Immortalized in Glass
Florida’s first Catholic bishop
now school mosaic
news-press.com on April 24, 2004
vibrant color and the metaphor of mangrove, artist Xavier Cortada will
revive the memory of Bishop Augustin Verot at the local school that bears
Miami artist Xavier Cortada’s painting of Bishop Augustin Verot, which
has been converted to a glass mosaic, will be unveiled on Friday at
Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers. Cortada, who has been
commissioned to create art for The White House, the World Bank, Nike,
HBO and the Global Health Council, is known for his use of vibrant
Thousands of vivid glass tiles have
transformed Cortada’s painting of the first Roman Catholic bishop in
Florida into a mosaic for Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers.
The 8-foot-by-16-foot outdoor glass mural
will be unveiled in the school’s courtyard Friday evening. The 450-pound
mosaic will be the centerpiece of a showing of work by the Miami-based
The gallery showing, cocktail reception
and program featuring Cortada will fund scholarships for minority
“We are hoping to be able to fund two full
scholarships from the proceeds of the evening,” said Todd Cordisco, the
school’s director of communications and alumni relations.
Cortada, 39, discovered mangroves while
boating with his father, who was also an artist. Since then, Cortada has
used the mangrove — a distinctive wetlands tree whose roots gather soil to
form islands — as a symbol for community growth.
In Cortada’s portrait, Verot stands in
mangroves rising to become his staff and vestments.
Verot was a controversial bishop — a
French-born Roman Catholic in the South during the Confederacy and
Reconstruction. He defended slavery as an institution, but insisted that
slaves were human beings with souls, worthy of legal protection. He warned
slave owners that God would punish them for abusing their bondsmen.
After the Civil War, he became an
outspoken supporter of civil rights for freed slaves and campaigned
especially to educate their children.
“In some ways, he was ahead of his time.
In other ways, he was a victim of his time,” Cortada said of his subject.
“I see him as a man who made a myriad of mistakes, but I also see him as a
man with the courage to stand up for his convictions.”
What: An Evening with Xavier Cortada
• When: 6 p.m. Friday reception, 7 p.m., unveiling of glass mosaic
mural, 7:15 p.m., program/slide show by the artist
• Where: Anderson Theater, Bishop Verot High School, 5598 Sunrise
Drive, Fort Myers
• Tickets: $50
• Proceeds: Will fund scholarships for minority students
• Contact: 274-6780
• Links to Web sites
maintained by the artist and Bishop Verot
Cortada turned to art full-time in July
1997 after he created two 24-foot murals at the Nike Town mega store in
That was also his first experience with
converting his oil painting into glass mosaics. A company in Italy
reproduces his art using 10-millimeter glass tiles, called tesserae.
“I just saw the beauty of it,” he said of
the mosaic process. “You don’t want the art to fade or peel or be
destroyed through time.”
Corporate, government and and non-profit
clients are attracted to Cortada’s bold use of color and ethnic themes.
He has created art for the White House,
World Bank, HBO, Heineken and the Global Health Council. He was
commissioned in November by Gov. Jeb Bush to paint a mural commemorating
Florida’s Hispanic heritage.
Some of Bishop Verot’s 800 students helped
research their patron’s life for the project. Cortada also painted
vignettes of Verot to surround the mural.
It not only pays tribute to the man, it
also promotes discussion in theology and history classes, said the Rev. J.
Christian Beretta, principal.
“This is an incredible opportunity for our
students to work with a renowned artist who has worked with so many
diverse groups across many continents,” Beretta said.
Prints of the mural will be sold during
“We are reaching out, in a deliberative
manner, to families in the area that may not be able to afford a Verot
education for their children,” Beretta said.
“The symbolic value, even of the mosaic
itself, is powerful to me. Just as a mosaic is made up of all these
colors, the school is made up of people from different backgrounds,”
The Verot campus, he said, echoes the call
of the Gospel by promoting ethnic and economic diversity.
“We most closely resemble God when we are
gathered together,” Beretta said.