“Temperature Check: Body of Evidence” exhibit in San José

Temperature Check: Body of Evidence
(September 1 – November 12, 2017)

More than 50 percent of Latinos in the United States see climate change as a key defining issue due to its far-reaching impact within the Latino community. Temperature Check: Body of Evidence will feature the work of Latino artists exploring the artifacts and patterns of climate change through installation, drawing, video and photography. The exhibition will also include a platform for education and exchange with our local community through a series of public programs including guest speakers, panel discussions and family programs to further strategies for discussion and action around issues of sustainability.  Xavier Cortada’s “Diatoms” and “DO NOT OPEN” will be presented as part of the group exhibition.

Diatoms

Xavier Cortada, “Diatoms,”  one-hundred diatom works on framed flat tile (each 6″ x 6″), 2017.

Diatoms are single-celled organisms that live in the water and harness the power of the sun to convert CO2 into oxygen. Its glass shell, all that remains from the diatom, is used by scientists today to see what was as they research environmental issues crucial to the city in the century to come. Scientists—and artists—can determine the past salinity of water by examining the shells of diatoms preserved in sedimentary core samples. Each diatom species has a different salinity preference, so changes in the mixture of fresh and sea water (driven by sea level and changes in water management) can be inferred from past diatom remains.

 


DO NOT OPEN | San José 2117

Xavier Cortada, “DO NOT OPEN,” 2016.During the opening reception, MACLA  invites attendees to participate in Cortada’s “DO NOT OPEN” performance.  The work was first exhibited last year during the CLIMA exhibit. Here are the instructions.

  • Participant Instructions:

      • Walk up to the “DO NOT OPEN” wall in the MACLA Temperature Check
      • Close your eyes: Imagine San José 100 years in the future. Imagine the people living here then. Imagine how rising seas will impact the city and those who will live here then.
      • Think about what you would like them to know. Think about what someone living in San José in 2117 would want to hear from someone living here in 2017.
      • Unclip a piece of blank paper and envelope from the “DO NOT OPEN” wall and use a pencil to write it all down:

     

    Tell them who you are.
    Tell them why you are writing to them.
    Tell them what you thought, what you saw.
    Tell them what you felt, what you feared.
    Tell them what you did, what you hoped for.
    Tell them what you want them to do.

     

    • Fold your handwritten letter in two, kiss it, place it inside the envelope and seal it. Sign and date the back of your envelope and write the words:
      “DO NOT OPEN until 2117”
    • Clip the sealed envelope to the “DO NOT OPEN” wall with the handwritten words facing out.
    • Stare at your envelope for 100 seconds. Visualize the changes rising seas will bring over each of the next 100 years. Think of how your words will be received in San José in 2117.
    • Walk away.

     

Artist’s statement:

In “DO NOT OPEN,” I ask residents of San Jose to write letters to the future. I do so because today, many of their neighbors aren’t willing to listen. Today, too many are in denial about the human impact on global climate change. For many, denial comes easier than visualizing the future impact of rising seas on their community. Our words fall on deaf ears.

So, instead, we must write it all down, keep it in a safe place, and share it later, when others are willing to listen.

Although the letters are intended for people not yet born, the true audience is those breathing in the present.

Sure, the future will be curious.
The future will read our letters and want to know why we couldn’t show restraint when facing insurmountable evidence of our role in creating this global crisis.

The future will be incredulous.
In 2117, our great-grandchildren will read the words we wrote them and want to understand why we didn’t do more when so much—everything– was at stake.

The future will be furious.
A century from now, San Jose will read what we penned and want to know how, on our watch, ecosystems collapsed, biodiversity plummeted and so much of humanity suffered.

The future will benefit from insights, but “DO NOT OPEN” isn’t for them. It’s not about them. It’s about us.

I’m less interested in them being able to hear us. And more interested in us being able to see them. By writing to them, we name them. By writing to them, we can’t deny their existence. By writing to them, we create a connection to them.

Being able to connect with our progeny raises the stakes for us now in 2017. It lengthens the “care horizon” beyond our lifetime. It provides a path to hope, purpose. It encourages us to do all we can now to protect our planet, its future generations and the animals we coevolved with.

— Xavier Cortada

The Art of Diatoms

 

The Art of Diatoms

by Xavier Cortada, Artist-in-Residence
FIU School of Environment, Arts and Society

 

Fig. 1. Cortada’s one-hundred diatom works on tile (each 6″ x 6″), 2017.

I marvel at looking into a microscope.

I focus in and see time. I see the past, really far into the past. I see beautiful small aquatic plants encased in glass that lived on our planet for many millions of years. Sitting inside Dr. Evelyn Gaiser’s Algae Research lab at Florida International University in Miami, I look at a slide and see diatoms.

Diatoms transport me to a place so distant in time that it wouldn’t look like the Earth I know. They help connect me to an Earth I am trying to better understand. An Earth fluid. An Earth as process. An Earth completely interconnected. An Earth generating life forms across space and time.

Fig. 2. Xavier Cortada, Drawings of Diatoms from the Everglades, 6″ x 6″, ceramic tile, 2017.

In diatoms, I also see moments captured in time. Scientists can determine the past salinity of water by examining the glass shells of diatoms preserved in sedimentary core samples. Each diatom species has a different salinity preference, so changes in the mixture of fresh and sea water (driven by sea level rise and water management) can be inferred from past diatom remains.

Their presence in the layered sediment connects us to the ecosystem in which they thrived while they were alive. Indeed, they are a portal to what once was so that we can better learn how to protect what now is.

A diatom glass shell is a talisman.

The tiniest of talismans– as tiny as a cell: a single-celled organism that lives in the water and harnesses the power of the sun to convert CO2 into organic substances to sustain its life and releasing oxygen in the process. Indeed, the oxygen in one of every third breath we take was returned to the atmosphere by and through diatoms!

Elegant, gem-like, the bilaterally symmetrical shapes of many diatoms move me to depict them in my art. I do so to celebrate the science that shows us their relevance in our world. These are some of the works:

Fig. 4. Xavier Cortada, “Diatom” archival ink on aluminum, 36″ x 18″, 2014 (edition 1 of 5) (©2014 Xavier Cortada).

Diatom Fountain (Fig. 3)

I am currently putting finishing touches on Diatom Fountain. Comprised of 1,616 handmade, hand-painted ceramic tiles, we just need to add water as soon as we get the lights and water pump installed on this sixteen-foot tall public fountain. It is my latest public work, one of several featuring diatoms.

This one is at Miami-Dade Housing Authority’s Smathers Plaza, an elderly living community in Little Havana. Here, four vertical water channels disrupt the natural flow of diatoms across the sculpture, much like dredging and canals have disrupted the flow of the River of Grass across South Florida. I like depicting diatoms in public places as a way of engaging audiences – an entry point for them to learn about how scientists use diatoms to monitor water flow and quality in the Florida Everglades and throughout Florida’s ecosystems.


Fig. 3. Xavier Cortada, “Diatom Fountain” 16’ x 8’ x 8’, ceramic tile, 2017.

Florida Coastal Everglades LTER (Fig. 4)

Using a microscope, I captured the image of a diatom from samples used by scientists working in the FIU-led Florida Coastal Everglades LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) program to study the ecology of the Everglades and sea level rise. In the digital art piece, my first work about diatoms, I had this diatom image hover over a layer of maps (that I captured using Google maps) showing the artificial canals and lakes created to develop parcels of developable land where the River of Grass once flowed.

Fig. 5. Xavier Cortada, “Just Below the Surface: 1915 (The Founding of Miami Beach)” 60” x 36”, archival ink on aluminum, 2015 (©2015 Xavier Cortada).

Miami Beach City Hall (Fig. 5)

To create the Centennial art piece for the City of Miami Beach, I used a diatom as the central image for the digital work. The diatom depicted in the art piece was living on Biscayne Bay in 1915. It was creating the very air Miami Beach founders breathed 100 years ago as they brought the city to life. Its glass shell, all that remains from the diatom, is used by scientists today to see what was as they research environmental issues crucial to the city in the century to come.

Fig. 6. Xavier Cortada, “Florida is… Sunshine (Sunset)” digital art, 2015.

Florida Turnpike (Figs. 6, 7)

I was commissioned to create permanent public art installations in three Florida Turnpike plazas, making them cultural destinations in and of themselves. Wanting to connect tourists and locals to Florida’s true beauty–nature, I portrayed Florida’s life-giving sun, its endangered animals, and native wildflowers. At the Florida Turnpike Turkey Lake Plaza near Orlando, I depicted the Florida’s sun-using and water-bound diatoms that harness its power thus creating oxygen. Conceptually, I wanted to track a day in the life across the Sunshine State:
• Sunrise: Huge diatom-clad sunrays rise above the Northbound entrance (on the east side of the Turkey Lake plaza),
• High Noon: life-giving diatoms appear as circles on the ceiling at the center of the building
at high noon, and
• Sunset: the rays set above the Southbound entrance on the west.”

Fig. 7. Xavier Cortada, “[Florida is… Sunshine (High noon):] Luster” archival ink on aluminum, 20″ diameter, 2015 (©2015 Xavier Cortada).

Cortada first published this article for the FIU Florida Coastal Everglades LTER’s Wading through Research | “Diatom of the Month” Blog in February 2017: http://floridacoastaleverglades.blogspot.com/2017/02/diatom-of-month-february-2017.html

Cortada Art Studio Gallery opening @ Bird Road Art District!

You are cordially invited to attend the opening of the

Cortada Art Studio Gallery
in the
Bird Road Art District
4664 SW 75th Avenue
Miami, FL 33155
on
Thursday, January 19th, 2017
from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm

 

Xavier Cortada, “Tursiocola ziemanii,” 6″ x 6″, ceramic tile, 2017.  Learn more #diatom #art #tiledrawing

 

Xavier Cortada will be exhibiting a series of ceramic and tile works depicting diatoms.

Diatoms are single-celled organisms that live in the water and harness the power of the sun to convert CO2 into oxygen. Its glass shell, all that remains from the diatom, is used by scientists today to see what was as they research environmental issues crucial to the city in the century to come. Scientists—and artists—can determine the past salinity of water by examining the shells of diatoms preserved in sedimentary core samples. Each diatom species has a different salinity preference, so changes in the mixture of fresh and sea water (driven by sea level and changes in water management) can be inferred from past diatom remains.

 


Xavier Cortada, “DO NOT OPEN,” 2016.

During the opening reception, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy invites attendees to participate in Cortada’s “DO NOT OPEN” performance.  The work was first exhibited last year during the CLIMA exhibit. Here are the instructions.

  • Walk up to the “Do Not Open” wall in the exhibit.
  • Close your eyes: Imagine your city in the future. Imagine how rising seas will impact it and those who will live here then.
  • Think about what you would like them to know. Think about what you believe someone living in 2041, 2066, 2116 or 2216 will need to hear from someone living in 2016.
  • Unclip a blank piece of paper and envelope from the wall and use a pencil to write it all down:  Tell them who you are. Tell them why you are writing to them. Sign it. Date it.
  • Fold the letter in two, kiss it, place it in the envelope and seal it.
  • On the outside of the envelope write only one of these four phrases:

“DO NOT OPEN: 25 years”
“DO NOT OPEN: 50 years”
“DO NOT OPEN: 100 years”
or
“DO NOT OPEN: 200 years”

  • Clip the sealed envelope to the “Do Not Open” wall with the words facing out.
  • Stare at your envelope for 25 seconds, 50 seconds, 100 seconds, or 200 seconds.
  • Think of how your words will be received in the future.
  • Walk away

 

Special thanks to Cerda, Llanos y Cia., Inc. for being the opening reception’s wine sponsor.

Diatoms exhibit at Cortada Art Studio Gallery

Cortada’s one-hundred diatom works on tile (each 6″ x 6″), 2017.

Diatoms

on exhibit at

Cortada Art Studio Gallery
in the
Bird Road Art District
4664 SW 75th Avenue
Miami, FL 33155

By appointment: 305-858-1323

Xavier Cortada will be exhibiting a series of ceramic and tile works depicting diatoms.

Diatoms are single-celled organisms that live in the water and harness the power of the sun to convert CO2 into oxygen. Its glass shell, all that remains from the diatom, is used by scientists today to see what was as they research environmental issues crucial to the city in the century to come. Scientists—and artists—can determine the past salinity of water by examining the shells of diatoms preserved in sedimentary core samples. Each diatom species has a different salinity preference, so changes in the mixture of fresh and sea water (driven by sea level and changes in water management) can be inferred from past diatom remains.

 

 

Xavier Cortada, “Tursiocola ziemanii,” 6″ x 6″, ceramic tile, 2017.  Learn more #diatom #art #tiledrawing

 

 

Xavier Cortada, 7. Azul B, framed bas relief ceramic sculpture, 7.5”x7.75”, 2017

 

 

 

Xavier Cortada, “Paragon,” framed bas relief ceramic sculpture, 11”x7.5”, 2017.

 

 

Special thanks to Cerda, Llanos y Cia., Inc. for being the January 19th opening reception‘s wine sponsor.