Longform

Art As Pageant

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"We never knew how to explain this work," he goes on. "People are always trying to define what I do. Instead of sitting around and talking philosophy, I'd much rather just do something and see if it works."

While they may be skeptical at first, those who have gotten involved in Miralda's projects tend to emerge feeling enlightened, as well as enamored of the artist. Maricel Presilla, who has a doctorate in medieval history, first helped Miralda conduct research into medieval banquets. Soon she was cooking food for the Liberty/Columbus wedding feast in a homeless shelter in Las Vegas. The meal was served to 600 guests out of the trunks of 22 white limousines. "It was insanity in the name of art," laughs Presilla, who lives in New Jersey. "Miralda is a magician. He has the incredible ability to work miracles from nothing."

Montse Guillen met Miralda nineteen years ago in a restaurant she owned in Barcelona. At the time, she agreed to bake 1000 loaves of bread with flutes inside them for one of his projects. They have been together ever since. In the early Eighties they opened El Internacional, a fantastically decorated tapas restaurant in Manhattan that quickly became a hip spot among the downtown crowd.

By the end of 1992 the pair felt burned out on New York and decided to come to Miami, with the intent of traveling often to the Caribbean. When they first moved here Guillen ran the kitchen at the Shabeen Cookshack in Miami Beach's Marlin Hotel. "People enjoy working with Miralda so much because he never tells anyone what to do," she says. "Miralda gives you a problem and lets you solve it yourself. He inspires you to learn new things, and at the same time you learn about yourself. With Miralda you're always discovering something you didn't realize was there."

Finishing his lunch at the Palacio de los Jugos, Miralda picks up his camera and resumes taking pictures. He focuses on a plastic bag full of rotten bananas hanging from a tree, likely a Santeria offering. Then he gushes with approval over the composition of a coconut and a can of Coca-Cola sitting side-by-side on a table. The smell of grilled meat is in the air. Salsa blares from a car.

"Everything in society is so controlled that people don't participate," he complains. "The structures are made so that you're convinced you can't understand something because you don't have a degree or you're not cultured. Why do people think that to understand art, everyone has to understand the message and the line and the composition. Why?

"Look at this," he says, gesturing to the people eating around him, enjoying the food, the day, and each other. "This is life. This is what people understand.

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Judy Cantor