Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Unveiling of "Joaquin" (Opening Remarks by Vivian Donnell Rodriguez)


  Vivian Donnell and Miguel Rodez unveiling Joaquin

Title: "Joaquin" (portrait of Joaquin Estrada- Montalvan)
Artist: Miguel Rodez,
Inspiration: photographh by Delio Regueral
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 6.5' x 6' feet
Date completed: April 19, 2014
copyright Miguel Rodez all rights reserved


Whether it is created as a painting, photograph or sculpture, a truly well-crafted and successful portrait is not just a faithful likeness or representation of a person. A great portrait, the ones that carry impact and that we remember, gives us an open window into the inner existence, the soul, the mysteries of the subject being portrayed. Think Mona Lisa, Da Vinci's beautiful and transcendent portrait and probably the most famous portrait in art history. We can't seem to get her out of our minds.

Aristotle said, "the aim of Art is to present not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance, for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality".

And so it is with the portraits that remain in our memory, which linger, which make us cry, which haunt our thoughts long past when our eyes have stopped looking at them. 

The portrait has a long and rich tradition in the history of art. From ancient times through present, we have sought to represent both the real and the imaginary best that is in us. We have wanted to record in some tangible way that we as individuals were here at one time, made ourselves felt and left our mark. I will speak only of two specific points in history which, in my opinion, were particularly critical turning points in the way we approached portraiture.

Whereas portraits had been created throughout history, the Renaissance saw the re-invention of portraits like no other time before it. Portraits had been idealized versions of man, representing, for the most part the sacred or the regal. In the Renaissance, an interest in the natural world, a re-discovery of the classical art of Greece and Rome and a recognition of man as an important part of that world, saw depictions of earthly success and status in the form of portraits take center stage like never before.

The second turning point occurred several hundred years later in the 19th century with the development of photography. Photography literally revolutionized the idea of the portrait. Baudelaire called photography "an enemy of art", but eventually came to embrace the new technology that we later recognized as art itself. And, there you are all before me snapping away with your smart phones taking stills and video. However, whereas we now have the ability to take portraits and "selfies" to document every important and the not-so-important moment, there are few portraits which we remember past the second that we have viewed them.

And so it is appropriate that this work by Miguel Rodez that we will unveil today began with just such a memorable black and white photographic portrait by Miami photographer Delio Regueral. We are fortunate to have that photograph here in the gallery tonight and I urge you to take the time to see it fully for it is a beautiful portrait in and of itself. It is a powerful and wonderful image - a testament to both the photographer and the subject. And we are fortunate as well to have the subject of the photograph and painting here with us tonight - Joaquin Estrada-Montalvan. Joaquin is a historian, cultural writer and philosopher, a social scientist, man of faith, professor and writer. Clearly, a complex individual with a rich and diverse internal life. A thoughtful academic with a quiet outward demeanor which belies the strength of his thinking and convictions. It has been said that portraits are best viewed through the eyes, that herein lies the mirror to the soul. I think that you will all agree that the artist has captured the various layers of his subject with just that intensity and vision.

And so we come to the painter of "Joaquin". I first met Miguel Rodez in 1993 when he joined the board of Miami Dade Art in Public Places which I directed. I knew him then as an attorney with a passion for culture, human rights and art in all its forms. Three years later he was chair of that same board and we had become friends. Only years later, after we had both moved on to other public interests and positions, did I learn of Miguel's work in photography, drawing, sculpture and painting. The work was always thoughtful, multi-layered and intriguing. He was clearly interested, and still is, in the dialogue that can be generated by art within the community, and among artists and others. It was not surprising, then, to see that he would be taking a major step in that direction by opening a gallery and studio to showcase the work of other artists as well as his own. The portrait titled, "Joaquin" which we will see in a just a few minutes sought to capture the inner complexity of a single individual using a style that has become Miguel's own, a realism that is multi-layered, calculated and passionate. It is monumental in scale and vibrates with both texture and richness of color and palette re-defining the subject in a powerful way.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, "Joaquin"!

Photographic portrait by Delio Regueral


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