumali embroidered the dandelions as if they were floating across it. As I looked at the piece, I could almost see the kids dancing and walking along the waters of the photograph, but then I remembered that what I was looking at is not a real image rather a mix of real images combined to form an imaginary one.

Peter Halley’s Super 30 in Art Miami. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC by 4.0.

On the other hand, the piece that sparked my attention in Art Miami was not one from a dreamscape, but one that illustrated the reality of my world today. Peter Halley’s Super 30 uses acrylic and Roll-a-Tex to mimic popcorn ceiling and uses squares to symbolize a prison of sorts. Although the painting seems just like three squares in neon coloring with lines, the painting actually alludes to an individual’s daily routine. For me, the first square (on the bottom right) would be my house, the one on the left would be FIU, and the one on top would be work. The lines between the squares refer to one’s path from each one to the next. Halley achieves to capture the essence of our daily lives today, while also showing how limited and dull they are. Ironically the bright colors of the painting juxtapose the meaning behind it, which may also refer to our tendency to think we are living our best lives when actually we are just traveling between prisons, not going out of the lines and breaking the cycle. This is something that I find myself struggling with especially during the school semester, but I always try to break out of lines and take different paths into this colorful world of ours.

Boris Shpeizman’s Rise of the Lillipop Man (pictured on the left) and Chul Hyun Ahn’s Well (pictured on the right) in Art Miami. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

Both UNTITLED and Art Miami had much to offer and it was amazing to see the latest cutting-edge art and art from years ago that are still relevant today. Even though some pieces were beautiful to look at and others were just truly out of this world, the ones that captivated me the most were those that made me think, those that challenged society and myself, and those that had a meaning that was greater than their appearance.

Bakehouse and Fountainhead Studios

“Artists Just Wanna Have Fun” by Patricia M. Menendez at Bakehouse Art Complex and Fountainhead Studios January 15, 2020

During our class visits to the Bakehouse Art Complex and Fountainhead Studios, I came to realize the true struggle of an artist with the industry, with themselves and with their art. Both Bakehouse Art Complex and Fountainhead house a number of artists, with Bakehouse hosting nearly 100 and Fountainhead over 25 artists. We met several artists at both complexes, each having their own style and medium, but the one that caught my attention the most was Alex Nuñez of Fountainhead because of her whimsical yet carefree nature when it came to creating her art. She redefines what it means to be an artist, breaks all stereotypes, and just has fun doing what she loves.

Artist Alex Nuñez peaking to ASC students in her Fountainhead studio. Photo by Patricia Menendez.
Current piece that artist Alex Nuñez is working on. Photo by Patricia Menendez.

Nuñez’s work is anything but ordinary. It’s splattered paint and glitter with doodles and scribbles, it’s iridescent landscapes with no particular place in mind, and it’s bedazzled albums of her favorite music artists. The way that Nuñez cares for her work was shocking to me, seeing that she steps over her current works without worry made me stressed and yet this was her process. While seeing Nuñez in her element, I saw that there really are no set rules or procedures on how you create art and be an artist. When asked about her work, Nuñez told us usually there was no story just a stream of thought. Whatever she was thinking or doing in that moment is what she drew or painted on the canvas. She said that when making a piece she can be watching Netflix or be listening to true crime. She doesn’t want the audience to know what inspired her piece exactly because she wants them to draw their own conclusions and relations to it.

How Nuñez makes her art reminds me of when I was a child and how I would draw on walls, tablecloths, or anything that took crayon. I had no inspiration, I was just drawing whatever I felt like drawing at that moment in time. This sense of pure creativity and boundless imagination is what we seem to lose as we grow older. Through her art, Nuñez preserves this sense.

Sometimes art is just something that is meant to have fun with. Sometimes it takes its own form and the artist just helps it reach our eyes. Either way it does not matter how or why it was made, what matters is how it makes us feel and why, which is what Nuñez prioritizes the most with her art.

The Rubell Museum and Michael Loveland

“Real World Inspiration” by Patricia M. Menendez at the Rubell Museum and Michael Loveland’s Studio January 29, 2020

After each class I leave with a different perspective on art. After visiting the Rubell Museum and Michael Loveland’s studio, I left with the perspective that art that generates the most impact are the ones inspired by the real world. Be it a time or place, art that is based on reality is alive.

Housing more than 7,200 works and over 1,000 artists, the Rubells are known as one of the most prominent collectors of contemporary art in the world. After showcasing part of their collection for many years in Wynwood, the museum has now allowed the family to display most of their collection. Meanwhile, Michael Loveland is a Miami-based contemporary artist that mixes different mediums within his paintings. From glass to billboard posters, Loveland draws inspiration from his surrounding environment to create his artworks.

ASC students walking around John Miller’s A Refusal to Accept Limits in the Rubell Museum. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

However, from all the pieces I saw, my favorite was John Miller’s A Refusal to Accept Limits (2007) in the Rubell Museum. The piece imitated classical ruins like that of Rome’s, and considers what America’s ruins would be after its great collapse. While wandering through the piece, I noticed Coca-Cola bottles, toy weapons, fake fruit, plastic bottles, plastic containers, and many more things that I would probably find in a landfill. Surprisingly these items could only be seen if you looked at the piece closely due to the fact they are all plastered in imitation gold leaf.

Pieces of John Miller’s A Refusal to Accept Limits in the Rubell Museum. Photo by Patricia Menendez.

Miller’s piece intrigued yet terrified me for its real world inspiration. I am an environmentalist, which is why I believe this piece resonated with me in a way that none other has. Right now, everything looks alright, but the truth is that everything will not be alright. If we continue as we are, our ruins will be nothing but plastic. No matter how pretty we make it look, the garbage will always make its way to the surface. The truth will make its way. The piece is mocking American culture, while also urging us to prevent this kind of future. It calls to attention our society, creates conflict with and between ourselves, and does all this through art. It is a perfect example of what this course means.

MDC Printmaking

“Anyone Can Be an Artist” by Patricia M. Menendez at the Miami-Dade College Kendall Campus February 12, 2020

I enjoy art and I appreciate art, but I am not a skilled artist. I can draw silly doodles and I can mimic simple paintings, but I cannot professionally draw nor paint. However, I was proven wrong during this class day.

For the first time in this course we were allowed to paint. After seeing many art pieces last semester, and visiting artists this semester, we, the students, were taught how to create our own unique art piece. The day began with Professor Bailly giving us a class on how to draw impressions of landscapes in FIU. I learned to not focus on the details, to look at the big picture and capture the feel of objects. I learned to let loose and let the creativity flow out of me.

After Professor Bailly’s art class, we went to Professor Jennifer Basile’s Studio Art class in Miami-Dade College to learn printmaking. Professor Basile was a delight and her enthusiasm for the process of printmaking radiated throughout the class. She taught us about monotype printmaking, which is a form of relief printmaking that uses plexiglass as the surface and black relief ink for the print. After mixing the ink for a smooth application, it is rolled onto the plexiglass until the glass is evenly covered in black ink. Then, the artist begins to create their print by making marks with a white rag, brushes, cut pieces of paper, and other objects. Finally the glass is laid out on a press with a blanket underneath it, canvas paper on top of it and another blanket on top of that. After it is rolled out completely by the press, a print is made.

Needless to say, I felt like I was an elementary student in art class again while making my print. There were no rules,  no guidelines and no obligations, just my thoughts and desires. I made two prints. My first was inspired by a particular Alaskan landscape I saw during my travels that has never left my mind, and my second one was inspired by Orion’s belt. Both prints were not fully detailed, nor planned prior to the class. Both were an in the moment decision and an impression of the place. Doing so reminded me of a painting I did in the third grade, that to this day is my proudest creation. I was so free, so creative and so unbounded that I still remember the feeling I had while making it, and that’s what I felt during this class.

Patricia making marks on ink-covered plexiglass with a brush while creating the Orion’s belt inspired print. Photo by Ruth Shmueli.

Printmaking made me regain my creativity and escape my reality. It taught me that anyone can be an artist. All you need is a canvas, some drawing tools, inspiration and you’re all set.

Thank you Professor Basile for making me feel like my third-grade self again and for proving me wrong.

Deering Estate

“A Place Like No Other” by Patricia M. Menendez on the Deering Estate Virtual Walking Tour April 5, 2020

The Deering Estate’s Stone House on the right and Richmond Cottage on the left. Taken on the walkway alongside the Boat Basin. Photo by Patricia Menendez/ CC BY 4.0.

Established in the 1920s and still thriving in the 2020s, Deering Estate serves as both a unique historical landmark and environmental preservation site for the state of Florida. With the last remaining structure of the old town of Cutler and its unparalleled position on the shores of Biscayne Bay, the Deering Estate is worth every penny. Although I have visited the Deering Estate before with Professor Bailly, I learned even more about South Florida’s landmark through his virtual walking tour.

Patricia holding a Mammoth’s tooth that was found in the Cutler Fossil Site at the Deering Estate. Photo by Marielisa Villasmil.

When I first visited the estate I was amazed by the flora and fauna in the Deering Estate Nature Preserve. We went on the Nature Preserve Tour with Dr. Vanessa Trujillo, the Conservation and Research Specialist at the estate. On the tour we explored a solution hole, searched the Tequesta Midden for lost tools of the forgotten tribe, gazed at the Cutler Creek Bridge from afar, and paid our respects to the Tequesta at the Tequesta Cutler Burial mound. We also went to the Cutler Fossil Site where we were able to learn about the powerful creatures that once roamed our lands and even got to hold some of their remains.

On the virtual walking tour I learned that the Midden not only had Tequesta tools but also a freshwater spring. Similarly, I did not know that the Tropical Hardwood Hammock, a habitat that the Nature Preserve hosts, is one of the rarest plant communities in Florida. Not only did I learn about the environmental significance of the preserve, but also another secret it held – the Cocaine Cowboys Plane. It is interesting to see how a manmade machine has become engulfed by nature, and along with the Tequesta, holds an unknown and mysterious atmosphere around it. This just shows how powerful nature can be, and how small man can become.

It is amazing how each time you revisit a place, be it physically or remotely, you always learn something new about it. The Deering Estate represents more than Charles Deering himself. It represents Florida’s unique ecosystems, habitats, and history. It is a place for nature lovers, art fanatics, and history junkies. It is a place for me. What makes it beautiful is not its spectacular views, but the stories that lie behind them, making it a place like no other.

During my first visit I was lucky enough to see manatees in the Boat Basin, visit South Florida’s natives and experience nature in its purest. I hope that in my second visit I will be able to see the Cocaine Cowboys Plane, explore the Richmond Cottage and Stone House, and catch the commute of South Florida’s birds from the mangroves to the mainland during sunrise or sunset.

Miami Beach

“A Deeper Appreciation” by Patricia M. Menendez on the South Beach Virtual Walking Tour April 23, 2020

As a Florida resident, born and raised in Miami, South Beach has always been a popular destination. It is not only a hub for international tourists, but one for the surrounding community and those who live near the electric neighborhood. Since I was a child, I have always associated South Beach with craziness, fun, parties, and the beach (of course). I have always enjoyed visiting its famous Ocean Drive strip, with its short bright-colored buildings in the day and neon lights in the night. However, I never knew about the history of the neighborhood nor the significance of the infamous Art Deco district until I read Professor Bailly’s South Beach Walking Tour.

Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami. Photo by Tuan Nguyen on Unsplash.

Before the neighborhood became the popular tourist destination it is today, I knew that it was once only a barrier island between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, engulfed by mangroves and palmettos rather than cars and buildings. What I did not know was who envisioned it, when it was made, and how it became what it is today. In the early 1900s, Carl Fisher envisioned Miami Beach while on vacation in 1910, and by 1913 he was developing the now vacation hotspot. As with all historical context, the development of the neighborhood did lead to further racial segregation, habitat destruction, and the loss of a home for native tribes. Something that I believe many who visit the destination do not know and should to avoid repeating history once again, and appreciating what was once there.

The McAlpin Hotel (now Hilton Grand Vacations) in South Beach, Miami. Photo by Jean-Luc Benazet on Unsplash.

After 21 years of living in Miami, I did not know the significance of the Art Deco district to the state nor the nation. I was highly impressed by the fact that South Beach has the “highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world,” and that the neighborhood was the nation’s first 20th century National Historic District. In addition to this, I did not know that the Art Deco found on the island has a certain set of aesthetic characteristics that it follows, which is what makes it like no other architectural design in the state. I did not know that the reason for the odd shape and design of the South Beach Art Deco buildings was to resemble that of a machine like an ocean liner, spaceship or home appliance. And the fact that Art Deco architecture is inspired by Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican designs, like the incorporation of ziggurat rooflines, makes it extremely distinctive to the architectural inspiration of the Magic City, and that much more memorable.

Now knowing the things that I do about one of Miami’s most popular neighborhoods and the world’s most visited destinations, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the place I have always known for only its location, crowd and aesthetic. I will no longer walk South Beach looking only at the beach and the restaurants lining its streets, but now I will look at the buildings and think, which ones have eyebrows, which ones have relief art, and which ones look like a refrigerator. And I will thank Barbara Baer Capitman for her role in preserving this unique neighborhood in my hometown.

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