Category Archives: 5 Minute Read

How to Outlast, Outwit and Outplay Cable News

I’ve been streaming my television content since I moved to Miami Beach in 2013, mainly because I don’t watch enough channels to get any value out of a cable package. In 2016, I decided to download the CNN Go app to follow the election because I felt like I was missing out on important coverage during such a monumental shift in American politics. I tuned out after election night, though, because I felt bamboozled with the election results and placed the blame on my reliance on cable news as a primary source of information.

I will admit that, at first, I tuned out in an attempt to bury my head in the sand and live in denial about our current political leadership. But then months passed and I didn’t feel any desire to check in with New Day or AC360, the programs I watched the most last year. Instead, I subscribed to The New Yorker and went back to reading The Economist and The Guardian to stay informed.

Current events seemed so heavy at the time that I frequently read pieces from The New Yorker’s archives to take a step back and gain perspective on the issues of the present. It was there that I came across a piece written by E.B. White in 1960, another election year, that helped illuminate my problem with cable news and television programming in general.

“If you open a copy of the Times to a page that has in one column a Macy ad displaying a set of china and in an adjoining column a news story about China itself, your eye makes a choice; you read about Macy’s china or about Mao’s China, according to your whim. It’s a free selection. But if you turn your TV set to a channel, only one image appears, and after you have watched for a few moments, an advertiser buttonholes you and says his piece in a loud voice while you listen or try not to listen, as the case may be. Thus, your attention is not just invited by the commercial, it is to a large extent preempted. Preemption of this sort does not occur in periodicals. It cannot occur. There, advertising matter competes with editorial matter for the reader’s attention, and it is fair competition,” wrote White in “How Television Has Changed Us“.

Reading his words, which could have been written last year without losing their effect, made me realize that my problem wasn’t with one television journalist or cable network, but with the business of television programming in general. While cable subscribers enjoy a sense of choice by being able to switch channels from one network to another, they still experience the effect that programming and advertisers have on the information they are consuming.

If there’s anything the 2016 election taught me, its the power of television networks to create and inflate celebrity. Gone are the days when we knew nothing about our trusted news anchors. These days, journalists and pundits make their careers based on Q Scores, not the validity of the information they are sharing. This issue was exacerbated when Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States.

While most of us were fixated on all of his gaffes and blunders on the campaign trail, Trump was fixated on the television ratings his candidacy generated (a fixation that has followed him into the Oval Office). He was the most covered candidate from the primaries through the general election and cable news has benefitted from his political ascent, even though neither networks executives nor Trump himself want to admit to their symbiotic relationship.

These days, I stream episodes of Survivor in lieu of tuning into cable news in my free time. I find the skills necessary to win a game like like that far more useful in my daily life than what I learned from watching pundits vie for a chance to shine on CNN.

On Survivor, you get blindsided if you’re too altruistic. You get voted out of the game if people see your leadership qualities as a threat early on. At the end, it is a jury of your peers that decides if you deserve to win $1 Million, usually based on your ability to make friends and gain influence while playing the game. I wish I had been exposed to these ideas before the 2016 election.

Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but maybe I wouldn’t have been blindsided by the election results and would have been better equipped to help my candidate win if I had tuned out of cable news earlier and focused my attention on how to outlast, outwit and outplay the competition.

Egyptian Blue Art Deco Dresser

I found this six drawer vintage dresser at the Salvation Army store on Bird Road in Miami at the same time I found the Vintage Turquoise and White dresser. The store offered discounts on furniture on Wednesdays, so I drove down with my brother during our lunch break and threw them in the back of his pick up truck.

Egyptian Blue Art Deco Dresser

Egyptian Blue Art Deco Dresser

Originally, I wanted to give the wood panels a light stain and the vertical Art Deco style pulls a darker stain for a 1970s vibe. But when I took the piece to the warehouse I was working out of, I noticed that only the frame was made of solid wood. I figured it wasn’t worth sanding and staining a piece that wasn’t solid wood, so I went for a more colorful look instead.

Egyptian Blue Art Deco Dresser Before

Egyptian Blue Art Deco Dresser Before

The blue chalk paint I used I believe was called Marine Blue ( I wasn’t able to find the manufacturer online, but I purchased it at Walmart). I started by painting a drawer and presenting it against the gold panel at the bottom. The color combination gave me an ancient Egyptian vibe, which I appreciated. Since I began restoring furniture pieces, I always wanted to create a statement piece, and this ended up being just that.

Even though I love wood stains and a natural aesthetic, the artist in me was dying to give a vintage furniture piece a bold paint job. I tested a vintage red color along with the blue, but the blue made the most sense with this piece. I was happy with the final product and had it on the market for a while, but I formed an attachment to it. I just couldn’t let it go for the lowball offers I was getting. So, I got rid of a few Ikea pieces in my living room made it the focal point of my living room as a TV console and with tons of extra storage.

back to Furniture Restoration

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Pop Proclivity

Don't Be Ashamed of Your Pop Proclivity (photo: William White)

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Pop Proclivity (photo: William White)

I noticed something funny on my way home from the Grove the other night. I found myself jamming to a Justin Timberlake song and it made me stop and think.

Would I be listening to this song and even singing along to it if I weren’t alone in the car? My question was answered when I rolled down my window to pay a toll. I turned the music down as to not be ridiculed for blasting the musical endeavors of an ex-Mickey Mouse Club Member.

This little incident made me think back to conversations I have had concerning music as a form of art versus music as a product. Most people who say they are music savvy consider a pop song a product spoon-fed to pre-teens through radio stations as well as music television. By no means is it considered ‘real music.’

If indeed the music itself can be considered a product, then business forces come into play. These products wouldn’t be successful if people didn’t want them. With no demand, a product will pretty much go nowhere. So the idea of the public being pushed to like certain songs, and therefore buy certain albums, can only be true to an extent.

What is true about the radio and music television is that they choose the songs that people hear on a daily basis, some by popular request, but the rest based on other factors.

Exposure is key for the success of many songs, so those songs that do not get rotation on the radio or TV are left to fend for themselves. However, a good song can still become popular without such initial exposure.

Take Norah Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why’ as an example. Music that is well marketed and widely accepted is automatically discarded, I feel, without proper justification.

Pop music is different from artsy music. Different genres satisfy different cravings. Sometimes people don’t want to listen to poetic rhymes and intricate instrumentation. They just want to zone out for three and a half minutes.

Also, I think that popular music is an accessory to some people. It’s nothing on its own, but it’s a nice touch, like a baseball cap or a watch. It’s just like a supplemental soundtrack to the drama of everyday life.

No, why is it taboo for a music lover to listen to Justin and friends? I mean, let’s face it: Pop music is catchy. While some would compare its catchiness to the flu, I think the best analogy would be to compare pop to sugar.

Pop music is to ‘real music’ as sugar is to coffee. Music in general is a cup of Joe and pop music is a packet of Equal.

I have seen some kids (and a few adults) eat sugar right out of the packet. There are people with a sweet tooth. No harm, no foul.

Music aficionados, like coffee buffs, prefer their coffee black. They are insulted with the suggestion of tainting their music collection with a Sum 41 album.

I take my coffee sweet. I balance my affinity for music with the charm of pop music. Some like bitter coffee, some add sugar for extra punch.

I rarely hear people get persecuted for taking sugar in their coffee, so why should I be scolded for liking Christina Aguilera’s new album?

The way I see it, if I refuse to give pop songs a listen, I am being a hypocrite. I like music of all types, whether fashionable to detestable, I choose different songs for different moods and refuse to feel impotent in musical discussions for having Stripped in heavy rotation at home.

In the end, who really cares if Christina is a ‘Fighter’ and Justin wants to ‘Rock Your Body?’ I do. Will I be sent to music hell for even remembering the names of these songs? I think not.

If you want meaningful music/lyrics you may have to embark on the arduous journey of finding a Björk fan on campus (they do exist) or maybe check out a Metallica album.

However, if you want to turn the radio up on the way home from school or work and jam to a pop record, by all means, do so without feeling persecuted.

back to Nonfiction

Anything But Beautiful

Anything But Beautiful Short Story (photo: Jazmin Quaynor)

Anything But Beautiful Short Story (photo: Jazmin Quaynor)

“You’re beautiful,” Andy says to Charlie as they exit Starbucks on a crisp fall afternoon. They are enjoying their first cups of hot coffee after a long, hot summer in Coral Gables, Florida.

Charlie looks at Andy with a confused grin. They have been dating for a few weeks, Charlie has grown accustomed to Andy’s terms of endearment, but the word beautiful makes him uncomfortable. “Oh please,” he responds in a skeptical tone.

“What? You don’t agree with me?” Andy seems confused as they round the busy corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard toward Charlie’s apartment.

Charlie looks at his reflection in the window of a stationery store they walk past. His short brown hair is unruly without the product he usually works into it. His glasses are held together by a paperclip and a five o’clock shadow covers his face. He feels anything but beautiful this afternoon.

“Not today I don’t,” Charlie responds. He takes a sip of his latte and self-consciously wipes his mouth. He doesn’t want a little dissident whip to further illustrate his point to Andy.

“Why not? I mean, I know you don’t think you’re ugly. You spend way too much time looking at your own reflection to think you’re ugly.”

Charlie blushes bashfully, then covers his face with his free hand. All this time, he thought he was being slick when he would catch a glimpse of himself in a car window or elevator mirror. He can’t help but laugh.

Andy gives Charlie a pinch on his side, playfully reassuring him that he’s only teasing. They are still in the honeymoon phase of their budding relationship, so he finds Charlie’s embarrassment adorable.

“Busted,” Charlie says as the pair crosses the street toward his building. He tries to think of a way to explain to Andy that doesn’t think of himself as ugly, just not exactly beautiful.

While Charlie seems off in deep thought, Andy runs his eyes over his new love’s warm chocolate eyes down to his full lips and prickly jaw. His impulse is to push him against a street light and give him a kiss, but he wants an answer to his question first.

“So, why won’t you accept my compliment?”

The answer seems obvious to Charlie. “Because I look like shit today!” he says.

Andy smiles. “I didn’t say you look beautiful. I said you are beautiful.”

Hearing those words come out of Andy’s mouth makes Charlie feel buoyant. He remembers the nights he went to bed thinking about Andy before they started dating, wondering if his feelings would ever be reciprocated. He had never felt this way about a guy before. It tickles every time he inhales and he feels an overwhelming inclination to kiss Andy, who has also turned a little red in the cheeks.

Andy has made himself feel shy and tongue-tied with his last comment. He doesn’t mean to come on so strongly. He just can’t help himself. Charlie’s beauty is so apparent to him that he refuses to let anyone challenge that – even Charlie himself.

“If you say so,” Charlie says. He leans over and gives Andy a kiss on the cheek.

Overwhelmed with desire but aware of his surroundings, Andy grabs Charlie’s hand, gives it a kiss and doesn’t let it go until they reach the Spanish colonial style building Charlie lives in. He knows that public displays of affection make Charlie uncomfortable – especially in a conservative area like Coral Gables, but he doesn’t care anymore. He has waited a long time hold someone’s hand like this and he refuses to let anything – or anyone – stop him from falling in love.

back to Short Fiction

Vintage Turquoise and White Shabby Chic Dresser

Photo of Vintage Turquoise and White Shabby Chic Dresser (2015)

Vintage Turquoise and White Shabby Chic Dresser (2015)

In 2015 I decided to apply my painting skills to restoring vintage furniture pieces that I found at various second hand vintage furniture shops. The dresser shown in the photo I found at a Salvation Army store on Bird Road in West Miami. In the before picture below you can see that it was originally green and tan with classical motifs on the drawers and doors. It also came with a couple of mirrors attached to the back which I removed before painting.

After removing the hardware, which I kept in original condition, I painted the white trim on the panels and doors. My original idea was to use painter’s tape to cover the white and add the turquoise over it, but the trim was so thin that it seemed like more work to tape it up than to just be really careful when I got close to the trim. I spent the better part of a day filling in the turquoise around the trim with a small paintbrush, then went over the larger areas with a 2 inch brush.

Vintage Shabby Chic Dresser Before Picture

The new color story was inspired by the movie Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola. I found a beautiful turquoise chalk paint at the local hardware store that matched the light cream color of the trim perfectly. I was going to paint the hardware white, but when I tested them against the new paint job, I felt that they added a nice rustic element to the piece.

I advertised this piece on Craigslist and it sold within a couple days to a lovely couple that truly appreciated the time I spent hand painting it. The only difficulty I experienced was having it delivered. They lived in a townhouse with a very narrow staircase, so it was a challenge to finally get the piece into their bedroom, but they seemed happy with it and I was happy that it found a wonderful home.

back to Furniture Restoration

How I Came Up With The Serpentine Queen Textile Design

In the spring of 2015, I entered a scarf design contest hosted by printedvillage.com. The theme was ‘Wild Kingdom’ and the first place winner would take home $500. By that time I had developed graphic design skills working for print and web, but had never ventured into textile design.

Serpentine Queen Textile Design

Serpentine Queen Textile Design

The cash prize provided enough motivation for me to spend a few extra hours at work that week coming up with a scarf design for the competition. When I heard ‘Wild kingdom’ I immediately thought of a crown and a cobra. I spent a lot of time sketching and trying different color schemes, ultimately deciding upon the Serpentine Queen print shown above.

My vision was always to juxtapose the fluid, coiled body of a snake with monarchal iconography and floral elements. At first, my design featured pastel colors – the competition was held in the spring, but I would later find out that the scarf design was for their fall scarf line.

Serpentine Queen Notebook Set sold through Etsy

Serpentine Queen Notebook Set sold through Etsy

Once I knew that I had to redo the textile to incorporate fall colors, I decided to spend more time on the flowers. Other than that, the pattern remained relatively unchanged. I didn’t go on to win the competition, but I printed the pattern onto leatherette cover stock and used it as a cover for notebooks and sketchbooks that I sold through my Etsy Shop and at Miami Flea later that year.

In the future, I would love to use this textile design for apparel – perhaps on the pocket or sleeve of a t-shirt or as a scarf as it was originally meant to be used. I can also see it lining the inside of a blazer or as a pocket square.

Back to Textile Design

Dr. Rosenthal’s Office

“Is Karen in her office?” I ask Elba, one of Dr. Rosenthal’s Registered Nurses.

“Yes she is, but she asked me to put you in a patient room.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Are you having blood work done? If not, I can grab you a cup of coffee. Dr. Rosenthal is on a phone call so she might be a few minutes.”

“Don’t worry about it, Hon. This is fine. Wow, great view from up here.”

The late morning sun is sparkling off of Biscayne Bay. I can faintly hear the roar of jet skis soaring past sailboats filled with snowbirds bathing in light. I almost forget that I’m sitting on one of these paper-draped recliners. I feel like I’ve only been to the gyno and the pediatrician since my kids were born.

“Would you mind stepping on the scale for me?” she asks after taking my blood pressure. Elba isn’t as cheerful as the other nurses. I guess she hasn’t gotten used to Karen’s sarcasm yet.

“One twenty-eight. I weighed myself this morning.” It’s actually one thirty-two, but nobody has to know about the two slices of pizza I had after the kid’s baseball game last night. Plus, I want the file to reflect the sudden decrease in my weight since last year. It’s the main reason I asked Karen to run tests in the first place.

“Alrighty. Dr. Rosenthal will be in to see you soon.”

“Great. Thanks.”

It’s eighty degrees outside but colder than the arctic in this small white room. Doctors say it’s because of germs, but I’m convinced it’s because they have to walk around in those thick lab coats all day. I scoot closer to the window, hoping that the same light that’s keeping the room bright will warm me up a little.

I’ve always told Karen that she could take home twice as much money by moving her practice to West Miami, but this view makes it very clear why she’s paid so much in rent for all these years. It must be so much easier to tell people what’s wrong with them with the bay glistening in the background.

The mental picture of Karen breaking bad news to someone makes me wonder why I’m sitting here.

There’s definitely something wrong.

I’ve never been this tired. I would do three spinning classes a week when the boys were still in diapers. Now I’m lucky if I can stay awake past their bedtime. And to top it off, I lost ten pounds over the holidays. And Lord knows that’s impossible when you’re a Cuban woman. Unless…

Shit. What if it’s bad news?

The idea that I might actually be sick never even crossed my mind. An electric current crawls up my spine and makes the hair on my neck stand. I run through my symptoms in a cold sweat as images of ailing mothers on daytime TV start flooding into my head.

Could that be my destiny?

My heart beats faster than it did the night I took my baby to the ER. That was the worst day of my life.

Wait, what if today’s the worst day of my life but I don’t know it yet?

No.

No, Karen wouldn’t tell me like this.

Then again, she did move my appointment up from this afternoon. Is there a reason she didn’t want me to come in with the boys?

I refuse to follow that train of thought.

Nothing’s gonna happen to me.

Then again, nobody thinks it’s gonna happen to them – until it does.

Damn it. I should have taken better care of myself. I should have eaten better, exercised more, gone to the doctor more often…

How could I have been so careless?

I try to read a pamphlet on osteoporosis to keep from going insane, but all I can do is stare at the elderly couple in the picture. I’d never thought of growing old as such a privilege – until today.

Jesus Christ, where is she? I feel like it’s been hours. I just wanna know what’s wrong with me. Whatever it is, I need to know that I can fix it. An operation, medication, radiation. I don’t care what I have to do. I can’t leave my boys.

Not yet.

Their freckly little faces pop into my head: Danny with his missing tooth and unruly brown hair, Alex and his big brown eyes, Jorgie following his big brothers everywhere.

I’m already on the verge of tears when Karen walks through the door and says the two words I’ve been dreading.

“Bad news.”

I feel the all the blood leave my face as my heart begins to pound. I’ve never been more conscious of my mortality in my life. I try to keep the tears at bay while she reads me my sentence.

“No more triple espressos on ice for you.”

“Huh?” I don’t know what coffee has to do with anything, but I’m glad it’s not the other C-word.

“Everything looks okay, but I’m gonna have to send you to an endocrinologist to run tests on your thyroid. For now, though, I can tell you that have to start taking better care of yourself, Annie. No more crazy dieting, skipping meals, dosing up on caffeine all day…”

A torrent rushes out of my eyes before she can finish her sentence.

I’m not going to die.

Karen looks up from her prescription pad and rolls her eyes. “What’s the matter with you? It’s just coffee.”

I take a deep breath and reach into my purse for a tissue. “Oh thank God.”

“Did you think you were dying or something?”

“Umm, yeah! First you move my appointment to the morning, then you leave me in this frigid little room all by myself. What was I supposed to think?”

“Oh my God. I was just finishing up a conference call and I moved your appointment to lunchtime so that I could take you to the new vegan place downstairs for a plant-based meal. But since you’re acting like a crazy person maybe I should walk you over to Julie’s office upstairs for a psych eval instead.”

As I regain my composure, I pull a compact out of my purse and do what I can to resemble a normal human being again. “I’m not psychotic, Karen. I’m a mom. And you should work on your bedside manner.”

Karen rolls her eyes as I reapply my lip gloss.

“So am I dressed okay for this place? Had I known we were going to a vegan place I wouldn’t have brought a huge leather satchel or worn these snakeskin booties.”

“You’re fine, Beyoncé. Now let’s go before I rescind my invitation.”

Walks of Life

My lips have become bark, my saliva a thick paste. My joints feel like those of an arthritic man in his early seventies. I’ve grown accustomed to the cramps that have lodged themselves into my ribcage. I feel the blisters on my feet with each step I take, like someone is rubbing sandpaper on an open wound every time my foot hits the ground.

I’m about to give up on my quest when I see the tree-lined street that leads to the houses with the white picket fences. The hope of one day reaching this paved road is what got me through the days and nights that I walked alone through the desert.

I want to cry when my feet first hit pavement, but there isn’t enough fluid left in me to fill a single tear duct. After walking on the scorching sand, the smooth black asphalt makes me feel human again.

Once I’m close enough to the neighborhood, I notice a man exiting his home followed by his wife and daughter. He gives them both a kiss goodbye before walking down to his car on the driveway, a briefcase and coffee tumbler in his hands.

The man is blond with blue eyes and a medium build. He sets his coffee on the roof of his car and scrambles for his keys. Then he catches a glimpse of me as I slowly make my way down the street.

I attempt to smile, but my lips are so parched they break apart instead. Warm blood drips down my chin as I come closer to the family. The man quickly ushers them back into the house, his tumbler and briefcase forgotten atop his sedan. I decide to keep walking.

Before I make it past his house, the man re-emerges holding an assault rifle. He is still wearing his work clothes, a red and blue striped tie tucked into a white wrinkle-free shirt. He cocks his weapon and points it directly at me.

It feels like my blood has been instantly replaced with ice water. All of the hair on my body stands in terror. The shock paralyzes my jaw and my bloody mouth hangs open. My lungs fill with a numbness that almost suffocates me before I can take another step.

I peel my eyes off of the gun for a few seconds to look for help. I see a man in a white lab coat and light blue scrubs outside of the house across the street. I remember the Hippocratic Oath and I am filled with hope again. But my hope for humanity quickly fizzles as he gets down on one knee and pull back a crossbow aimed directly at my heart.

The way that they have positioned their weapons gives me the feeling that they want me to turn around and walk right back to where I came from, but that’s not an option for me. I can only move forward. I would rather die than go back into the desert. In fact, I will die if I go back there.

The thought alone gives me the impulse to continue my journey. Every step I take might be my last, but I am okay with that as long as my last step is in this direction.

After a few steps, the blond guy with the striped tie warns me not to step onto his property.

I slowly make my way past his yard and inch closer to the doctor with the crossbow. I see a stethoscope thrown on the driveway next to a small carton of orange juice that has emptied itself onto the stamped concrete.

When I reach the doctor’s house I find him calmer than the blond guy, but this could only mean that he is more comfortable with his finger on the trigger. I am terrified to look into his eyes, so I look into the window of his house. His wife is standing by the window in the kitchen rinsing his breakfast off their dishes without a care in the world.

The confusion makes me want to scream until my throat is swollen shut. I barely make it past the doctor and his wife before the entire neighborhood has been alerted of my presence. Every property owner is on his or her lawn with some form of armament: bats, whips, maces, guns, swords and crossbows.

The more I walk, the more narrow the street becomes. At first I think it must be an optical illusion created by my fear, but before long the street is two feet wide. It’s almost as if they’ve designed it in a way that would give them a reason to kill me.

I begin to experience vertigo and feel like throwing up. As much as I want to stop, I realize that I have nowhere to go.

Soon, my journey becomes a tightrope walk. My ankles are wobbly and my feet tremble, begging me to give in and just fall to my fate. Right before my knees begin to buckle, I reach the end of the road.

To my horror, the narrow street ends on a cliff. At the bottom of the cliff I see the desert. I look down at where I came from and try to decide my fate. If I let myself fall, I will die before I hit the ground. That seems like the most humane option.

Although I am ready to die, there is a question in my head that keeps my battered body from giving in.

Before accepting my fate, I turn around and look at the people with their weapons. Their apathetic faces incite a fury in me that I have never felt before. They are ready to push me over the edge without hesitation, but I refuse to make it so easy for them. My desperation turns into a hurricane that rips through my lungs. I open my mouth to scream and a gale force wind rushes through me.

WHY?!

As soon as the word escapes my mouth, my body begins to disintegrate. I become part of the sound waves pushing through the white picket fences and trees, past all of the people outside of their single family homes who wish to do me harm.

Gravity has no effect on me anymore. Like an eagle who has finally been set free, I soar toward the sea because there is nothing stopping me anymore.

Time is Running Out, Oil on Canvas by Gramatges Jordan

Questions About Becoming an Artist in Miami

How do you decide to become an artist?

My first exposure to oil painting came when I was a child. My mom had taken it up as a hobby and I used to watch her paint in the kitchen of my childhood home in Kendall, a suburb of South Florida.

My most vivid recollection is of walking in and seeing her paint a row of colorful daisies. I remember them clearly because when I went back into the kitchen a few minutes later, they had disappeared.

The canvas had been covered in a thick coat of violet paint with a bit of ultramarine blue splattered across it and some white highlights. It was the same canvas, but another painting entirely.

At that point I became mesmerized by the power of the artist to alter the fate of a painting.

It wasn’t for another twenty years that I would have my first experience with oil painting.

I had just moved back into my parent’s house after deciding against climbing the corporate ladder in financial services and moving out of my condo in Coral Gables. I was in my late twenties and I decided that I had to make the most of my time at home so that I didn’t feel like moving back was a step in the wrong direction.

To that point, the only thing that I had figured out was that stressing over financial figures, client meetings and performance reviews was not something that I wanted to do in the long term.

Where do you start your creative journey?

I started my creative journey years before that while I was writing for the FIU Beacon, my college newspaper.

I reviewed books, movies and music at first, then ventured into humor and anecdotal nonfiction – all the while discovering new characters and stories in the pages of my short fiction and poetry. My creative work never saw the light of day, though. I was too insecure to put them out there at the time.

I had attempted to make a career out of writing after college, but the type of work that it required to be successful in publishing in Miami was not the type of work that I was interested in doing by the time I was in my mid-twenties.

So, I figured that I had no other choice but to pursue some form of art – a choice I had been intimidated by since I was an adolescent.

How do you develop and discover your artistic talents?

By my late twenties I had collaborated on digital photo collage work and editorials for local publications, but my main focus had been on writing.

Once I decided that I was not going to take the traditional corporate track to find my success, I wanted to build my skill set as a visual artist so that I could eventually focus on art and design as a career.

As fate would have it, my mom was taking oil painting classes from an older Cuban couple when I moved back home.

I joined her for a couple of classes out of a desire to try something outside of my comfort zone.

The studio was on the second story of a strip mall on Calle Ocho and the bohemian instructors were kind and welcoming. The smell of linseed oil and the diversity in the colorful student work displayed on the walls immediately drew me in.

Applying a coat of wet paint to a blank canvas felt very sensual to me – it still does. It can be tedious, time consuming and frustrating, but I now understand the immediate gratification and long term value in painting.

Outside of oil painting, I found myself drawn to painting the furniture we had in the house that nobody was using at the time. I would stare at these vintage pieces and carefully figure out how a coat of paint could bring new life to an otherwise forgotten furniture piece.

What happens after you identify your talents and passions?

Once I realized that I had something to express with paint, I decided that I needed to do more than just paint in order to make it a career.

I began The New Miamian as a literary and visual art studio to share my work and the works of other artists that I encounter along my artistic journey, with a focus on Miamian Art.

And instead of shutting off the part of my brain that craves analysis and written communication, i’m going to use my words to create a dialogue about art and how impossible it seems to be able to make fine art a career choice in the twenty-first century.

The way it works now, only artists that appeal to collectors and curators have any chance of living as a professional artist.

My concern with this system is that it doesn’t encourage artists to experiment or to produce work that may not have a market at this moment in time.

What do you say to the Vincent van Goghs of the world, who will never sell a painting in their lifetimes, only to have them hang in the most important museums of the world a century later?

We should encourage everyone who is passionate about art to produce it, not just those with the possibility of appealing to those who hold the purse strings of society.

Is art a profession?

The true artist refuses to assimilate to a lifestyle that ignores the realities of society.

A rejection of the status quo and a divestment of the trappings of contemporary life are necessary to be able to view the world with the objectivity necessary to create honest art.

It’s hard enough to overcome the insecurity of looking at a wet canvas with odd shapes and colors on it without wondering if you’re losing your mind. Adding to that society’s dismissal of art as a profession only makes it sound more insane to want to become an artist.

Only recently did it occur to me that it doesn’t sound like a career choice for a reason: the role of the artist goes beyond commerce. The artist is meant to ask society the questions that we don’t have answers to yet – and these questions are usually met with resistance.

Where are we going as a civilization?

Technology has added a lot of noise to our daily lives and it’s hard to live without, but what happens next?

Will we end up in another nuclear war that will devastate our already deteriorating environment?

Will our children be able to witness nature in the multitude and splendor that the last few generations have been lucky enough to experience?

Will religious wars overshadow their doctrines, creating the first generation on the planet that does not worship a deity?

More importantly, though, who is asking these questions – and to whom?


Gramatges Jordan, Artist