Member Spotlight: Xavier Cortada

October 4, 2021

This week we recognize the work of artist Xavier Cortada.

Commissioned by the Village of Palmetto Bay (Florida, USA), Art in Public Places program, Cortada’s Flower Force sculpture sits on the traditional Tequesta hunting grounds (168th St & 82nd Ave). It is the epicenter of a participatory eco-art effort bringing Coreopsis plants and ceramic wildflower sculptures to 200 households in Palmetto Bay.

This public art installation is the heart of Cortada’s Flower Force initiative, where Palmetto Bay households will plant a perennial wildflower garden in their yard and receive ceramic flowers to install at their homes. Through this process, an ecological restoration effort will radiate from the flower sphere at the traffic circle in Palmetto Bay and the rest of Florida.

“The original iteration of Flower Force in 2012 was designed as a participatory eco-art project using tiled paper drawings and flower seeds. Here, in its latest evolution, I focus on a residential neighborhood to draw in participants who will look at their lives through a continuum of time. Indigenous people hunted these lands for thousands of years. Colonizers have impacted Indigenous lands over the past five centuries in Florida. Conceptually, it also draws the Palmetto Bay residents across space, connecting a public artwork and garden at the traffic circle to their own private garden. It reorients them as problem-solvers who will begin to correct the degradation (development) in that space over time through their perennial restorative gardens. This engaged component is fundamental to my work and to my role as artist who wants to model how to transform the traditional role of artist beyond one who excels at his/her/their craft into an effective community leader/problem solver.”

“In my socially engaged art practice, participants are incorporated into problem-solving aspects of the work. I first engage them by reframing how the individuals see themselves in the context of one another and the natural world. Through a process of working and learning together, I invite participants to discover themselves as the protagonists of their future. By participating, their curiosity is piqued. The project emboldens them to become eco-emissaries who engage others to help them address these very concerns. In essence, it builds community.

In this case, working through the Flower Force project, I aim to ask participants who drive by the public artwork every day to replicate it as a private garden and to present a small sculpture, across the community. Conceptually, I attempt to connect the individual (small private sculpture & garden at their home) to the public (large public sculpture and large garden) and, in that effort, to each other (including the other original participants plus those who will follow). Participants receive a ceramic flower plus perennial wildflowers for free. While this is an effective strategy for promoting involvement from its participants, it also allows for a process and sense of self-realization from its participants that permeate into collaborative efforts that are driven by that sense of community.”

Xavier Cortada is an artist, Professor of Practice at the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History, and Artist-in-Residence at Pinecrest Gardens (Florida), where his studio and socially engaged art practice are based. Cortada educates and inspires community members to work and learn together to solve ecological problems. The crux of his work is a deep conceptual engagement of the participants, generating awareness and action towards issues of global climate change and social justice. Cortada has created installations at the North and South Pole. As a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Fellow, he used the moving ice sheet beneath the South Pole to mark time; the art piece will be completed in 150,000 years. In 2008, he planted a green flag at the North Pole to reclaim it for nature and launched an eco-art reforestation effort. Cortada is the son of Cuban exiles and grew up in Miami, Florida. The Latino artist holds three degrees from the University of Miami: Bachelor of Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, Master of Public Administration, Miami Herbert Business School, and Juris Doctor, School of Law. cortada.com

Featured Images: ©Xavier Cortada, Flower Force, 2021.

©Xavier Cortada, Flower Force, 2021, Cortada with residents of the Village of Palmetto Bay, Florida.

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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