Xavier Cortada: Art as a Statement to Save the Planet

Xavier Cortada is an accomplished and recognized artist based in South Florida. He is currently the artist in residence at Pinecrest Gardens in the Village of Pinecrest. His work has been exhibited in more than a hundred places around the country and the world. He is also a dedicated environmental activist deeply concerned about the natural world he loves, and its future.

I want to create an awareness about who we are as stewards of this planet

Xavier Cortada in an interview

One recent project was called “Flower Force,” which involved a meticulously constructed sculpture featuring ceramic flowers, installed in a traffic circle on Palmetto Bay on October 10th of this year. It was also an outreach project in which 200 registered Palmetto Bay households received a free hand-painted ceramic flower sculpture and a live wildflower plant to place in their own yards, to participate in Cortada’s eco-art reforestation effort to protect local pollinators and habitats.

 “We live in the here and now,” says Cortada. “It’s very hard for us to visualize what was. Our manicured lawns and landscapes once were wilderness. It’s hard for us to connect with our history. That wouldn’t be so tragic if the future consequences weren’t so dire, especially for Miami. As an artist, it’s my responsibility to try to create a piece that harkened to that moment. When creating art I look at the site specificity.”

Another recent project also involved the participation of homeowners. “Underwater HOA” depicted South Florida’s vulnerability to melting glaciers. Residents were encouraged to install an “Underwater HOA” yard sign on their front lawn during the first week of December 2018. The yard sign showed how many feet of melting glacial water must rise before their property is underwater.

Cortada with HOA Sign

“The signs’ backdrop shows the watercolor paintings I made in Antarctica by melting ice from the very glaciers that threaten to melt and drown Miami,” says Cortada. “By mapping the crisis to come, I make the invisible visible. Block by block, house by house, neighbor by neighbor, I want to make the future impact of sea level rise something no longer possible to ignore.”

Cortada arrived at the North Pole on June 29th, 2008, and planted a green flag to “reclaim it for nature,” concerned that as the Arctic sea ice melts, nations clamor to raise their flags over newly open waters to claim the natural resources that lie beneath them – oil, manganese, diamonds, fish – and to control shipping lanes.

His HELLO project, timed to coincide with the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, aims to reframe the way we see one another and our collective vulnerability due to global climate change and sea level rise. 

Cortada “HELLO” Project

Rather than using a traditional name tag, participants are challenged to instead identify themselves with qualifiers such as their personal elevation, hopes, and fears.

Artist Statement on Website

The background of each of the five “HELLO” name tags (elevation, fear, purpose, hope, future) features a different piece from Cortada’s Antarctic Ice Paintings series, created on-site using sea ice and sediment samples provided to him by scientists working alongside him in Antarctica in 2007. Cortada, a recipient of a 2006-2007 National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers fellowship, currently serves as professor of practice in the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History.

To learn more about his work visit https://cortada.com/

Clarity and Color

When I first saw Tony Mendoza’s work, I just blinked a little at the brilliant colors and then smiled at the figure. It was a woman who looked like the Mona Lisa but Cuban-American style with a suggestive smile, a cigarette in one hand and a little cup of Starbucks in the other. There is a sly and ironic sense of humor characteristic of his work that is appealing.

Mona Caffeine and Nicotine

His work features Miami landmarks, happy parties, ironic depictions of the city and Cuban idiomatic expressions.

In my mind, when someone says something, I see it.

Tony Mendoza

He draws on the experiences of a Cuban-American who was born in New York but grew up in Little Havana. He graduated from Miami Senior High and studied Commercial Art at Miami-Dade College. Now, he shares an art studio on Bird Road with another artist.

I love his work based on idioms that only Cuban-Americans use in conversations, but he says that he really enjoys hearing other interpretations from people who do not know the idiom but see his paintings in a novel way.

Ropa Vieja, Tonymendozaart.com

This painting is of some patched-up laundry on a line. Every Cuban-American or person familiar with Cuban cuisine knows that “Ropa Vieja” is a traditional entree made from meat. Yet, it also translates into “old clothes” which makes the painting a visual pun. He said that someone purchased the painting because it reminded her of Summer. She lives in snowy climes and likes to remember times when she can hang laundry on a line.

My parents emphasized the culture always thinking that we were going back.

Tony Mendoza

Growing up in Miami, he was surrounded by nostalgia for Cuba. He injects this añoranza for other times into colorful houses and scenes from small villages where La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre floats above newlyweds. There is always greenery and sunshine in his Art just like our parents’ memories of la Cuba de Ayer.

I’ve painted murals and paintings about Cuba, but I’ve never been to Cuba.

Tony Mendoza

There are many people of our generation who live in a mental space where Cuba and the United States cohabitate in an uneasy peace filled with nostalgia and just a little sorrow. Mendoza uses the word “hyphenated” just like Firmat in Life on the Hyphen. It is part of the Cuban-American exile community experience.

He paints Miami’s best scenes: bright Art Deco buildings, street parties and all those palm trees. The people are modern Miami. There are long-haired men with bulging muscles, hoop earrings and wild tattoos. There are smiling women with impossibly tight dresses and ample bosoms.


Regardless of the success that he has found since beginning his career as an artist in 2002, he is approachable and kind, a sensitive soul who appreciates Art’s ability to change people.

It’s gratifying because you want your Art to touch people.

Tony Mendoza

For more information about the artist or to order from his body of work, visit http://www.tonymendozaart.com.

Off to the Las Olas Art Fair

Beloved Miami artist Tony Mendoza will be headed to the Las Olas Art Fair this weekend on the 16th and 17 the of October. He will be at the fair from 10 AM showing his work.

Artwork by Tony Mendoza.

He said that he is looking forward to the event because it has been some time since something like it happened.

Mendoza is a long-time resident of Miami. He has a space to work in the West Miami area and has a long history of work. He has completed murals for the city of Miami, for prominent buildings and spotlighting local culture.

Cuban-American Casita, by Tony Mendoza.

This work displays what he sees as the Cuban family’s yearning for the “lost isle” as it recreates the island’s architectural style here in Miami. Notice the small icon of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.

More in-depth information on Mr. Mendoza will be here shortly.

Art trends…then and now

Back when I was in college at the University of Miami, majoring in art, I wrote a paper before graduation called, “Whatever Happened to 2-D Art?” This was back in the late 60’s and the premise was that although there had been a steady progression of art movements and styles in paintings over the centuries, from Medieval Art, Renaissance Art, Baroque Art, Rococo Art, Neoclassical Art, Romanticism, Realism, Pre-Raphaelite Art, Impressionism, Post-impressionist, Symbolism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Abstract Art, Dada, Precisionism, Surrealism, Art Deco, Pop Art, Photorealism and others in which groups of artists were influenced by each other and periodically launched a new style. But after a certain point it seemed to me that the advancement of 2-D art as far as new styles or trends had grown stagnant. Paintings and drawings and etchings seemed to be going in many different directions, some repeating earlier styles, some doing different things, but with no bold new direction that gathered a following, while sculpture did seem to be advancing.

In my essay I pointed out one exception to this, one surprising area where something new seemed to be developing. Oddly, it was in the field of comic book art. Will Eisner’s “Spirit” comic book pages featured panels that had sequential action…where A walking figure trailed footstep sound effects (in type—“click, clack, click, clack) in one panel. He turned the title into a building with lights, doors and windows, and added other movie style visual effects. Other artists of comic books and graphic novels followed his lead, adding more innovative touches. Interestingly, today’s movies are being influenced by the style of the comic books that reflected movie styles.

Interior panel showing progression of footsteps. Image from Will Eisner – Lambiek Comiclopedia.
Cover or first page using Spirit name as architectural image.

It’s hard to say if a new, cohesive trend-setting style or approach in paintings will emerge and become recognisable enough to label. But it will be interesting to see what develops!