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Mangroves (on Blue): This work, and Seedlings, the 2013 ceramic piece on the exterior of the community room, reference the artist’s eco-art practice. Cortada’s Reclamation Project engaged residents in reforesting Biscayne Bay with mangrove seedlings and inspired the community to coexist with nature. Nature surrounds us with beauty and rewards our exploration.
Xavier Cortada, is the artist chosen to create public art for this building – Dante Fascell Apartments. All the works portray the mangroves in ceramic tile murals.
Mangroves are extremely valuable for coastal ecosystems. They support coastal fisheries by acting as breeding grounds for juvenile fish. Their roots stabilize the shore, provide life-saving protection from the effects of hurricanes and trap pollutants within their sediment. Without mangroves, many coastal fishing areas and habitats would deteriorate.
For decades, Dante Fascell represented our community in Washington, D.C. I still remember him speaking at University of Miami events when I was a student there in the 80s.
I’m humbled to have been given the opportunity to create a series of permanent public art works that depicts mangroves in a place that honors the congressman who created a nature preserve that protects those mangroves.
Our Congressman helped secure funding to establish Biscayne National Park in South Dade, protecting our coastal ecosystems and its mangroves. A lot of my environmental artwork addresses these very plants and other species protected by that park. Among these is the Reclamation Project, a decade-long eco-art reforestation effort that, in partnership with the Miami Science Museum, dozens of schools and hundreds of volunteers, planted over 8 acres of mangroves along Biscayne Bay.
Through art I aim to reverse the trend of mangrove forest loss by increasing awareness of the mangrove’s importance and taking action to reclaim coastal areas by planting mangrove seedlings.
The idea is that when you go to abuelita’s / grandma’s house that you experience art, beauty, color, truth – and you’re also experiencing art that thematically invites you to connect with nature. Art that inspires you to inquire into what was there before the seawall and what is out there beyond the seawall. Art that will hopefully encourage you to become nature’s steward.
Throughout the site, you’re going to see works inspired by mangrove paintings I’ve created before or ephemeral processes like the Reclamation Project that have since taken a life of their own.
“Seedlings,” this 288-piece hand-made and hand-painted ceramic tile mural at the entrance of the community room, and “Mangroves (on Blue)” on its side entrance connecting to the housing units, captures the very plants the volunteers planted along Biscayne Bay to build ecosystems above and below the water line.
Through these works, I attempt to inspire future generations to learn how to better coexist with nature. To preserve the mangroves, not just in, but also outside of those nature preserves
This is the way art historian, Mary Jo Aagerston talked about Cortada’s work in a portion of an essay she wrote in 2007 for the inauguration of the Reclamation Project at the Miami Science Museum:
Mangroves have been a constant theme in Cortada’s life. As a child, Cortada recalls swimming through hundreds of the green cigar-shaped mangrove seed pods in Biscayne Bay near Bear Cut, a favorite location for family gatherings, and especially for his father who found this particular spot redolent of the sounds, smells, flora and fauna of his native Cuba.
Later, the mangroves of his childhood memories took on new significance in Cortada’s art. In his first painting with a mangrove theme, Florida Mangrove, 2003 commissioned by the State Division of Cultural Affairs, the arrival of Spain’s empire on the American continent is depicted as occurring in the tangled roots of a mangrove forest. In 2004, Cortada’s 6 foot tall, colorfully abstract painted mangrove seedlings (Miami Mangrove Forest, 2004) “grew” in a public art metaphorical reforestation on columns beneath I-95.
By 2005, Cortada was working with the seedlings themselves as his medium. As the first Reclamation Project took shape, thousands of seedlings were harvested under the supervision of the Department of Environmental Resources Management, and found temporary homes in little plastic cups, displayed first in an art installation at the Bass Museum on Earth Day, 2006 and later that year, during Art Basel Miami Beach, in the windows of Lincoln Road merchants. Finally, in February 2007, the seedlings were planted by volunteers in Bear Cut, the site of Cortada’s childhood family picnics.