Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, but many South Florida residents, who grow up hearing the words “global warming” and “sea-level rise” about as often as they hear a parent calling them to dinner, have adopted an almost blasé attitude about the whole thing.
One Miami-based artist, however, is giving the locals a first-hand view of what Miami will look like if we continue down this path.
Alumnus Orlando Estrada ‘08 calls on viewers to deal with the environmental issues surrounding South Florida today with his new solo exhibition “The Infinite Vision in the Ethereal Rainbows Swarming Behind my Eyelids Reveals a Beacon” located in South Beach.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, before moving to Miami at the age of 11, Estrada is no stranger to living in cities deeply intertwined with the natural world. Estrada says the experience gave him a strong understanding of the concepts of transformation and the relationship between humans and the planet at a very young age.
“These two concepts are foundational to my artistic practice,” he says. “Naturally, I am intrigued by the changing climate and what this means for the future of the planet.”
His exhibition explores how unconventional material can be transformed to create a cyclical web of narrative across sculpture and painting. The sculptural centerpiece of the exhibition, “Tiered Panorama,” is a para-fictional, architectural model of the City of Miami. Through combining both man-made and natural materials - the foundational crux of the sculptural practice - the work addresses the vulnerability of the city to rising sea levels and analyzes the role of petro-capitalism in accelerating this natural process of change.
“Tiered Panorama” was inspired by the elaborate collection of Christmas villages and Casitas – a Puerto Rican craft of creating miniature facades of traditional island homes – his grandmother and mother made and displayed in their homes throughout his childhood.
“[The] meticulous attention to detail within these displays sparked an uncanny sense of wonder inside of me,” Estrada adds. “When presented with the opportunity to create an exhibition about the city of Miami and the impact of the changing climate on her future, it was clear to me that the preciousness of the miniature would be the perfect medium through which to share my ideas.
In keeping the exhibition “green,” Estrada constructed the sculpture from consumer packaging waste, which he collected over the course of the pandemic. The work also includes materials that were donated by Materials for the Arts, an organization for recycling art materials in New York City. Most of the natural components in the works were also locally sourced.
According to Estrada, it was at FIU where he began believing that art can change the world and that he had to continue creating it, no matter what circumstances he faced.
“I want my work to fill people with a sense of such profound beauty that they cannot help but adopt even the smallest bit of climate-conscious action,” he adds. “I want people to look at the beautiful messes I create and in these works be able to see that this is the world we have burned via unmanaged growth and unmitigated chaos and to then leave longing for something different.”
“The Infinite Vision in the Ethereal Rainbows Swarming Behind my Eyelids Reveals a Beacon” is on view at 644 Collins Ave and is open Thursday through Saturday 11 - 6 p.m., or by appointment during off-hours.