“Finally, the shriveled mangrove plant represents the demise of the Confederacy…”

In 2005, I was asked to create the 2006 Florida Heritage Month poster.  I was charged with depicting the 5 flags that flew over my home state since Europeans made contact.  Every fourth-grade classroom was to receive the poster.  Instead of painting a Confederate flag, I chose to depict the demise of the Confederacy.

Below is the statement that I wrote then.  It was printed on the back side of every poster.

Xavier Cortada, “Five Flags / Florida,” 61.5″ x 96″, acrylic on canvas, 2005 “Five Flags/Florida” (Cortada’s “Five Flags / Florida” is In the collection of the Florida Department of State, commissioned for the 2006 Florida Heritage Month Commemorative Poster.)

 

“Five Flags/Florida” (2006)

Miami artist Xavier Cortada utilized the Florida coastline to depict its heritage: each wave represents a new wave of immigrants who set roots and established communities. The mangrove roots metaphorically depict our interconnectedness as people who share a rich and diverse cultural history.

The mangrove root on the left symbolizes Florida’s indigenous people. The two clusters of clouds above mark their first encounter with Europeans: Juan Ponce de Leon’s landing in 1513.

Each of the mangrove plants rising above the horizon represent the five flags that have since flown over the peninsula:

The first plant has two sets of leaves representing Spain’s two periods of control: 1513-1763 and 1784-1821. The leaves on the second plant resemble the fleur-de-lis on the French flag when it was flown over Florida during 1564-65. Great Britain’s reign over Florida, 1763-1784, is shown as a mangrove plant with sliced leaves as it divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida. As the war for American independence ended, all of the territory was returned to the Spanish.

In 1821, the United States bought Florida from Spain for $5 million. The fourth plant represents the American flag. Back then the American flag had 24 stars. That number grew by three when Florida became the 27th state in 1845. The plant is bifurcated because Florida split from the Union in 1861 to join the Confederacy. After the Confederacy was defeated, Florida returned to the Union at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Finally, the shriveled mangrove plant represents the demise of the Confederacy.

The mangrove root on the right honors those whose search for freedom (e.g.: Seminoles, slaves using the Underground Railroad, Holocaust survivors, Cuban exiles, and Haitian refugees among others) brought them to Florida’s shores.

The painting, “Five Flags/Florida,” was created by Mr. Cortada for Florida Heritage Month 2006.

 

Sweetwater Elementary to grow FLOR500 wildflowers in every student’s home

 

FLOR500 | Sweetwater
Miami artist Xavier Cortada will lead Sweetwater Elementary School students in creating a participatory eco-art project in support of the pollinators.  Inspired by his FLOR500 project (www.flor500.com), kids at the school will plant wildflower seeds to grow in their classroom.  Each student will have a cup with their name on it.  Each student will also create a hand-painted flag celebrating Earth Day.  Once sprouted, the student will take the wildflower plants home and plant them alongside their flags.  Planting the flag, they will become reverse conquistadores, returning a patch of land back to nature.

The first garden (see photo above) featured Coreopsis lanceolata, the official state wildflower. It was planted in front of the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, FL on March 22, 2012 and dedicated to Florida’s indigenous people.

 

“Each of us has a role in helping shape Florida’s natural history,” said Cortada.  “We can help reclaim nature, one yard at a time, by planting wildflower gardens to support our pollinators.”  Cortada hopes his art piece will help educate individuals about the importance of Florida’s ecosystems and encourage better environmental stewardship.  This FLOR500 | Sweetwater participatory eco-art project at Sweetwater Elementary School is presented by FIU Frost Art Museum, FIU School of Environment, Arts and Society | College of Arts, Sciences & Education, the FIU College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, and by the Participatory Art Projects, Inc. with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.

 FLOR500 is a participatory art, nature, and history project created by Miami artist Xavier Cortada to commemorate Florida’s quincentennial in 2013. The project marks the importance of the moment when the history of our state changed forever and gives us a glimpse of what its landscape was like 500 years ago.
500 flowers
A team of scientists selected the 500 native flowers-  the same ones that grew in our state when Juan Ponce de Leon landed in 1513 and named it “La Florida”–from “flor,” the Spanish word for flower.
500 artists
Five hundred Floridians were then invited to depict 500 native wildflowers. The artwork, along with information about each flower, will be posted on the project website (www.FLOR500.com).500 gardens
A team of historians selected individuals who helped shape Florida history.  Florida schools and libraries (across the 67 counties and 8 regions) are encouraged to plant 500 wildflower gardens, dedicating them to one of 500 important Floridians selected by a team of historians.  These 500 new native habitats will help support Florida’s biodiversity.

Wildflowers, with help of their pollinators, help make Earth verdant:  Plant life sustains all animals (including humans) and balance atmospheric gases (that accelerate global climate change). Wildflowers would naturally continue to blanket our planet were it not for the displacement caused by the concrete we’ve poured ‐‐ and the parcels we’ve platted ‐‐ to build our homes and grow our society. Help reverse the trend:  Show us your wild side. Plant wildflowers in your yard.”
— Xavier Cortada

About the Artist: 

Xavier Cortada serves as Artist-in-Residence at FIU School of Environment, Arts and Society | College of Arts, Sciences & Education  and the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts.

Cortada often engages scientists in his art-making: At CERN, Cortada and a particle physicist created a permanent digital-art piece to celebrate the Higgs boson discovery. He has collaborated with a population geneticist to explore our ancestral journeys out of Africa 60,000-years ago, with a molecular biologist to synthesize a DNA strand from a sequence 400 museum visitors randomly generated, and with botanists to develop multi-year participatory eco-art efforts to reforest mangrovesnative trees and wildflowers across Florida.

The Miami artist has created environmental installations (North Pole and South Pole) and eco-art (TaiwanHawaii and Hollandprojects, and painted community murals addressing peace (Cyprus and Northern Ireland), child welfare  (Bolivia and Panama), AIDS (Switzerland and South Africa) and juvenile justice (Miami and Philadelphia) concerns.

Fore more info visit http://www.cortada.com