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The dragonfly is an appropriate symbol to enhance this dwelling. A remarkable insect, the dragonfly is capable of movement in a multitude of directions.
As light and fragile as it may appear, in flight the dragonfly is also capable of tenaciously holding onto a blade of grass to resist the blowing wind. Lively movement and determined groundedness are both admirable qualities of the residents of this building.
Xavier Cortada, “Dragonflies (desing),” powder-coated aluminum cut-outs, 2014.
A public art project at Pineiro Apartments (Miami-Dade Housing Authority) Miami, FL.
The Pineiro Building is a historic apartment complex situated a few blocks off Calle Ocho in what is now called Little Havana. As a bustling community in our urban core it serves as the incubator for countless immigrants from points South, East and West of Havana.
Not long before this neighborhood became a Cuban exile enclave, it was a haven for other groups who made Miami their home.
The people in this building have converged here from many different directions – from near and far. Even now, in their senior years, as they pause in their retirement, they have not stopped moving, they continue on their journey.
In their lobby and in their community room, I wanted to capture that journey and also the sense of pause.
I remember being in the Everglades, conducting research for my dragonfly public art project, when I saw a series of dragonflies clasp onto blades of sawgrass. They were holding on for dear life as a gust of wind blew by them. No matter how hard the wind blew, they wouldn’t let go. This insect fascinated me. With a body mostly comprised of wings, engineered to be suspended in the air, the dragonfly, nonetheless, found a way to be grounded.
Similarly, the residents of this building have had a whirlwind of activity in their lives—sometimes, for reasons beyond their control. In their journey, they’ve been transported from different locations, different points and places in time and finally landed on this building. Like the dragonflies, the residents have also found a way to be grounded. Grounded in their service to their families and grounded in their engagement with one another. Grounded in their love of country.
Together here and now, they are known as the Pineiro residents. A community.
Much like a swarm of dragonflies would be perceived as a cluster making its way across the sky, they too, are a cluster of individuals. Moving together, but guided by their internal compass, using their individual skills.
Interestingly, dragonflies have unique abilities with regards to movement, that no other insects posses. Their complicated wing structure allows them to move straight up and down, fly backwards, stop on a dime, hover for a full minute, and make hairpin turns at full speed, or in slow motion. This brilliant capacity is reflected in the residents, each with their own passions, each moving at their own speed. And although more or less following the same path, each having their own sense of direction.
As communities grow, and time passes, and people move in every direction, change becomes a constant. Not only is it the Pineiro residents who are grounded, but also this historic building. This public art piece, consisting of 3 swarms of dragonflies captures this idea.
This is the first time I have created an interior lobby piece entirely out of metal. A series of water jet aluminum cutouts, some powder coated, others plainly brushed protrude from the walls creating wave-like swarms. This approach opens a new direction for me in public art making. I find great joy in the successful installation and integration of this piece.
My backyard, a few miles away, relays the same story as I see a dragonfly clasp onto the bloom of an orchid or the branch of a dried out fire bush tree, for a seemingly infinite amount of time. As time passes, the insect soaks up the sun, sitting at the edge of a branch on a tree. As the world swirls by.