ASC Who Art Miami 2020: Randy Burman by Nicholas Pastrana

ARTIST QUOTE

Randy Burman, photo from 4art.com

“Whether graphic design or a work of art, the processes I employ are most often exercises in identifying how communication will be perceived, and the simplifying of concepts and gestures to amplify the metaphorical essence.”

– Randy Burman

STUDENT BIO

My name is Nicholas Pastrana and I am a sophomore attending Florida International University. I am pursuing an Accounting major and intend on getting a certificate in Pre-Law to attending Law school after graduation.

BIOGRAPHY

Burman working on Poems to the Sky O, Miami, photo from randyburman.com

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, 1947, Randy Burman considered himself an artist since birth. Fascinated with the world around him, Burman loved to draw the things he found visually appealing and make his own renditions of them. Even as a child he was self-aware of his rebellious nature, which was only reinforced when the Hebrew parochial school he attended accused him of “making graven images” (Burman “Biography” 2016).  His father owned a wholesale poultry and egg company and a few retail market stalls and outlet stores in which Burman worked at, eventually he opened his own grocery store; Randy’s Discount Food City. Burman found satisfaction in the “art” of displaying poultry to make it visually appealing to customers. “You’ll see in my work, there’s a lot of horizontal layering, which I trace back to laying out chicken parts on ice. Food display is an art, and I took it very seriously” (Burman “The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print” 2016).

Burman attended the Maryland Institute of Art but did not graduate, he dropped out in 1968, then later that year had his first “one-man show” and published a book of his own drawn poetry titled We Knows Who’s Crazy Baby.

In 1975, the Department of Transportation intended on demolishing a 2-block swath of many two hundred-year-old houses in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point sea port neighborhood to put in a stretch of the I-95 highway. Burman along with many of his neighbors formed an organization and pursued a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation (DOT) plan, which they eventually won.

Burman has pursued a plethora of endeavors including: being staff artist of Baltimore’s underground newspaper Harry; operating Randy’s Discount Food City; publishing The Fells Point Telegraphe – in which he also edited and art directed, “organized contributing artists, writers and photographers to support a community lawsuit opposing the DOT’s plans” (Burman “Biography” 2016); worked at the National Lampoon; created movie titles with his friend Alan Rose for John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, and even played a bit part in Pink Flamingos.

In 1976 Burman moved to Miami, Florida, where he worked several jobs; washing dishes at the Spiral Health Food Restaurant, washed windows, carpentry, silkscreen art, sign painting, and graphic design. In 1983, Burman was part of a silkscreen workshop, funded by a CETA Title IV grant and hosted by the Lowe Art Museum and the City of Miami Cultural Experiences Division. Burman has worked with multiple graphic design studios and in June of 1995, incorporated his own graphic design firm; IKON Communication and Marketing Design. By this time, Burman had mostly dropped his production of fine art but in 2005 Burman rekindled his drive to produce fine art. In 2010, Burman again had invitations to display his works at galleries, enthralled, Burman “accelerated [his] construction of assemblages and installation work” (Burman “Biography” 2016).  

PERSONAL IDENTITY

Burman with his Windsticks, photo from randyburman.com

Burman’s work was largely influenced by his observance of what he was exposed to. Appreciating what he saw, he created his own renditions. He was able to provide me of an anecdote of when he was a small child. Burman used to look out of his parent’s bedroom window to the street and admire his neighbors’ new cars (the planned obsolesce era of automotive design where flamboyant displays of chrome and fins prevailed) and then retire to his own bedroom in the rear of the rowhouse to sketch his own versions. As he reflected on his particular artistic behavior he pondered the similarities his artistic inclinations might have been to a prehistoric child artist, who might have gone to opening of his cave home, saw herds of bison instead of Buicks and gone to the back of the cave to make marks on the cave walls to record a version of his observations.

I noticed a similar pattern of behavior of his, working at the poultry stalls and stores, it wasn’t enough for him to place the poultry on ice; it had to have symmetry, look uniform, he’d accent the poultry parts with kale to make them as visually appealing as possible. Burman clearly has a strong appreciation for visual appeal, making even the simplest things beautiful. Young Burman also had a rebellious nature. For example, at the Hebrew parochial school when he was criticized for not paying attention to his studies and instead drawing, it fueled him. It wasn’t rebellious in the sense where he wanted to offend people, but his curiosity provoked him to question the norm.

An observer can see his tendency to interpretive aesthetics in his graphic design work. For example, in his work for a company named Needleworks, which produced knitting supplies, Burman created a logo in which the N and the W look knitted and appear to be stitched together. Looking at the logo one can immediately infer the company’s purpose and on top of this it makes for a very appealing logo.

CULTURAL IDENTITY

Burman shredding one of the 18 plagues, photo
from randyburman.com

Earlier in his works, Burman’s cultural identity reflected the communities he was a part of. If you listen to his lecture The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print, Burman talks excitedly about how his grocery store was in a predominantly black neighborhood “so we sold all mainstay soul food, you know, ham hocks, neck bones, that kind of stuff” (Burman “The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print” 2016) but he was excited that they introduced Macrobiotic basics, like brown rice, umeboshi plums, and tamari sauce to the neighborhood. You can also see this connection to his community in the pride he takes in fighting the Department of Transportation’s plan to demolish the Fells Point neighborhood to build a leg of I-95. Burman enlisted many artists and writers to create The Fells Point Telegraphe, which served raise awareness of the lawsuit to protect the community.

Burman kept his strong connection and sense of responsibility towards his community throughout his career. During our interview, he admitted that he was disappointed to have not been involved in the civil rights struggle going on during the 1960’s and 1970’s, while he was focused on automotive and advertising design. After coming to this realization, Burman has “felt obligated to make more socially conscious works” (Burman). Since the realization, Burman has created several highly influential works that address major political, religious, and social issues. One series of works, titled Memory Scrolls, collages that juxtaposed images of King George, George Washington, Manifest Destiny, the Constitution, and Native Americans. The piece shows how the Americans saw colonization and Manifest Destiny as a righteous endeavor, while Native Americans were horrified by it and being slaughtered over this American dream of unyielding conquest. In a related piece, Burman collages Thomas Jefferson, Leif Erickson, Christopher Columbus, Francisco Pizarro, the Declaration of Independence and slave ships. In these two works, Burman addresses how something so glorious to one group of people could mean an apocalypse to another group of people, and the lack of moral consciousness behind it.

A friend of Burman’s who worked with a Jewish organization for young adults asked Burman to participate in a show where artists would make artistic interpretations of rituals of the Passover seder. Burman accepted and created a work titled 18 Contemporary Plagues. In the lecture previously mentioned, Burman discussed how one of the rituals of the Passover seder is telling the stories of the plagues that G-d set upon the Egyptians. Burman explained that as name of each plague is recited, participants spill a drop of wine into a saucer, to express empathy with the suffering the plagues caused. The essence being that even though the plagues were brought upon the ancient Israelite’s oppressors to force them to release the enslaved people, as a human being one shouldn’t find satisfaction in seeing other humans suffer. In place of the ten Biblical plagues, Burman came up with eighteen contemporary plagues such as inequality, bigotry, industrialization, and hypocrisy. He gives the audience the ability to shred images of these plagues, similar to the spilling of the wine, to “feel a release from being affected by these type of things” (Burman “The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print” 2016). One can only imagine the impact this had on the young Jewish community. Not only does it relate to their religion, but it educates the young on the plagues affecting them today.

Another one of Burman’s socially conscious works was IT’S A TRAP. In this installation Burman had hundreds of plastic penis’ set on mouse traps. This work begs the audience to question the nature of sexuality and sexual identity. Although Burman was unaware of the meme associated with the title when he named the work, it was remarkably suitable. The phrase, “It’s a trap” stems from a memorable quote said by Admiral Ackbar during the Battle of Endor in the 1983 Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. In the movie, as the Alliance mobilizes its forces in a concerted effort to destroy the Death Star, Admiral Ackbar encounters an unexpected ambush, which leads him to exclaim, “It’s a trap!” “It’s A Trap!” later became a catchphrase that was often used as a reaction image to photos of transsexuals and cross-dressers (often referred to as “traps”), or people who appear sexually ambiguous. It usually means that the person in question has male reproductive organs, regardless of their appearance. “Burman’s work could be interpreted as a warning, or opposingly, a statement referencing the exuberance of pushing gender boundaries and living dangerously” (Burman “It’s a Trap!”).

The last works of Burman’s I’d love to touch upon is Poems to the Sky. These works were created for the O, Miami Poetry Festival.  The poems used were written by local elementary school students as part of the Sunroom Poetry project. Burman’s idea was simple. Paint the poems on the top of buildings in flight paths in and out of Miami International Airport so passengers who happened to look out their windows would see the poems.  On Burman’s website, randyburman.com, there is a video where the two students whose poems were used, talk about how they wrote poems about their emotions and how they feel. The students, Tywon Willams and Nieema Marshall, in fourth and third grade respectively, introduce themselves as poets. The smile on Nieema’s face says it all. Burman’s project has inspired and empowered these students more than any traditional classroom assignment ever could. His work opened the eyes of dozens of young students to the world of art and creative writing. For Tywon and Nieema it will be an experience they’ll never forget.

It’s been amazing to see the pride and sense of responsibility Burman holds towards educating and supporting his community. From introducing new foods, to protecting property, to inspiring and educating on social issues; through his artwork, Burman does it all. Burman considers himself a conceptualist, which he fits and executes perfectly. Through his work he can cause you to question the morality of the Manifest Destiny from a collage, question gender identity by looking at penises on mouse traps, and inform you of the social constructs imposed on your life while still leaving you the ability to release your negative emotions. Burman is a conceptualist because he didn’t need a child to write him a poem, but he knew that when he used Nieema’s poem she would go home and dream of being the next J.K. Rowling.

SUBJECT OF ARTWORK

The Internatsyonale Fonschlong Zikherhayt, photo from randyburman.com

“The tone of my work – a back and forth between weighty intellectualism and flippancy – is deeply personal” (Burman “The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print” 2016). I believe that when Burman refers to his art as flippant, he’s referring to his earlier works. When his attention was focused on sketching a cooler looking car, or strategically placing rows of kale between cut-up poultry parts. Originally, most of Burman’s work was to achieve the most desirable visual aesthetic. Now, though still visually appealing, Burman’s work is geared towards educating and provoking thought. In additional to some of the works I mentioned under “Cultural Identity” Burman has: Internatsyonale Fonschlong Zikherhayt Apparatus, which provokes the audience to consider the abundance of information corporations and states collect on us. The Vent-o-matic, which is a collection of headshots of extremist politicians for the audience to throw shoes at to vent their frustrations. He’s also made Art of Destruction, in which people walk into a room with prints of sixteen of the greatest artworks of the world and are encouraged to shred some of them. Burman’s works touch on every social issue imaginable. The end goal is to educate; to teach the audience something new, bring them to a new realization, or challenge their thinking and fortify their ideas because they held true. Burman is highly successful at this because his projects are extremely thought provoking. When viewing one of Burman’s works it’s impossible to not have your attention captured by an interactive activity, or intriguing construction, or thought-provoking imagery. In relation to broader social and cultural context Burman uses his art to educate the audience on a plethora of topics via self-reflection.

FORMAL ELEMENTS OF ARTWORK

Art of Destruction, photo from randyburman.com

Burman has not confined himself to any of the elements of art. He draws upon whatever elements he may need to complete the project at hand. In many of his works, destruction is used to achieve creation. For example, Memory Scrolls and Art of Destruction. Burman describes his creative process as “free-flowing”. Sometimes he has an idea and collects the materials needed to create it, an example of this would be Poems to the Sky. Other times he’s had an abundance of materials which he begins to work with and makes a project out of. For example, the abundance of materials sitting in his studio during Hurricane Wilma, led him to create his Half FOOL Half Empty series. Occasionally, Burman’s pieces come together almost by chance. The doll on casters and stack of books on casters were sitting next to each other on Burman’s workbench when he exclaimed “OH! You guys want to be together, okay, you’re together” (Burman “The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print” 2016), which then became his work titled Holy Mountain. Through Burman hasn’t limited himself to specific elements of art, his earlier work tends to deal with shape, pattern, and composition. Creating appealing patterns with poultry parts or reforming the shape of letters and images to create aesthetic logos. In his most recent works, Burman’s biggest congruency has become composition. This can be seen in his caster sculptures, selection of imagery for the Vent-o-matic and 18 Contemporary Plagues, and the Memory Scroll collages.

EXHIBITION AND PROJECT HISTORY

The Vent-o-matic, photo from randyburman.com

The first piece Burman mentions displaying is his painting Underneath the Piano in the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Annual Regional Painting Show. In 1968, after dropping out of college, Burman had his first one-man show and published his book of drawn poetry, We Knows Who’s Crazy Baby. At this time, Burman was a staff artist on an underground newspaper in Baltimore called Harry. In 1972 and 1974, the movies Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble came out, respectively. In which, Burman, along-side his friend Alan Rose created the movie titles. Burman then worked on special projects at the National Lampoon which was an American humor magazine. In 1975, he published The Fells Point Telepgraphe,of which he was editor, art director, in support of the lawsuit against the Department of Transportation. In 1983, Burman was included in a CETA Title IV grant funded silkscreen workshop program led by the Lowe Art Museum and the City of Miami Cultural Experiences Division. Between 1979 and 1995 Burman worked for Diamond Dust – a t-shirt company; R&R Graphics, River Studio – both mostly sign companies; Hall Graphics, Burman & Perez, and HE2.3 – graphic design firms. In 1995, Burman began his own graphic design firm; IKON Communication and Marketing Design. During Hurricane Wilma in 2005, Burman resumed his fine arts career. In 2010, Burman reemphasized his focus on fine arts after an invitation to participate in a three-person show at 12345 West Dixie Gallery. In the same year, Burman became a member of the Artformz Collective in Wynwood, Miami, where he participated in four group shows and created his first project room, the Art of Destruction. Continuing in 2010, Burman participated in an exchange program with artists from Miami and Valencia, Spain. Lastly in 2010, Burman had two artworks selected to be displayed at the New Art Exhibition at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Burman participated in The Open Tent’s Seder as Art project at the Art Center of South Florida in 2011, where he exhibited 18 Contemporary Plagues. Also, in 2011, three of Burman’s artworks were picked for Humoratorium: Art of Whimsy and an installation in the Appropriated Gender exhibition at 1310 Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Burman was one of twenty-nine artists whose work was invited to be displayed for the Rough & Tumble exhibition at The Projects in Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village Arts District in 2013. In 2016, Burman created his Poems to the Sky on the roofs of Florida International University’s Blue Garage and MANA Wynwood. Burman’s Vent-o-matic went on display at Schmidt Center Public Space in 2016 as well. Most recently, Burman has had exhibitions at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in 2016 and Art and Culture Center of Hollywood during 2019 in Hollywood, Florida.

Burman shared his most meaningful experience was getting back into fine art in 2005 and realizing he wanted experience personal artistic growth and do more to influence his community culturally and socially through art. This new drive is what brought about some of his most well-known pieces such as the Vent-o-matic, Poems to the Sky, Art of Destruction, and 18 Contemporary Plagues. Without these works Burman might still have been as great of an artist but wouldn’t have made such large contributions to society.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

Randy Burman was a phenomenal artist to work with. Mr. Burman responded to all my emails within several hours, which I found shocking especially with all the chaos being caused by COVID-19 right now. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Burman via phone call – due to social distancing. Mr. Burman was very well spoken, and I was very impressed with how he spoke to me. He told stories and gave anecdotes as if we had been friends for years, quite frankly I didn’t expect him to be nearly as invested nor engaged in our conversations. I really admired and appreciated this about him. Mr. Burman was able to draw congruencies between him and I. Though he spent several years focused on graphic design, he always kept fine art in the back of his mind. Similarly, I may be focused on work or school but long to make music in my spare time. Which coming from a man like Randy Burman, who’s made it in both worlds, was very inspiring. Working with Randy Burman taught me that the “art” is only very little of what you see or hear. That the “art” is in what you feel when you see or hear it. And, that when an artist makes an artwork, a lot more thought and effort go into it than just making the piece itself.

CITATIONS

  1. Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. “IKON COMMUNICATION AND MARKETING DESIGN, INC.” Opencorporates.com, Opencorporates, 12 Feb. 2020, opencorporates.com/companies/us_fl/P95000045047.
  2. Burman, Randy. “The Alchemy of Juxtaposed Elements and Metaphysical Confrontation in Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Print.” Vimeo, 16 Oct. 2016, vimeo.com/187534813.
  3. Burman, Randy. “Biography.” Biography, Randy Burman, Aug. 2016, randyburman.com/biography.
  4. Kobrin, Alan, and Randy Burman. “Needleworks.” IKON Communication Marketing Design, ikoncom.com/newsite/ikon_content.html.
  5. “Randy Burman.” MutualArt, 2019, www.mutualart.com/Artist/Randy-Burman/E2C64424E42CC9B1.
  6. Burman, Randy. “What We Do.” Edited by P. Scott Cunningham, O, Miami, www.omiami.org/video.
  7. Burman, Randy. “It’s a Trap!” It’s a Trap!, randyburman.com/it-s-a-trap.

ASC Service Project 2020: Nicholas Pastrana

Florida Middle School Vex IQ Robotics Competition Judge

STUDENT BIO

Hi, my name is Nicholas Pastrana, and I am currently a sophomore attending Florida International University. I’m an Accounting major, but also an honors college student, which is how I found my way into this class.

WHO

I volunteered with the Robotics Education Competition (REC) organization to help host the VEX IQ South Florida Regional Championship. It’s a robotics competition that many students prepare for all year, in many cases the same team of students have been competing in this competition several years in a row.

WHY

Since I was a child, I had always loved to play with LEGOs. After I built a new set, I would love breaking it down to add it to my continuously growing conglomerate set. I also attended Coral Reef Elementary School, at which my mother was a Math and Science teacher. At the end of my 4th grade year we had heard of a competition called FIRST Lego League. In my 5th grade year, my mother decided to form a team, of which I was on and we went to compete. We didn’t do very well but I still vividly remember the competitions in which we participated. I had loved competing in FIRST Lego League, I felt like I was in a movie building and programming robots to save the day, at least that’s how its seen through the eyes of a child. For a while, FIRST Lego League had played a huge role in me wanting to become a software engineer. Just as it inspired me, these competitions inspire thousands of students each year. In FIRST Lego League students would be given an obstacle course where they would race with their robots to complete objectives in order to garner points. Each team would be given a basic kit of parts to build their robot. Creative teams, such as my own, got crafty and added on extra parts in attempt to surpass the competition. The students would also be tasked with programming the robot in a beginner’s level block-based programming software. Finally, the students would be given a real-world problem of which they would need to come up with an invention to solve it. All these factors came together to create an amazing educational experience for young STEM studies interested students. Though I never competed in VEX IQ, I know that VEX IQ is very similar to FIRST Lego League; build a robot, program a robot, compete with the robot, and analyzing real world problems. Reminiscent on my experiences with FIRST Lego League, I was ecstatic to volunteer as a judge for the VEX IQ competition at Westminster Christian School, where my mother currently works.

Students running their robots in competition. All pictures are originals of my own CC by 4.0

HOW

Westminster Christian School is collaborating with Florida International University in developing a training program for robotics teachers. Through this connection, Westminster Christian School reached out to Florida International University to find volunteers for the event.

WHERE & WHAT

To start the morning, the judges met in the conference room of the STEM building where we discussed the rules and scoring guides we would use throughout the day. Then we separated into elementary school and middle school and began reviewing the teams’ journals. The journals are notes of the team’s progress throughout the year and are scored on a scale of zero to forty-five. After scoring the journals we noted the teams with the top scoring journals and went to go interview them. We interviewed teams in groups of two or three judges at a time. Each group of judges ranked their favorite teams, but we didn’t use a score for this portion. By this point it was lunch time, so we took a break to eat. We had narrowed down forty-seven teams to about fifteen, eleven of which would receive awards and the top three of those would move onto the World competition. After lunch we had received updated results on the scoring of the team’s robot runs and were able to determine which award would be given except the Excellence Award (overall champion).

The other volunteers and I in the discussion room. All pictures are originals of my own CC by 4.0

The school was short on volunteers so they picked up whoever they could. I think this is important to mention because the debate for who won the Excellence Award was being debated between myself, who’s had experience competing in these types of events, and a preschool Bible teacher, who’s never participated in robotics in any way whatsoever. She had said that we should not give the Excellence award to the highest ranked team because no all-girls team won an award. The team who rightfully won the Excellence award was a group of three boys. I told the group this and the lady who wanted the all-girls team to win called me sexist. I would’ve loved to have gone off on her, but we were doing this for children and my mother worked at the school, so I held my tongue. I explained “Look, the boys were dominant in the journal, robot runs, and interviews, I can show you here with how we scored them, quantitative data proving that the boys won. The boys ranked first overall, and the girls ranked fourth. Should you pick the girls to win over the boys YOU would be showing them favoritism based off gender.” At this point, the kindergarten English teacher said, “well I think it would be a cute way to end the day if the girls won.” Baffled, hurt, and concerned for the integrity of the tournament I asked them all to please give me a minute. I left to get my mother’s boss; the man responsible for hosting the competition.

When I stepped out of the door, I realized how risky this move was. I was going to tell my mother’s boss that I was arguing with several of their co-workers, that I was right, and that I’d like for him to come settle the argument. But, I remembered how much these competitions meant to me as kid. How much fun it was to win just any award. I never went to the world competition; I never even went to the state competition. I couldn’t imagine the satisfaction I would’ve felt winning the top award in-state and going to the world competition. I couldn’t let an undeserving team win just because they were girls.

I found the man and explained to him how the other judges had wanted the girls to win, because they were girls and to my surprise, he cut me off and said, “absolutely not, let’s go”. I followed him back to the classroom we had been holding our debates and he asked for the scores and rankings we had given teams. He then picked up a sticky note and held it in the air “This is the time highest ranked overall?” Several people said yes or nodded their heads. “OK.” He slapped the sticky note onto the printout copies of the awards we had taped to the wall to guide the debate. Then, took a picture of all the awards and all the team’s sticky notes on the wall. He turned to leave and said, “I’ll be announcing the awards in fifteen minutes.”The rest of the afternoon I spent picking up tables and folding chairs and bringing them back to storage. We then picked up any leftover trash of food and threw it out, took out the trash, said good-bye, and went home.

WHEN

SUMMARY

This experience was amazing. I was glad I had the opportunity to give back to something that had such a positive impact on me as a child. I was also glad that I held my tongue back from the lady who called me sexist because it wouldn’t have fared well for my argument nor my mother.  

ASC Art Service Project: The Deering Estate

by Nicholas Pastrana 10/22/19 – 11/12/19

This semester for my Service Project I chose to volunteer at the Deering Estate. What I find interesting about the Deering Estate is that while there are a few artworks inside of the Stone House the main “art” attraction is the Deering Estate itself. The Deering Estate’s value lies in its architecture, wildlife, and history with the Tequesta and Paleo-Indians. After being mesmerized by the Deering Estate from a class visit, I was quick to reach out for volunteering opportunities to the lady who took us on the tour; Vanessa Trujillo. Ms. Trujillo is a conservation and research specialist for the Deering Estate, she put me in contact with Mr. David Lotker, the Recreation Leader to begin volunteering.

Two Miami Dade College Volunteers and I in front of the Stone House.
Atala butterfly.

A few weeks later, I went to the Deering Estate to volunteer. I worked with a couple of other volunteers from Miami Dade College pulling vines to maintain the landscape. Usually my father must fight with me tooth and nail to do this at home. At the Deering Estate this work was easy for me to comprehend because essentially, I was preserving the art of the Deering Estate. Specifically, I worked on maintaining an area of the landscape home to Coontie and Lantanas plants. Where the Atala butterflies lay their eggs and their caterpillars eat in preparation for their upcoming season. The first day I volunteered there were maybe a couple of caterpillars on the plants, but I felt rewarded when I came back about ten days later and was greeted by dozens of the little guys.

Atala caterpillars on Coontie.

Additionally, at the Deering Estate I volunteered helping my professor Mr. Bailly move art pieces at his residency there for a photo-shoot in preparation for an exhibition. I also pulled vines out of and cleaned pockets of dirt in the limestone of the exterior of the Stone House. Maintaining the Stone House was also fascinating because it’s crazy to imagine the Spanish Villa being here at the time where the land was still inhabited mostly by bohemian tribes. I see huge historical value for it as well as the Richmond Cottage it’s connected to. In part for being the last place a person could stop from Miami to Key West and in part for the architectural marvels they were for their time.

I’m very appreciative of the work Deering Estate does to educate youth by offering summer camps and hosting school field trips. They also preserve the “real” Miami, the mangroves, plants, and wildlife that otherwise commercial businesses would’ve eaten up as they’ve done to the rest of Miami. I’m glad I got the opportunity to help preserve the natural Miami. It really made me reflect on human’s disregard for nature for our own satisfaction. Comparing Miami now to how it was during the 1800’s makes me feel gross. The Deering Estate really opened my eyes to how destructive humans can be.

Contact:

The Deering Estate – 16701 SW 72 Ave, Miami, FL, 33157

Vanessa Trujillo – Conservation and Research Specialist

Vanessa.Trujillo@miamidade.gov

ASC See Miami: Locust Projects

“A Cartoon World” by Nicholas D. Pastrana of FIU at Locust Projects, Miami Design District, 12/2/19

Miami Design District.

Biography

Nicholas Pastrana is a sophomore an Accounting major pursuing a double major in Computer Information Systems and a certificate in Pre-Law at Florida International University. He serves as the Vice President of Membership Development and Scholarship on the Interfraternity Council’s Executive Board and on the Finance Committee of Relay for Life. His hobbies include weight-lifting, running, fishing, diving, and playing the piano. Nicholas has toured most of Europe including the Louvre and La Sagrada Familia with an interest in Realist, Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Architectural artworks.

Geography

Exterior of Locust Projects.

Locust Projects is located a couple blocks west of the center of Miami’s Design District. A few blocks to the East, the streets are lined with luxury stores including Versace, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Additionally, the architecture, sculptures, and interesting street art add to the aesthetic appeal of the geography. High-ticket stores and artsy ambiance make this place a hotspot for tourists in Miami.

History

Locust Projects was founded in 1998 by a group of Miami-based artists including Elizabeth Withstandly, Westen Charles, and COOPER. Originally, Locust Projects opened in Wynwood and was one of the first warehouse-turned-art exhibit/collection. In 2001, Locust Projects was incorporated and designated its Board of Directors. In 2002, it was recognized as a 501 (c) (3) not for profit. After receiving a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2006, they were able to hire their first full-time Executive Director and later relocate to Miami’s Design District in 2009. Locust Projects has been able to sustain itself through large grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as well as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs.

Mission

Reproduction– “Create opportunities for visual artists at all career stages, invite risk taking and experimentation, activate conversations around new art and ideas, and advocate for artists and creative practices.”

Explanation– Locust Projects is utterly committed to providing artists the opportunity to exhibit their works. They pride themselves on promoting artists of all ages, ethnicities, religions, qualifications, and career stages. Locust Projects holds no fear when showcasing relatively inexperienced artists and/or artists who show controversial works. When reading about the Locust Projects online, they claim to “emphasize boundary-pushing creative endeavors”. They do so to encourage thought provoking conversations about art and it’s influences on and from society. Furthermore, as a non-profit Locust Projects finds satisfaction in providing artists grants and free legal services.

Access

Locust Projects hour of operations, phone number, website, and pricing.
City View Garage.

Locust Projects is highly accessible as it is free to the public. It has limited parking in the back and there are a few parking spots on the nearby streets but if it were to be a busy night parking would go quick. The hourly fee for street parking is a dollar and fifty cents per hour. There are four parking garages in the area all about a couple blocks away. The nearest parking garage is City View Garage (entrance on Northeast thirty-eighth street). City View Garage is only three dollars for the first four hours, which if you know anything about Miami parking prices that’s practically a Black Friday sale.  Locust Projects’ hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm.

Collection

Locust Projects is not an art gallery nor a collection. As mentioned before, they are a non-profit art space. Locust Projects opens it space to one artist at a time to give the artist an opportunity to exhibit their work with the intentions of educating the community.

Exhibitions

Currently on display at Locust Projects is an artist named Trenton Doyle Hancock. Hancock’s exhibition is titled I Made Mound City in Miami Dade County. Hancock was born in Oklahoma City, OK and raised in Paris, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), then later from Tyler School of Art at Temple University with a MFA (Master of Fine Arts).

Mound in I Made a Mound City in Miami-Dade County.

Interestingly, Hancock’s art comes in the form of cartoons. His exhibition I Made a Mound City in Miami Dade County tells tales of his character Torpedo Boy and his adventures in the Moundverse. In the Moundverse are fictional creatures called Mounds, Mounds art plant like creatures that feed off pollution and negative human emotions to “[transform] this dark malignant sediment into positive colorful energy” and cleanse the earth and air. These stories are told through a variety of medias including paintings, drawings, videos, and sculptures. In these stories Hancock explores ideas of good, evil, authority, race, class, moral relativism, politics, and religion.

Hancock’s main medium of presentation – cartoons – makes his art appealing to younger audiences which could easily understand the narratives but may not pick up on the underlying social ideas meant for older audiences. Hancock’s cartoon drawings are all in black and white but outside of them he commonly uses bright colors, often in a “psychedelic” manner.

In a dark room towards the back left, a video named What the Bringback Brought is playing. This video was very dark in nature and Hancock describes it as a commercial where he’s “…selling [would] not only [be the] toys but sensibilities from another time, a time when toys were better, when horror films and children’s fantasy entertainment was better”. (Ref. 1)

I enjoyed the way Hancock presented the topics and ideas he was conveying to his audience. In comparison to a politician, for example, who might lecture his ideas to an audience in attempt to force it down their throats. Hancock is much more clam in the suggestion of his ideas, allowing the audience to keep an open mind and entertain his ideas without feeling attacked. In the works showcased, Hancock never explicitly says: “Humans are destroying the earth via pollution, and we’re all going to suffer because of it!”. Instead, he uses an alternative reality where Mounds eat pollution to cleanse the rotting Earth to introduce the depressing results of pollution. I don’t lack respect for the Earth, but Hancock encouraged me to re-evaluate my contentment with only not harming the Earth. I was left questioning myself; if there was more, I should be doing to protect the Earth since in this reality I don’t have any mounds to cleanup after me. One page of Hancock’s story he discusses how humans have always used Mounds as a way of storing stuff and providing shelter. When reflecting on this it made me think of the flaw in the continuity of human design and ideas. For example, we all know that pollution is wrong but generation after generation we fall back on it because we assume that the little bit of trash, we leave behind isn’t a big deal. When we feed into this desire for immediate gratification through simplicity, we consistently hurt ourselves. Then when the human race as whole comes together to do this, we do serious damage to the Earth. Similarly, many races look down upon other ones, a phenomenon that has occurred since the beginning of time. Until we can learn to break this continuity, we will still wage war on one another because the opposition is different than us. In my mind I blew this up a lot from just humans consistently building mounds, but until humans can accept the lessons taught to us in our history and innovate from them, we will never evolve to what we’re capable of. Fortunately, I had the opportunity of further discussing these ideas with a visitor of the institution.

Special Programs

Locust Projects has several from summer programs for students to grants for artists.

Practice + Process: In this program artists discuss their “behind-the-scenes” creative processes.

Talks: This program is in conjunction with ArtCenter South Florida, together Locust Projects and ArtCenter South Florida bring in top art curators to Miami six times a year to discuss their vision practice, and the art and artists that shaped their careers.

Locust Art Builders (LAB): A Summer Art Intensive for Teens: Every summer Locust Projects turns its space over to twenty-five teens from across the country to learn how to build an exhibition from scratch.

WaveMaker: Part of a national network of Andy Warhol Foundation re-granting programs providing up to $60,000 in funding a year, awarded directly to artists for non-commercial, non-institutional projects that are accessible to the public.

LegalLink: Program providing free and low-cost legal services, pro bono attorney referrals, and professional development to artists in Florida.

R+D Mobile Studio: A new initiative launched in 2017, R=D / Mobile Studio offers artists space and time to develop ideas for new projects and convene conversations and collaborations that inform new directions.

(Ref. 2)

Visitor

Interview with a visitor of the institution – Neil

Q1 “Is this your first time visiting Locust Projects?”

A1 “No, actually I live nearby, and my girlfriend and I like to come visit.”

Q2 “What made you want to come today to see Trenton Doyle Hancock?”

A2 “I’m really into comics and sequential art and I know Trenton’s work is highly influenced by comics and it’s always fun to see how and when comics and find art intersect and how they influence each other. The final project of the two is always interesting.”

Q3 “So it sounds like you have an interest in art, do you have any formal background?”

A3 “Actually I do, I got my BFA in visual arts.”

Q4 “If you had to pick a piece of this exhibit that peaks your interest, what would it be?”

A4 “The giant Mound in the middle of the room, the cut-away or cross section of the Mound (cartoon drawing explaining what a Mound is made of and its structural composition), and the animation inside of the physical Mound.

Q5 “Did you pick up on any of the ideas Hancock expresses about pollution, emotions, or moral relativism?”

Q5 “Yes, especially the pollution and the whole creation myths he’s working with, I think it speaks a lot towards human design. In fact, if you look at page seven of the Moundverse, Trenton talks about how humans have always used mounds, Egyptians making pyramids, Eskimos making igloos, graves are mounds too. It a metaphor for us being stuck in our ways.”

Portrait

Interview of an employee of the institution – Jordyn Newsome, Gallery and Exhibitions Manager

Q1 “What demographic does Locust Projects tend to target?”

A1 “Locust Projects demographic is very diverse, since we’re located in Miami it’s international.”

Q2 “What age rage does Locust Projects tend to target?”

A2 “Well, geared towards eighteen to probably sixty-five, adults, we get people of all ages, but there is no children programming.”

Q3 “What is Locust Projects to you, as in what does it mean to you”

A3 “Well, Locust Projects is an alternative art space, not a museum, artists can use the ceilings, the floors, the walls. Artists are free to use the space however they want as long as they don’t affect the building structurally. Daniel Arsham jackhammered a hole in the floor. I think it means a lot because it gives artists full control over the presentation of their art, it’s very expressive.”

Q4 “What do you think of the location, would you say it’s convenient for artists and Locust Project’s guests”

A4 “We don’t bring in a lot of foot traffic, but it’s good for driving because we’re right off of I-95. Mostly people who come, come because they set out to do so.”

Q5 “How influential do you believe Locust Projects’ programs are?”

A5 “Programming is important. Locust Projects gives free grants for artists to do projects. Locust Projects provides workshops for artists on how to budget projects, workshops on protecting their work legally, Locust Projects sets out to give artists opportunities to invest in their careers.”

Q6 “Are most of the artists who come here ‘Big name’ artists or ‘investments’?”

A6 “We do both. We try to give all artists a chance regardless of what stage of their career they are at. Every summer we give a Master of Fine Arts student an exhibit.”

Q7 “Is the comic book shop in the back part of Locust Projects?”

A7 “No, since Trenton Doyle Hancock uses comics as a medium, we had a comic book pop up shop. It’s part of a local shop called Radiator Comics. When this exhibition is over the space of the pop-up shop will switch to the next exhibition.

Summary

Locust Projects works. It’s highly accessible to the public, the parking situation is amazing by Miami standards, and to top it off the staff is incredible. From the outside Locust Projects doesn’t look like much, its outside appearance is not reflective of the value inside. When you walk inside, you’re greeted by friendly staff and a large open room which is essential a work of art itself since it’s completely designed by the exhibited artist. This struck me as brilliant when showcasing just one artist because it leaves all of the guest’s focus on that artist and their work.

Unfortunately, there was only one staff member available for me to speak to. Nonetheless, from that one conversation, Locust Projects’ value in their philanthropic initiatives was undeniable. Locust Projects is proud to promote art and provide education through a plethora of programs and open public access. I had no idea ventures such as Locust Projects existed, I’m thankful for their incredible service to the community and the amazing experience.

References

  1. https://www.ringling.org/events/trenton-doyle-hancock-emit-what-bringback-brought
  2. http://www.locustprojects.org/programs/

Art Society Conflict: Nicholas Pastrana

Father-son bonding in Frankfurt, Germany.

Biography

My name is Nicholas Pastrana, I’m 18 years old and a sophmore. I’m currently a finance major, would like to pursue a double major in economics and complete the Pre-Law certificate because I have ambitions of going to law school. When I was enrolling in classes, this one in particular stood out to me because my family and I love travelling to experience the different works of art, architectural styles, and cultures of the world. My favorite artist has to be Vincent van Gogh, specifically his sailboats. I look forward to studying art and it’s influences on society more in depth in this class so that the next time I travel I’m not just interested in what looks nice, but in what has deeper meaning.

Norton as Text

In the Moment by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at the Norton Museum on 9/22/2019

Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera, 1884 by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

This past weekend I had the opportunity of visiting the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. We began on the third floor exploring the Greek’s affinity for the human body and progressed through the Gothic era idealizing spirits and nature. My interest grew through the renaissance period as artists began to explore the world again and merged science with art. It was around this point when my Professor, Mr. Bailey, explained that the value of an artwork was largely determined by its individuality; who did it first. I didn’t fully understand this until I came across Claude Monet’s Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera, 1884.

In this masterpiece, Monet attempts to capture the moment by leaving behind firm lines, using light and color to capture movement. In doing so, Monet paints the gardens in such a way that the observer may glance at the painting and for a split second perceive it as if they are looking through a window. I found this incredibly impressive because today we spend thousands of dollars on technology in attempt to “capture the moment” by taking a picture, while Monet, with no technology, was able to do so by hand with a brush and paint.

Deering Estate as Text

What Lies Below by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at the Deering Estate on 10/2/2019

Paleo-Indian Archaeological site at the Deering Estate, Miami-Dade County Florida.

My entire life I’ve lived in Palmetto Bay, Florida, no more than ten minutes away from the Deering Estate. When I was in primary school, since it was in the area, we commonly held “field-trips” at the Deering Estate. In fact, I could remember the man-made wooden path we followed from an elementary school field-trip where we ate lunch at the benches at the end of the path. Back then I thought the Deering Estate was cool because of all the big trees and fascinating bugs with complete ignorance for the extensive history beneath the soil.

This past week I had the privilege of learning the cultural history of the Deering Estate from our tour guide Vanessa and Professor Bailey. The “house” on the estate is a Spanish-influenced villa built by Charles Deering in 1900, accompanied by the “Richmond Cottage”, a more American styled inn. These architectural beauties sharply contradict the landscape of mangroves and ocean, and at the time the surrounding bohemian tribes.

We’ve modernized Miami so much that the indigenous landscape of the Deering Estate looks foreign. I found it perturbing to go from the man-made concrete jungle of Florida International University to the untainted nature of the Deering Estate and ponder the benefits of our industrialization versus the irreversible effects of our destruction.

On our first excursion we visited a Paleo-Indian archaeological site where we examined tools and poetry dating back millennia. I found the conch shell, stripped to the center to be used as a drill, among the most innovative and intriguing tools they had. It was impressive to think how far we’ve come that today I can stop by home-depot and buy an efficient and powerful, electric drill. Ten thousand years ago, the people living on the same soil as me, had to break down shells to use as hand-drills.

old Oak tree, encircled by Tequestan corpses at the Deering Estate, Miami-Dade County Florida.

Our second excursion led us to a Tequesta burial ground. This was the path I had remembered from primary school, which was slightly disturbing to recall that I was more interested in what I was going to have for lunch than the bodies beneath my feet. Nonetheless, I found the burial of the Tequesta’s fascinating. Although they did not share modern technologies, the Tequesta were obviously an organized group of people who shared religions and customs. We were brought to a large oak tree, which used to be a Gumbo Limbo tree where about a dozen Tequestas were buried in a circle around the base of the tree.

Wynwood as Text

What Makes Art, Art? by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Wynwood on 10/16/2019

Stalagmite of colors supported by wooden plank. De La Cruz Collection Wynwood.

This past week was my first visit to both the Margulies Collection and De La Cruz Collection in Wynwood. Both are private collections of contemporary art in Wynwood, Florida. First, at the Margulies Collection, attention was grabbed by a room full of silhouettes of people made of burlap sacks made by Magdalena Abakanowicz. It was a somber setting, with dozens of figures shaped like people, but lifeless. My professor explained the artists desire to portray and express the inhumanity of WWII, which in the stillness of the room, we all felt. What was impressive about the artworks like this at the Margulies Collection was how far they strayed from typical paintings yet could still invoke emotions in you as if they were the most detailed, colorful, and engaging works of Michelangelo.

In the De La Cruz Collection the walls were lined by paper printed with designs in black ink. I was shocked to see the statue of a fish holding a guitar and a stalagmite of colors rising from the floor. The stalagmite was created by an artist who dropped out of art school, as a rebuttal to the art community he put a piece of wood supporting the stalagmite as the Greeks would do to their statues. This continues the battle of contemporary art, proving art is more than just something that is nice to look at. Art can be anything that invokes, supports, or argues a belief.

Vizcaya as Text

Villas in the Americas by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at The Gardens of Vizcaya on 10/30/2019

The “living room” of the gardens. Vizcaya, Miami.
The entrance to one of the more hidden parts of the garden, usually where forbidden lovers would meet as specified benches. Vizcaya, Miami.

I was astounded when visiting the Deering Estate to see a Spanish villa build by Charles Deering in the mangroves of Miami. Little did I know that his brother, James Deering, had built a substantially larger European style villa just a few miles up the coast. I found irony in how grandiose and pretentious the home and gardens were and how Miami still holds that stereotype today. Nonetheless, if I were capable, of course I would purchase the estate for myself. I also appreciated the flow of nature and the home. Everything was very open and so the gardens felt like rooms of the house, but outdoors. It’s incredible to think about the amount of planning went into the estate, from its outdoor party rooms, to its secret lovers’ spots, to the massive barge, let alone the mansion itself!

After a complete tour of Vizcaya, we went to the LnS Gallery. There, we had the pleasure of speaking with Sergio Cernuda and Luisa Lignarolo about the art industry, the function of a gallery, and its pros and cons for an artist. I was shocked to find out that galleries take about fifty percent of the revenues of a piece of art they sell. But in reality, it makes sense because if not the artist has to take time from making art in order to market and sell the art, he/she has already made. Using the gallery, an artist can produce more consistent profits, and usually larger profits as well. I was also astounded by how little art galleries make. I had assumed that the people selling art works worth millions of dollars must also be raking in millions of dollars, but between the split with the artist, the overhead of the gallery, and expenses for public relations and marketing, the galleries don’t end up with much. Turns out the art business is a lot harder than just pouring wine and sweet-talking wealthy people.

Design District as Text

Contemporary Art in Contemporary Miami by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Institute of Contemporary Art and Wynwood Walls, Miami on 11/13/2019

Staring into infinity, in the Infinity Room. Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

We began our day at Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity room. The aesthetic of the room is incredible, as well as the ideology behind it. I found it amazing, looking around the room and only see myself, surrounded by these peculiar, brilliant, polka-dotted pumpkins. I could see why someone would want to spend the allotted minute inside of there reflecting upon their life or the lives around them. However, I’m disappointed to say that I, enraptured by the beauty of the room, spent the 10 seconds that my minute felt like, taking pictures. It was disturbing to hear how such an amazing artist was rejected so harshly by the world just 40 years ago. The patriarchy I learned of in the art world was astounding, I had no idea it had been so sexist, I had always imagined artists as a very forward thinking and openly expressive community. Especially in a city like New York. It is a shame she still resides in a mental health clinic, I think she’d appreciate how hard we’ve tried to become more accepting, not just as an art community, but the world in general.

Pieces of Hank Willis Thomas’ Unbranded. Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

I also found Hank Willis Thomas’ Unbranded series at the ICA very fascinating; In analyzing the subliminal messages of advertisements I found many positive reinforcements and negative concerns. For example, take the brands off the Absolute Vodka advertisement and you have a man towering over a lying woman in a bikini with drinks in his hand. It appears very provocative and very patriarchal. On the other hand, you have Coca Cola which shows a group of young boys who seem to be enjoying each others company sitting at the steps of an apartment building in what appears to be some large city. This advertisement was much more pleasant, it made me want to grab lunch and a coke with friends.

Afterwards, we rode over to Wynwood to see the Wynwood Walls. My professor then explained to us how powerful the investment in art can be towards a city. Craig Robins in particular was a huge influence to developing Wynwood into the art mongol its become. By hosting free art exhibits in his warehouse spaces he was able to raise the value of both the warehouse space and art considerably. Many people believe, and I’ve been guilty of it as well, that the corporate world and the art world are to separate entities that are not compatible. Craig Robins proves that when both worlds come together, they are capable of achieving great things.

Refinery at Wynwood Walls, Wynwood, Miami.

Miami Art as Text

The International Gallery by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at UNTITLED, ART. and ART MIAMI, on 12/14/2019

Entrance to UNTITLED, ART. Lummus Park, Miami.

I had heard of Art Basel before but had never made the effort to go nor was I aware that it included satellite fairs as well. This played into my astonishment as we approached the massive UNTITLED, ART. tent on the beach.

My assumptions that art fairs like this were overrun with snooty artists, their collectors, and the pretentious millionaires looking to purchase the art to show off to their dinner party guests were misinformed. Our class was pleasantly greeted by a lady associated with the fair who informed us of the hundred-twenty-six exhibitors at UNTITLED, ART. She went on to explain how galleries apply to join the art fair by submitting an application of pieces they believe they’d like to display up to a year in advance. Then, she re-enforced the ideas our professor, Mr. Bailly, had taught us of the value of reputation and integrity of artists and galleries and how that plays into the monetary value of their pieces. As a business major, I found this fascinating because in the unregulated art market a blue square painted by one artist may be worth hundreds of times more than a blue square painted by another in contrast to the corporate world where two cars of similar quality are going to be worth about the same monetary value.

Unfortunately, being set on the beach of Miami, even in winter, the temperature is still extremely hot. The air vents were on full-blast which occasionally made it hard to hear but I preferred it to the blaring heat melting us all. The most impressive part I found about the structure of the fair was the long lanes which one could walk down with exhibitors lining each side. From many points of view, you may look down and see three or four styles of artwork from a plethora of artists from galleries located in several different continents. This degree of global inclusion gives people an opportunity at education that otherwise you’d need to travel the globe for, so I’m glad I got the opportunity to attend.

ST. MICHEAL by Godfried Donkor, Gallery 1957, UNTITLED, ART., Miami.

My favorite exhibition at UNTITLED, ART. was one from Gallery 1957, a contemporary art gallery from Ghana, Africa. The gallery’s director, Victoria Cooke told us of the three artists she had on display, Joana Choumali, Godfried Donkor, and Simphiwe Mbunyuza, and their backgrounds. I appreciated that she was able to provide and Instagram to the gallery and their artists which I thought was a great idea to appeal to the younger people interested in the art. Godfried Donkor’s artworks peaked my interest the most, where he depicts prominent African boxers with Baroque circular golden halo’s in appreciation for their contribution to the sport as well as recognition of equality and freedom for their race.

Upon finishing our tour of UNTITLED, ART. our class took a break for lunch then went to Biscayne Bay for Art Miami. Art Miami was even larger with over a hundred-seventy-eight galleries. I really enjoyed how these contemporary artworks commonly challenged our ideas of society, but in a thought-provoking way rather than aggressive. It wasn’t like having someone tell you “your ideas are wrong, you are wrong, you are bad” or vice versa “you are good, and they are bad”, viewing the art and admiring its purpose was like having someone ask you “have you thought of it this way?”. Which helped me keep and indulge in an open mind.

Bakehouse Art Complex as Text

The House of Artists by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, on 1/15/2020

Two-sided embroidery artwork by Carrie Sieh, on display at Bakehouse Art Complex Exhibition.

The Bakehouse Art Complex’s exterior is deceiving of the value of the interior. My class and I were greeted by the Acting Director of Bakehouse Art Complex; Cathy Leff. She told us about Bakehouse’s history; how a group of artists turned the industrial bakery into a safe-haven for artists. Bakehouse was established as a non-profit made to develop and support artists, giving them workspaces and helping them with exhibitions. Inside the building is a maze of white hallways lined with doors which all have a nametag on them, the name of the artist whose studio is behind the door. It’s incredible to think about all the amazing minds simultaneously working behind the walls.

First, we walked through and exhibition that the Bakehouse was holding. We were kindly toured by the exhibition’s curator, then went on to explore the maze of art studios. Eventually we came to a door with the nametag “Rhea Leonard”. She invited us into her studio; all of her walls were lined with sketches and drawings of all sizes. Rhea went on to explain that she was an African American artist, she focuses her works a lot on the African American body which usually ties back to African Americans and their place in society. Her works were impressive in both their beauty and symbolism. In many of her drawings Rhea focuses the attention of the viewer by using black or gold to contrast the grays in the rest of the picture. I also found interesting how she would sketch out her works on a small piece of paper then gradually sketch it bigger until it was more-or-less the size that she wanted. Unfortunately, she explained, sometimes a drawing will look really good when it’s small but will not be what she envisioned when it’s larger. After meeting Rhea, we continued outside where we met another two artists working on renovating a trunk into a living space. In just the few hours we visited I fell in love with Bakehouse’s mission, accomplishments, and atmosphere. I had no idea such endeavors existed, let alone thrived like Bakehouse does. Their staff and artists both welcoming and come together to form an amazing place for artistic development and education.

Rubell Museum as Text

An Artist is Not Limited to Their Brush by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Rubell Museum and Michael Loveland’s studio, on 1/29/2020

Father supporting his son’s beastiality, Paul McCarthy, on display at Rubell Museum.

Our tour guide explained to us that the Rubell Museum started as a collection by Don and Mira Rubell. The Rubell’s enjoyed doing studio visits to the artists to learn about their works. The collection hosts artworks from dozens of artists including Jeff Koons, Charles Ray, and Paul McCarthy. I found Charles Ray’s works particularly fascinating because I enjoyed the way they mocked narcissism. The Rubell Museum has several very sexual pieces on display, while some people found them too aggressive, I thought it was appropriate because they addressed issues that need to be talked about regardless of being taboo. For example, Paul McCarthy’s work of a father visibly supporting his son’s beastiality. I believe McCarthy’s work makes an analogy to the father’s role to teach their son to either objectify or appreciate women.

Michael Loveland describing one of his collages about a neighborhood he helped make historic to avoid over-development.

After lunch, my class and I had the privilege of visiting Michael Loveland’s studio. Loveland shared with us his experiences moving to New York in order to assimilate into the art world, but how he actually found more success moving back to Miami. Michael Loveland doesn’t limit himself to a paintbrush and paint, instead he makes his pieces mostly out of things he finds in the streets. His collages are made of symbols of the stories that they tell. When describing his collages Loveland said; “They don’t need to necessarily look pretty, they just need to do something for me.” The most interesting idea Loveland shared was keeping your own artworks. Loveland makes it a point of keep a piece from each series that he does, this way he can always be a holder of his work. I agreed with Loveland that it would be sad to get to the end of your career as an artist and not own any of your works.

Printmaking as Text

Hands-on Art by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU, at Miami-Dade College Printmaking Class on 2/13/20

Learning from the Pro.

I had only heard of printmaking in the sense of making books and newspapers. This past week I had the opportunity to learn the art of printmaking with Professor Basile at Miami-Dade College. My class arrived in the afternoon to her printmaking room at the College of Arts and Philosophy. She explained in depth the process of making a print; the ink, the tools to take out the ink and prepare it for the glass, and how to work the print press. I was very impressed by how inviting Professor Basile was, she had only known my professor before that day but treated my class as if we were one of her own. Wiping the ink off the glass was interesting because unlike other artworks where the artists puts stuff together or puts colors onto a medium, prints are made from removing the ink. We only worked with black ink but by depending on how much we wiped off we were able to create dozens of shades between white, grey, and black. Professor Basile also taught us about using cut-outs of paper to create designs in our prints, which left our prints with tons of figures otherwise difficult to make.

My first Print!

The print I made was of space and I was able to make a planet and spaceship. I used a cut out of paper with ruffled edges to wipe a circle around the planet giving it the impression of rings. Using a rag, I pressed dots with soft edges around the glass which left “stars”. Overall it was a fun and informative experience. I really enjoyed being able to learn about the art and it’s creation process through a hands-on approach.

Deering Estate as Text (Marine)

Where Land Meets Water by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at the Deering Estate on 4/26/2020

The Deering Estate’s Boat Basin

In my previous posts on the Deering Estate, I wrote mostly about the land and its conservational efforts towards the land and wildlife living on it. However, the Deering Estate works with marine life as well. The Deering Estate sits on a body of water called Biscayne Bay and has several amenities relating to the water. Biscayne Bay is a body of which accounts for most of the water surrounding Miami. The Bay serves as a sanctuary for marine wildlife including; manatee, fish, and crustaceans. I can speak from personal experience; Biscayne Bay has a ton of young lobsters in it. Due to over-harvesting, in Miami you’re only allowed to harvest lobsters outside of Biscayne Bay now. The Bay acts as a nursery to ensure that the lobsters grow and reproduce so that we don’t harvest the species to extinction. The Deering Estate, well aware of crisis like these, makes it a point to educate their guests on these problems and their solutions.

The Deering Estate holds three amnesties where guests can interact with Biscayne Bay; the Boat Basin, People’s Dock, and Deering Point. Additionally, the Deering Estate offers canoe rides to Chicken Key, which is a body of land covered in mangroves but teeming with wildlife about a mile offshore. The Boat Basin allows the visitors to get up close to manatees, sharks, turtles, sharks, and dolphin. It’s most common to see manatee in the Boat Basin as the love to congregate and mate there. No watercrafts are allowed in the Boat Basin to protect the wildlife. The People’s Dock is open to the public free of charge, people go there to fish, have picnics, and admire Biscayne Bay. Guests also visit the People’s Dock to watch the sunrise since it faces East. You can find the People’s Dock east of the Visitor’s Center. Deering Point is a non-motorized watercraft dock, here people launch canoes, kayaks, and kitesurf. When visiting Deering Point you will usually find people having picnics, children playing in the mangroves, people fishing the canal, and teenagers – though prohibited – jumping off the bridge into the water. Though these amenities and their services the Deering Estate provides guests ample opportunity to learn about and interact with marine life.

South Beach as Text

The Designs Behind the Shoreline by Nicholas Pastrana of FIU at Miami Beach on 4/26/2020

Miami Beach’s shoreline

When you hear “Miami” what comes to mind? South Beach. You think of the neon lights, beach-side hotels and café’s, sports cars, nightclubs, and beautiful beaches. Interestingly, the architecture of Ocean Drive and the Art Deco neighborhood was largely influenced in 1922 by an event that occurred across the globe. The opening of the Tomb of King Tutankhamen. In the tomb were linear designs which appealed to American and European artists and architects. Back in Miami, this translated to linear designs of buildings and linear designs on buildings.

Another fascinating aspect of the Art Deco neighborhood’s architecture is their use of pastel colors on whites. This is drawn upon in Mediterranean architecture and shares congruencies with Coral Gables’ Mediterranean Revival architecture. At night, driving down Ocean Drive you’ll be greeted with flashy neon lights, but during the day you’ll see white and soft-toned buildings with pastels reflective of the nearby ocean, sky, and sand. These added colors nicely complement the buildings and landscape, they give me the impression I’m in an 80’s movie every time I drive down Ocean Drive.

The Mediterranean Ziggurat structure, pyramids which each level smaller than the level below it, can also be seen along the Art Deco skyline. Many of the rooftops of apartment buildings are ziggurats. The relief art, or sculptures carved into the material they are being created on, is also seen in Mediterranean architecture. Relief art decorates hotels, restaurants, and even corporate business buildings around Miami Beach, it’s not uncommon to see the beautiful relief art of flowers, trees, or figures of people. Miami Beach’s architecture was not only influenced by Mediterranean architecture, it’s also influenced by the design of automobiles, plants, ships, machinery, and more. I just found the Mediterranean aspects most interesting to write about as they have been the most captivating to me when I’ve visited Miami Beach. The truth is Miami’s architecture, like its people, is a melting pot of cultures.