Many of Miami's creatives are transient, showing up on our shores and disappearing as quickly as the tides. The Art on the Street series will document this overlooked and ever-changing element of South Beach culture.
Artist Jorge Barrera leans against the railing of the boardwalk, looking ahead at the ocean as I approach on his right side. "I know what you want," he says, still not looking at me. When I say nothing, he finally turns to see my confused expression. "Sweetie, you think this hasn't happened a thousand times before?"
I introduce myself and go to shake his hand. "I don't shake hands. I
kiss," he says, very macho.I reluctantly go with it. "I been doing
this 27 years," he says. "People come and ask me a bunch of questions, I
can't tell you how many times. I don't care, ask away."
from Cuba, he tells me he's been living and working in Miami for four
years, and prior to that lived in New York, where he plans to return
his work here at 37th Street, and he points downward, to a place on the
grass below the boardwalk on the non-beach side. There is a four-foot
square painted canvas splayed out on the ground.
I can do my work here," he says. "I have an open air studio. I'm a
lucky bastard." He says sometimes people stand and watch him working. "I
don't care," he repeats.
then, an elderly man marches down the boardwalk, leaning forward,
lugging beach chairs and a backpack, but still managing to hold onto a
glass of white wine, albeit precariously.
the old couple trots further away, there is an uncomfortable silence.
Then I ask Barerra to describe the process by which he creates his
Jackson Pollock-esque "splatter paintings." He refuses.
begin to point out that he just told me he works in an "open-air
studio," where anyone can watch his creative process. He interrupts me. "I just don't feel like it!" he says.
one," he says decisively, pointing to a canvas dominated by cool tones,
its colors running into one another, some watered to transparency, some
solid. "It's inspired by a nebulized photograph from the Hubble
telescope," he says, pointing out several other similar pieces. "Let's
just say that I'm most inspired by God's handiwork. And I take my pride
in texture, like Monet or Van Gogh. The layers of paint that they had...
it takes a lot of time. That's why I sell my work for three thousand,
five thousand dollars. People know it takes time."
ask when people can expect to find him here, and he says it's
impossible to tell. "I'm here, I'm in Coconut Grove, Key West, or I'm
playing baseball." Barrera loves baseball. He says his main motivation
for getting back to New York is a league he plays with in Central Park
once spring temperatures arrive. He pulls his baseball glove over his
hand as he speaks.
bought one of my paintings," he says. "His wife at the time convinced
him not to, and three months later they were divorced. But that was a
memorable moment, when my favorite player in the major leagues wanted to
buy my work."
the bench to go home and traffic on the boardwalk is light. I thank the
artist and tell him I won't take up any more of his time. In the absence
of an audience, his demeanor changes.
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