Mother and daughter Marilyn Bisignano and Sandra Orza are self-taught artists. They have turned their Sweetwater home on SW 109th Avenue into a space for uninhibited artistic expression. And though they produce art because of their personal need to create, their inspiration and hard work have spilled into the home’s outdoor area. I had the opportunity to take a tour of their home along with neighbor and collaborator Arnaldo Suarez, and it became a lesson in perspective and ingenuity.
There's no single concept or theme for their Sweetwater wall. We began our conversation at the corner where Bisignano started her project, not knowing what it would become. The corner is called “Memory of Mothers.” There are empty bottles of perfume and jewelry, along with messages of love. Other moments on the wall include a commentary on the passage of time, juxtaposed with watches and empty acrylic paint tubes. The spiritual and the pagan converge with altars and Halloween graveyards. And further along, closer to the street, there's an impromptu ode to Cuba.
Although not Cuban herself, Bisignano this past April participated in the sociocultural project Color Miel, in which the city of Caibarién, Cuba, invited local and foreign artists to share their work. She loved it and wanted to bring a bit of her experience back home.
Suarez was an art curator and gallery director for more than ten years in Cuba. He lends a critical perspective to their work and art in general, stating in Spanish, "For me, art is not the final product, but rather, art is in the moment of creation."
Bisignano’s work is a combination of primitive feelings, raw talent, and sophisticated reflection. She takes objects, erases their original identities, and repurposes them, Suarez says, adding that he admires the fact that there’s no model she works from; she doesn't draw anything beforehand. The wall was initially just gray cinderblock. Below you can see Bisignano's mosaic, made with all found objects.
Bisignano’s daughter, Orza, also lives and works at the house and shares her mother’s talents. Her pieces are beautifully haunting. They reverberate with life and energy.
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Ultimately, the goal for the ongoing project is to create excitement for art and cultural production in the Miami-Dade city of Sweetwater. The wall surrounds a spacious green area where they would love to invite other artists to work and network. Their dream to share the space with other artists, students of art, art lovers, and fellow Sweetwater residents. It's a call for the city to pause and inject some beauty into life. Unfortunately, Sweetwater does not have many spaces for cultural exchange. As of 2013, about 29 percent of the city lived at or below the poverty line; however, just across the street from Bisignano's house is Florida International University's Modesto Maidique Campus and two new student dorms.
Could this space be an opportunity for students and faculty to productively engage with the surrounding community?