Raquel C. Batista: Art Service Project Fall 2019

“Thai Basil and Cucumbers” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Deering Estate

Emily, Garcia, Trujillo, Andres, and of course, Rose.

Just a few names from the incredibly kind and amazing crew of the historic Charles Deering Estate. I once told someone, “Art matters to me, but people matter to me more.” This holds true for the Deering Estate. Although art is specifically characterized as a construct of mankind, some find other ways to interpret it. For instance, art can be defined, not by the creator, but by the audience. Nature is obviously not a manmade concept. It is beyond our power, and yet there are people who see the art within nature. I am one of them. The beauty in the diversity of habitats is breathtaking. Sights such as mountain-shaped clouds, birds flying across vanilla skies, and manatees wading through murky waters can make even the coldest heart stir. The Deering Estate encapsulates this seamlessly. The Stone House and Richmond Cottage are splendid to view, but the true essence of the estate is found in its natural grounds and people. My initial experiences with the estate were memorable, but it was not until I was able to associate myself with its team that I was truly able to appreciate the Deering Estate.

I volunteered for two events: the 7th Annual Vintage Auto Show and Gardening and Weeding.

The 7th Annual Vintage Auto show:

As Vanessa Trujillo took the volunteers on a quick tour of the estate and assigned us our roles, I patiently waited for the opportunity to fill the position of front entrance attendant. I know where my strengths lie, in communicating and working with people, so I was eager to jump on this role. Here I met Ana, a sweet high school junior, Vanessa Garcia, an energetic Deering Estate employee, and the “big boss,” Emily. For the duration of my shift, we engaged with families and friends eager to feast their eyes upon gorgeous vintage automobiles (gorgeous ranging from completely restored, polished, and shiny, to mechanically restored and decorated with a farmer’s taste). Oh, my goodness, there is no doubt that I fell in love with the estate on this day. People do matter to me. The diversity of mankind, from its energy and warmth to coldness and rudeness, is the reason why they are so interesting to observe, interact with, and befriend.

Gardening and Weeding:

I, unfortunately, tend to underestimate morning traffic. This was the case on my gardening day, and I arrived thirty minutes late. An enjoyable aspect of the Deering Estate team is how relaxed everyone is. Upon arrival, I met a security guard who directed me to a landscaping lead, Andres. He guided me to the volunteer area, informed me that Rose would meet me shortly, and jump started me on weeding the plants. I can’t remember the last time I gardened, so to fully enjoy my experience, I started without gloves. Rose passed by early on and advised that I wear gloves. She saved me. If it wasn’t for her recommendation, I would have been bitten by red ants. My shift comprised of me calmly weeding several tables of plants. I took a “step back” and appreciated the sound of the school children laughing in the background, the rain water dripping onto me, the insects buzzing around me, and the cloudy sky protecting me from the sun. After months of nothing but panic attacks, mental breakdowns, endless tears, stress and frustration, I was able to compartmentalize from all of it in these four hours of bliss. Rose enriched my mind with her knowledge of plants. She even gifted me little cucumbers accompanied by their seed pods and a Thai basil plant (which I securely strapped into a seatbelt on our way home.)

Andres inquired if I intended to find a job at the Deering Estate. I explained that I was only there that day to complete an art project. Although he expressed disappointment, I reassured him that I greatly enjoy volunteering at the estate and to expect to see me again in the future. I thanked everyone for their time and assistance, but my biggest thanks goes to Professor Bailly. With your class, I have been given the opportunity to learn of and experience a different form of art, one that incorporates serene nature and beautiful people. Thank you.

Total hours: 12.5

Raquel C. Batista: See Miami Fall 2019

“Freedom” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Museum of Art & Design at Miami Dade College

Freedom Tower

Photo credit to Karina Aguilar

Biography

Photo credit to @francine.mccauley

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

Geography

The Museum of Art & Design (MOAD) at Miami Dade College (MDC) is located on Biscayne Boulevard with the American Airlines Arena to its left and Bayside Marketplace to its right. Prior to performance shows or after completing their round through the mall, people can explore Miami further by paying a visit to the museum.
 
Most notably, MOAD is located within the Freedom Tower at MDC. Considered the “Ellis Island of the South,” the Freedom Tower is within walking distance to the very shore where thousands of Cuban immigrants have landed on their journey to the United States.
 
With its location alongside such prominent structures and areas, there is little chance for Miami’s community and visitors to lose sight of such a historic building.

History

The history of MOAD begins with the establishment of the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower, which was built in 1925 as the home of Miami’s first newspaper company, the Miami Daily News. From 1925 to 1959, the Freedom Tower served as the company’s headquarters. The Great Hurricane of 1926 put the newspaper company’s operation to a halt due to highly needed renovation after the destructive aftermath of the hurricane. The building’s usage took a major political turn in 1960 to 1962, when it served as the bridge for the mass exodus, Peter (Pedro) Pan. Peter Pan, a covert U.S. and Cuban government operation, brought to the U.S. over 14,000 unaccompanied minors. From 1962 to 1974, the Freedom Tower served as an official government reception center for Cuban refugees.

The Freedom Tower was bought and sold for many years, until its purchase by the Cuban American National Foundation’s leader, Jorge Mas Canosa. After Canosa’s passing, the building was sold to the Pedro Martin family in 2004, who in turn donated it to MDC in 2005. The founders, former MDC President Eduardo Padron and MOAD’s current Executive Director and Lead Curator Rina Carvajal, opened MOAD in March 2011. At the end of 2016, the museum closed for renovation until its reopening in May 2018. To this day, the museum remains in full operation.

Mission

Photo credit to Mary E. Castillo

Reproduction

“The mission of MDC MOAD is to provide open, critical, and collaborative frameworks for artistic experimentation and interdisciplinary risk-taking that explores the intersections of art, design, and other art forms with cultural action. The Museum advances Miami Dade College’s core values, contributing to the intellectual life of the college, engaging students and audiences from the community and the world beyond” (MOAD).
 
Explanation

There are museums who hesitate before showcasing provocative artwork that may be considered a form of instigation or protest. Even the lifestyle of artists can impact whether museums will display their work or not. MOAD is not a museum that holds back. To prove this, artists in the Where The Oceans Meet exhibit enjoyed “alternative lifestyles” by not conforming to heteronormative standards. The museum opens its doors to art from diverse perspectives and welcomes those who are normally ostracized by society. By doing so, MOAD gives the students of Miami Dade College and Miami’s community and visitors the opportunity to embrace artwork from various backgrounds.

Access

To make MOAD more accessible for the public, Free Admission and Family Days were established on the last Sunday of each month. This initiative was launched on Sunday, September 30, 2018.
 
Admission

General = $12
Senior and Military = $8
Children 12 and under = free
MDC students/faculty/staff = free
MOAD Members = free
* There are no special discounts for residents.
 
Membership

Membership levels are Individual ($45), Dual/Family ($75), Museum Benefactor ($250), Sustaining Support ($500), and Museum Circle ($1000). While the levels have differing benefits, all membership levels include free admission for two adults, invitations to members-only viewings and events, and priority entrance via the members-only admission queue.

Collection

Kislak Center Culture and Change in the Early Americas

Kislak Center Culture and Change in the Early Americas

The Kislak Center Culture and Change in the Early Americas was donated to MOAD by the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. There is a select number of Kislak Centers throughout the U.S.. They can be found in the UM Richter Library, Library of Congress, University of Pennsylvania, Kislak Headquarters in Miami Lakes, and recently established center in MOAD.

Considered by MOAD employees as a “museum within a museum,” the center is protected by a class encasing with its own entrance. There are glass displays for physical artifacts and electronic platforms that offer museum visitors an interactive cultural experience. The collection includes pre-Columbian, colonial, and African artifacts. It presents the history of America through books, maps, manuscripts, documents, and objects. The Kislak Center holds artifacts ranging from African headdresses and royal crests to sports equipment and adventure novels. A highlight of the collection is the royal seal of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spanish monarchs who contributed greatly to the great exchange between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres in the 15th century. Notable to the center are the Robinson Crusoe novels. Numerous museum visitors question why they are included in the collection. Kislak’s reasoning to include these novels in the center is supported by the major historical details included in Crusoe’s numerous adventures.

Some claim (and with just reason) that it is unethical for museums to possess the artifacts of oppressed, enslaved, and slaughtered peoples. The possession of such artifacts is accepted throughout the world. The foundation for this acceptance is the reasoning that learning from the atrocities of humankind motivates people to never allow them to happen again. Presenting heinous moments of the past in order to inform the public is a part of this reasoning, but the question remains: is it ethical to hold onto the belongings of other cultures? Although some artifacts are acquired in legal ways, it boils down to the true manner in which most artifacts are taken: theft. As artifact collectors, museum employees and visitors, and the public in general, we must weigh the importance between reflecting on our past and respecting it.

The New World Mural

The New World Mural
 

The New World Mural once hung as a tapestry in the 1920s, but it decayed over the century. As a part of a 1987 restoration of the Freedom Tower, the mural was recreated by the Miami Artisans group. From mermaids and fruit to conquistadors and Tequesta, the Mural showcases great historical and cultural diversity. The mural’s importance to MOAD is highlighted by its $150,000 cost, showcasing the great impact that the mural has on its observers. The New World Mural is held in high esteem by the Miami community as well, even serving as the back drop for the public wake of the famed Cuban singer, Celia Cruz.

Exhibitions

Glexis NOVOA: The Cankama Sutta

Glexis NOVOA: The Cankama Sutta
 

The Glexis NOVOA: The Cankama Sutta exhibition comprised of small graphite drawings located across the gallery’s walls and several sculptures. The drawings displayed notable aspects of Glexis Novoa’s life, including his homeland, locations that he visited, and areas of his political and social interest. The drawings highlighted well-known buildings and areas such as the Moscow Kremlin and El Cerro de la Silla.
 
The last day of the exhibition was September 28, 2019. Prior to its closing, museum visitors entered the exhibition and at first had to look twice for the artwork. The extremely detailed graphite drawings were smaller than three inches. The large sculptures at first seemed out of place alongside the miniature images, but upon further inspection, it was apparent that they served as another platform for Novoa’s drawings.

As a Cuban immigrant, Novoa’s artwork is deeply impacted by the Freedom Tower’s refugee center. The tower holds such importance in Novoa’s life that it was included on the gallery’s walls. In his youth, Novoa embraced his mother’s Buddhist teachings and chose to continue this education throughout his life. On one of the gallery walls, a Buddhist rule about walking meditation was presented for museum visitors to analyze. In order to efficiently observe the exhibition, visitors had to walk along the gallery walls. Novoa paved the way for his spectators to participate in a form of mediation on their visit to his gallery. On the surface, the gallery is minimalistic. Upon further observation, it is an interactive exhibit following the life of a well-rounded artist.

Where The Oceans Meet

Where The Oceans Meet
 

The entire second floor of the Freedom Tower hosts the Where The Oceans Meet exhibit. MOAD employees recommend starting by examining the exhibit counterclockwise. The exhibit comprises of works by over forty artists, spearheaded by two key figures: Lydia Cabrera and Édouard Glissant. The two Caribbean writers gathered artists to explore how geography, nation, culture, society, race, gender, language, and crossing frontiers has shaped the world. The central idea exhibited in Where The Oceans Meet is characterized by MOAD’s words: “The oceans meet where colonial conquests, displacement of peoples, and extermination of species have taken place over the course of history; they meet where trade is conducted, and where the dreams of immigrants get doused.”

The exhibit contains art of various mediums, ranging from acrylic paint on canvas, twenty-minute-long films, to a rug comprising of mint candies. Where The Oceans Meet showcases repetition of Vodou, Santeria, government oppression, and violence. The exhibition contains artwork from artists who defy the norms. A performance piece by artist Tania Bruguera, titled “Displacement,” showcases a Kongo power figure, Nkisi Nkondi, stirring from stillness and eventually walking through the streets. The nails and blades starkly contrast against the figure’s smooth, dirt-covered body. During the Columbian exchange, countless people were displaced from their homelands. African slaves were transported inhumanely to the Americas, resulting in mass chaos and culture clashes upon arrival. The eerie sight of this walking Nkisi Nkondi reminds spectators of the true nature of this exchange: solitary, intimidating, and unforgiving. With Kader Attia’s “The Repair,” onlookers must challenge themselves to watch the film in its entirety due to the remarkable, but at times, disturbing content. The film contains notable variety showing images of African women in traditional clothing to disfigured men resembling sea shells. “The Repair” brings to light the suffering endured by the victims of harsh and cruel Europeans. There is notable contrast between the images of weakness and power. Attia presents to onlookers both sides of the story: despite the suffering of the Columbian exchange victims, many held strong and fought to maintain their values and customs.

Black Power Naps

The Black Power Naps exhibit is a performance-based, interactive exhibit that will partner with Where The Oceans Meet in October 2019.

Special Programs

MOAD’s Education Lab, located on the third floor, is reserved for special programs designed for children and families. The programs include, but are not limited to, hands-on activities, artist-led workshops, and interactive gallery tours.

Visitor

First-time MOAD visitor, Karina Y. Aguilar

In-Person Interview Questions and Answers:

1. “What was the reason for your visit on September 28, 2019?”
a. “I’m an architect student at Miami Dade and for one of my projects, I’m taking pictures at Downtown Miami. I wanted to know a little bit about the culture of the building I was taking pictures of, in this case the Freedom Tower.”
2. “Which collections and/or exhibitions did you see on this day?”
a.     “I saw the Kislak collection and NOVOA exhibition.”
3.     “What did you like most about the Kislak collection?”
a.     “That they had a mixture of not only antiques but interactive monitors that were a lot more modern for a museum. The Robinson Crusoe books included in the collection interested me because they looked out of place from how much recent they are compared to the main collection pieces. When I realized how they were connected it was a lot more interesting because of how the stories were related to the history of the collection.”
4.     “What did you like most about the NOVOA exhibition?”
a.     “From someone that has done art and design for so long, it was just surprising to see so much detail with that type of media. The fact that he was able to do that in such, not only a short time, but with so much precision for such a small piece, was surprising.”
5.     “What is the social and emotional responsibility of museums, especially as many public institutions strive to be a vital part of their local communities?”
a.     “There is such a large Cuban community in Miami and not only that, many immigrants in general that live in Miami. The museum impacts Americans, immigrants, and tourists that visit. It informs people of our history in Miami and helps them know a little bit of immigration and the issue of it in the US. How it impacts the community itself? It doesn’t. Most people don’t even know it’s a museum and when I stepped in, I didn’t know it was a museum. I’ve lived in Miami for about fifteen years and I have never heard about that museum. I asked my mom and she knew. An older generation knew, while us younger generations have no idea. That’s something that we should know because it’s a part of Miami’s history. It shouldn’t be something we know because we go there, it should be something that we study about in school.”

Portrait

MOAD Docent, Mary E. Castillo

Email Correspondence Interview Questions and Answers:

1. What inspired you to become a MOAD docent?
a. It was not really an inspiration, but more a coincidence and serendipity that brought me to the museum, plus a lifetime of learning, reading, and absorbing our culture and traveling. Last year I visited the Museum with my Chinese Professor and her husband as she had never been there. She asked if there was a formal tour, and Sierra Manno, who is now the person I direct report to, told her they had a Docent Program, but no one was in it at the moment. I told her I would be interested. She gave the Curator’s card, I interviewed, and came with a shopping bag of my many books. I started on a volunteer basis, and since May of this year I am a contracted employee. And I love every moment I spend here. I can be a nerd all day, meet so many interesting people, and be surrounded by art, beauty, and history.
2. What do you enjoy most about being a MOAD docent? I meet new people and learn new things every day. And least?
a. The more I see and learn, the less I know. A very important lesson and message to never stop learning and improving.
3. What does MOAD mean to you?
a. It means a piece of local and even world history that is preserved and shared with our community and the world. I love our city, and its history, and sharing it with everyone I can.
4. Do you feel that MOAD serves its community well?
a. It makes me so happy every time someone comes into the museum that has never been here before, or a Cuban who was processed here 50 years ago, and it’s the first time they’re returning.

Summary

Assessment

The only offsetting aspect about the museum is the way the floors are organized. The entrance doors do not lead to the first floor, but instead what museum employees call the lobby. By following the two stairs on both sides of the lobby, visitors can reach the first floor. On the first floor, there is no access to the elevators. In order to access the second and third floors, one must board the elevators located in the lobby. After wrapping my mind around this optical puzzle, I was finally able to orient myself by taking a tour of the museum.

On September 28, 2019, as a person who was born and raised in Miami all her life, I learned that the Freedom Tower contains an art museum. My astonishment was apparent to everyone, as the museum employees chuckled at my reaction to this revelation. I have seen the Freedom Tower on my many visits to Miami Beach, knowing only of its importance to the Cuban community. After inquiring information from the student assistants, they directed me to someone who knows MOAD like the back of her hand. I had the honor and pleasure of being toured through the museum by MOAD docent, Mary Castillo. She took her time to calmly show me every exhibition and collection of the museum with both passion and detail. Ms. Castillo enriched my mind with stories of pain, controversy, suffering, perseverance, determination, and love.

Visiting the Museum of Art & Design at Miami Dade College was an awesome experience. I am a great lover of history and art. MOAD overflows with historical information presented through its various collections and exhibitions. It’s safe to conclude that I enjoyed every minute of my visit and will gladly come by again.

References

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/American_Latino_Heritage/Freedom_Tower.html

http://mdcmoad.org/freedom-tower/

http://www.mdcmoad.org/about/default.aspx

https://artmuseumteaching.com/tag/questions/

https://news.mdc.edu/press_release/museum-of-art-and-design-at-mdc-launches-monthly-free-admission-and-family-days/

http://www.mdcmoad.org/support/membership.aspx

https://www.neuberger.org/exhibitions/past/view1/198.html?width=660

*Additional information was acquired from MOAD brochures and signages.

Raquel C. Batista: Art Society Conflict 2019-2020

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

NORTON MUSEUM

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

Dear reader,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,
Raquel C. Batista

DEERING ESTATE

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

Photo credit to IG @francine.mccauley

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

MARGULIES and DE LA CRUZ COLLECTIONS

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

Margulies Collection

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

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

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

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

VIZCAYA and LNS GALLERY

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

LnS Gallery – Photo credit to IG @johnwbailly

There are two topics at hand in this discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

ICA and WYNWOOD WALLS

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

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

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

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

UNTITLED, ART. and ART MIAMI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time. Goodbye everybody.