Home in Plein Air

Madisen Michel

The traditionally French art of painting en plein air has been around since the mid-19th century and has been famously executed by many artists, including Claude Monet. Plein air painting is the art of painting outdoors, creating a challenge since light and other natural occurrences aren’t controlled by a studio setting. On the weekend of January 18 and 19, 2020 Deering Estate and Grove House Artists hosted their annual Affair En Plein Air, an event where artists could come out to the estate and participate in this long-standing tradition of painting outdoors. Artists could compete in one of two categories; adults (18 and older) or high school students (grades 9-12) for the chance to have their artwork judged by juror and artist Marcelle Zanetti.

First prize in the student category went to high schooler Nyasia Banks who painted a beautiful rendition of one of the Deering Estate’s historic pieces of machinery. First prize in the adult category went to Lizzie Hunter, the lead magnet teacher at South Miami Senior High School. During the weekend’s competition, she was able to complete two pieces; the first displaying the archways between the Stone House and the Richmond Cottage and the second depicting the Deering Estate’s serene bay vista. This was not Mrs. Hunter’s first time painting at the Deering Estate, in fact she encourages her students to attend the event every year, as well as enter the student category of the competition. One of her students, senior Cindy Reyes, did just that and enjoyed her time painting outdoors and honing her skills.

During the event on Saturday, the Deering Estate was also host to poet Richard Blanco, who performed a reading of some of his work. Mr. Blanco was introduced by his life-long friend John William Bailly, who is also the Deering Estate’s first Artist in Residence Fellow and Melissa Diaz, the Cultural Arts Curator at the Deering Estate. Mr. Blanco’s reading focused on a sense of home; what’s it like to feel like you don’t have one, how to deal with it, and how to find your sense of one. During his reading he said something that really stuck with me, “I was made in Cuba, assembled in Madrid, and imported to Miami”. I feel like that quote is something that can resonate with so many people, especially in Miami, a place known for its melting pot of cultures. The poetry was wonderful itself, but I think part of what made it so great was the fact that so much of it was relatable. There were poems about things that would only happen in Miami, things your Abuela would say or do when you were little, and even things about the struggles of love. The ultimate conclusion is that – as cheesy as this may sound – essentially, home is where the heart is. You feel a sense of home around the people and things that make you feel the happiest, the safest, and the most loved.

Mr. Blanco’s reading tied into the beauty of the art that was being created outside the Stone House windows. There was a sense of peace and calm outside, people creating works of art, bearing their hearts and souls. The air filled with these things creating a sense of warmth, happiness, tranquility, love, and – dare I say – maybe even a sense of home.

Madisen is a sophomore at Miami Dade College majoring in Mass Communications and Journalism. She is currently a Tropical Conservation Intern at the Deering Estate.

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