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This colorful sea of butterfly wings dancing across the sky is an invitation to all who gather here to live life to the fullest. Working in numerous mediums, the artist is devoted to interweaving the natural world and the community of mankind.
Xavier Cortada, “Baile De Las Mariposas,” ceramic, 2013
A public art project at Joe Moretti Apartments (Miami-Dade Housing Authority), Miami, FL
This is an apartment building that I saw rise from the vantage point my art studio, a block east of here. Since 2001, I’ve witnessed all the changes that have come to the neighborhood. Many more than I saw in all the years since my childhood. It’s part of a transforming Miami.
So when I was thinking of a permanent art piece for this new space, I thought about the history of the place—about the people who navigated the nearby river, just a few blocks north; the people who fished and hunted and gathered along the bay, just another few blocks east. I thought about the human and natural history of what was once a beautiful, lush hardwood hammock.
I thought about the pollinators that made this very location their habitat.
Through art, I want to engage present-day inhabitants and inform them about the natural history of the community. So Moretti has a series of installations and ceramic murals that portray bioluminescent click beetles, dragonflies and butterflies. These works are an invitation to enjoy nature, to walk through Simpson Park — a nearby nature preserve, and to go to the edge of the bay and visit the natural beauty there. As with all my environmental works, I encourage folks to find ways to coexist with nature.
It’s about finding balance. It’s about understanding the footprint that we leave. The bay that these skyscrapers overlook welcomed not just the Tequesta, but the Spanish conquistadores and the runaway slaves and the multitude of immigrants who have reached our shores. So, for me, this location at the heart of Miami is a beautiful perch for us to look at the history and to appreciate the imperiled natural beauty.
So in this building’s courtyard I created Baile de las Mariposas (Dance of the Butterflies), a triptych mural depicting butterflies. They are lively and move in different directions; extremely colorful, they dance across a blue sky. First seen from the elevator lobby, this mural is an invitation to make a little detour and go outside and dance with the butterflies.
I wanted to bring the mural to life. So the courtyard includes Firebush, a native flowering plant that attracts butterflies to continue their millennial dance of pollinating and bringing life to South Florida. The art also invites the residents to think about their role as stewards of the environment through simple acts: encouraging their grandchildren to plant a native tree at their homes, recycling, using public transportation, and enjoying the natural beauty of South Florida.
I want us to take the path of this butterfly and explore – from flower to flower.