Palmetto Bay’s Perrine Community House and ArtSouth are hosting a remarkable exhibition of the paintings and sculpture of Puchi Noriega, a local artist who is originally from Peru.
Her exhibit, which runs through mid-August, is titled “Mama Mia” and depicts, in visual form, the gamut of emotions experienced during her ongoing battle with breast cancer.
Noriega’s parents and six siblings worked in a ceramics studio and she joined them at age 3. Mostly self taught, she won four first prizes at The Richmond Competition in Richmond, VA, then returned to Peru to teach. Noriega moved to Miami in 1994. In 1997 she founded the first Art Institute of Miami, then the Puchi Art Studio and Falls Art Walk. She lived for a time in Palmetto Bay and currently resides in Cutler Bay.
In April of 2018 she was diagnosed with an aggressive and invasive malignant tumor on her left breast and lymph nodes. Her sister had died of cancer and she didn’t like traditional cancer treatments. After one “dreadful” chemotherapy treatment Noriega decided to stop the treatments and explore other options.
“I woke up the next morning and said to myself, what are you doing? Nobody knows when you are going to die. I am not afraid of dying, so I am going to focus on living.”
Her PET scan in June showed that her tumor had decreased in size from 6.7 centimeters to .6 millimeters. She credits her positive attitude and determination with the improvement. Her art, created over the past year, seems to begin with despair and sadness and progresses to hope and peace.
Her son, Mateo Gandolfo, said that her paintings and sculpture were a part of the healing process. “The art brought her a sense of peace.”
Sandra Latimer, one of the area residents attending the event, was touched by one painting — in Spanish “Senti una gran angustia.” She said she felt such a great sorrow. But of the paintings from an earlier time she said that they were all movement and dance.
Noriega appreciates the opportunity afforded by Palmetto Bay and ArtSouth to display her work and her message.
“I am very grateful as there are very few places in Miami that support the arts as much as Palmetto Bay is supporting the arts. It’s a great opportunity to exhibit our work. Artists, we are the ones who make the least, unless you are famous, so having a chance to have a show of this magnitude is wonderful.”
Beatriz Herrmann, board secretary of ArtSouth, appreciates the village’s efforts in using Perrine Community House for art events.
“No other municipality does anything like this to support the local artists,” Herrmann said. Some of the other cities like Coral Gables have commercial galleries, but only Palmetto Bay is doing anything like this.”
Janis Klein-Cohen, board chair of ArtSouth, also is appreciative.
“The village officials and staff have been wonderful,” she said. “They worked to remodel this facility into exactly what we were hoping for.”