Artist-in-residence Xavier Cortada creates art for Miami Beach Centennial

In honor of Miami Beach’s centennial anniversary, FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) artist-in-residence Xavier Cortada unveiled a 5’ x 3’ digital painting, “Just below the surface: 1915 (The Founding of Miami Beach),” archival ink on aluminum, at the Miami Beach City Hall earlier this week.

Cortada was inspired by a 1915 microscopic diatom — a single-celled organism that lived in the water and harnessed the power of the sun to convert CO2 into oxygen —that FIU scientist Evelyn Gaiser, interim executive director of FIU’s School for Environment, Arts and Society, was studying in her lab to help address sea level rise.

“The environment is what gives life to the city,” said Cortada. “It is what we need to protect the most in its next 100 years.”

Cortada’s artwork captures these diatom images of glass-encased algae that lived in Biscayne Bay 100 years ago.

“In the art, there is a large diatom just below the surface. It is wrapped in red, almost resembling a hemoglobin molecule that transports oxygen to blood cells. The diatom and the whole web of life it supports above and below the waterline is our lifeline. Above the horizon, images of the diatom are arranged into a circle to symbolize the Miami Beach sun rising above the water and shinning its light on the city. Through time, season after season (represented by the sun divided in four parts), the city grows, new life. The sun is also layered over a historic city map,” adds Cortada.

Cortada’s work was a gift from CARTA and the School for Environment, Arts and Society to commemorate the City of Miami Beach’s centennial.

For more information on FIU’s partnership with the City of Miami Beach for the Centennial, click here.

Information for this piece was provided by the City of Miami Beach.

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