Only in Miami can you find art by an internationally admired artist in an absolutely exceptional orthodonist office! That office, of course, would belong to the absolutely exceptional art collector Dr. Arturo Mosquera.
Mark your calendar for the third opening reception of “Lingua,” an exhibit by Miralda, who lives in Miami and Barcelona, and whose gastronomically adventurous art was celebrated by a recent museum retrospective in Madrid. This free, special event takes place 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 4 at the Art @ Work Gallery, 1245 Galloway Road (87th Avenue) in Miami. For more info, call 305-264-3120. It’s sponsored by Centro Cultural Espanol and FoodCulturaMuseum and is open to the public; the exhibit is on view through April 24, weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you have not been to an Art @ Work opening reception, you are in for a memorable treat. If you have, then you know what friendly, engaging, and lively events these openings are. I always meet treasured artcentric friends when I go!
Arturo Mosquera, as I learned when I wrote about him for The Miami Herald in June 2003, believes he was born with a passion to collect.
Here is more of what I learned then about this remarkable man, who with his wife Liza continues to play a pivotal role in Miami’s expanding cultural community:
Growing up in the western province of Pinar del Rio in Cuba, Mosquera amassed stacks of Marvel Comics and baseball cards. In Coral Gables, his collection of Latin American art extends to every corner of his family’s home–from floor to ceiling.
A commanding portrait by Arnaldo Roche Rabell, as densely textured as a rain forest, dominates the wall of a small study, while the hip-hop flavored sculpture of Luis Gispert graces the living room. Cardboard cut-outs by Pedro Vizcaino dart like bloodied planes in battle across the ceiling of yet another room.
The Mosqueras’ modern, 1960s Gables home–with sleek touches Frank Lloyd Wright might admire–generously mirrors some of the most interesting art that’s been made by artists with ties to South Florida in the past decade or so. At least, that is, when some of the 400 paintings, sculpture, video, and drawings are not on loan to South Florida museums or to institutions in Venezuela and Brazil.
Art is a passion for Mosquera, who arrived in Miami in 1962 when he was 9. But few collectors have chosen to live and work with works of art in the way that he and his wife Liza Mosquera have done.
Their art blurs links between home and office, and this has nothing to do with telecommuting.
For the past two and a half years, Arturo has invited South Florida artists to make a changing series of installations and exhibits in the Miami office where he practices orthodontics and where Liza has worked as office manager. In the modestly-scaled waiting room, patients can alternate from flipping through well-worn Sports Illusrated magazines to taking in a novel series of contemporary art.
Many of the concise exhibits are by artists with works in the Mosqueras’ expansive collection at home, which ranges from sculpture by Maria Brito and Florencio Gelabert, intricately constructed with reflections on exile, to poetic drawings by Jorge Pantoja and glistening Caribbean altar pieces by Charo Oquet.
Currently at the office there’s a video documenting Carolina Sardi as she welds an ambitious group of painted steel reliefs fashioned to suggest suitases and natural treasures on sandy beaches. The works are part of her Miami-Dade Art in Public Places commission for terminals at the Port of Miami, called “The Journey: Water Project and Suitcase Project.” There’s also a group of several related, brightly-colored metallic forms by Sardi hanging on the office walls.
“It’s wonderful,” Arturo says about the changing shows in his office. “You get to see all the kids asking the most marvelous questions about the works. Some of the parents come by and ask questions, too.”
The impetus to work with art, he says, goes back to pleasures he recalls as a kid watching his uncle, an artist in Cuba, paint tropical landscapes. This pleasure is something Arturo has always wanted to share with his patients.
Leaning back in the slimmed-down arm chairs common to orthodontists’ offices, with mouths gaping as braces and retainers are fitted, patients don’t have to close their eyes or stare at bland walls and posters as they wait for the work to end. Instead, they can follow the intriguing choreography of lines in the black-and-white, mixed-media composition by Odalis Valdivieso, in which a woman’s body gently levitates above a sharp-edged fray.
Arturo is not merely hoping to take his patients’ minds off their mouths, but also to turn this uniquely captive audience on to a vivid range of art.
His patients have been able to contemplate, for instance, delicately shaded drawings of imaginary architecture and instruments by Glexis Novoa.
Yet some paintings have turned out to be too aggressive for parents of young children, says Liza, remembering their concerned responses to Ana Albertina Delgado’s sensual imagery of female figures, which often balance attributes of angel and streetwalker.
“They found it disturbing,” she explains.
But as Greg Gordillo, a 22-year-old student at the Kendall campus of Miami Dade College, lifted himself out of an examining chair after his appointment ended, he turned around to see more paintings that he hadn’t been able to view from his chair.
Says Gordillo, “I don’t think there’s art that you can’t like. It’s all art. It’s just not your taste.”
While recent conversations with patients and parents don’t suggest that the exhibits here have prompted more folks to sample the offerings at South Florida museums and galleries–which the Mosqueras themselves frequent–mixing art and orthodontics has proven to be an eye-opening experience for both audience and artist.
“I like art. For me it’s always interesting when he brings in a new artist–it’s not the usual paintings of flower arrangements or portraits,” says Lourdes Montejo, who works in her family’s construction business and has been bringing her children to the office for the past five years.
Her daughter Natalie, 14, draws and paints in school and likes to discuss the changing exhibits, says Montejo, though son Matthew, 10, is less attracted to the art than to the flashing video game that’s also a fixture of Mosquera’s waiting room.
“But you know,” continues Montejo, “if you want to get them interested in art, you have to start young.”
One project she remembers in particular went on view last July. This was “Absence,” a series of photographs and video by Elizabeth Cerejido, which was inspired by the recent death of the artist’s father and by her mother’s decline into the dementia of Alzheimer’s.
Cerejido’s exhibit also fascinated Roni Feinstein, a South Florida-based writer for the magazine Art in America, who’s not a patient but is invited to receptions Mosquera holds for artists when a new show goes on view.
“I thought this piece was extraordinary. It worked well in such an intimate space,” Feinstein says.
For Cerejido, Arturo’s studio visit before her show prompted her to embark on a whole new body of intensely personal work, which she’ll present next March at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery along with work by more widely-exhibited Cuban photographers Magdalena Campos Pons and Carlos Garaicoa.
The new direction transpired after Cerejido saw the collector’s enthusiasm for a video she’d never intended to exhibit: It showed her mother sitting in a chair only to stand up in confusion a few seconds later in a motion she repeated restlessly after Cerejido’s father died.
“I realized that I have some material here that I should be tapping. It’s really been an eye-opener for me.
“For me, the show was very rewarding,” the artist adds. “He treats it seriously. He really is reaching out to a whole group of people who might not be exposed to art that is remotely challenging. It’s a perfect set-up because they are waiting and looking at something that’s not Monet posters or nice little seascapes.”