On Top of the World
As the art world arrives on the scene for one of the world’s hottest art fairs, Miami Dade Colleges illustrious visual arts alumni stand out from the crowd, leading the vanguard of contemporary art at home and around the world.
In an era in which technique is often an afterthought, MDC alumnus César Santos is a modern master who evocatively combines the classical and the contemporary in his paintings.
“I try to show people that this is available to them,” said the 2013 MDC Hall of Famer, who has shared his techniques with students of all levels, from European art academies to Miami high schools. “There is more than purely conceptual art.”
Trained in Renaissance painting techniques at the Angel Academy in Florence, Italy, Santos’ career has flourished with prestigious exhibitions at the Beijing World Art Museum, the National Gallery of Costa Rica, a solo exhibition in New York’s posh Chelsea art district, and a sold-out show in Las Vegas. He is currently preparing for a solo show in Paris.
Artistic talent runs in the family but, in his native Cuba, Santos’ father had steered him toward boxing. “I was supposed to be more of a macho,” Santos quipped. After moving to the U.S., his insuppressible talent surfaced. He studied painting at MDC’s New World School of the Arts (NWSA) but also explored the dramatic arts at the College’s Prometeo Theatre.
“Studying theater at MDC helped my visual arts tremendously,” he said. “The artist in me was developing through theater.”
After MDC, he went on to the Angel Academy, then taught classical painting in Stockholm, Sweden. There, he donned his competitive boxing gloves once again and actually won the gold medal at the 2008 Angered Centrum Boxing Cup.
“When I was teaching, people would say, ‘Really? You can box?’ and when I was boxing, ‘Really? You can paint?’ ” Santos said. “The actor in me truly came out.”
With works in important collections around the world and numerous awards, Miami Dade College alumna María Brito has had the stellar career most artists only dream of. Her humble beginnings make her incredible journey all the more inspiring.
Brito’s carefree childhood vanished when Fidel Castro’s revolution overtook Cuba. “I was 13 and my brother was 11 when we came to Miami,” Brito said. Sent through Operation Peter Pan, which transported thousands of children from Cuba in the early 1960s in hopes of a better future in the United States, Brito and her brother lived in a refugee camp.
“We were so afraid that we would be separated,” she said. “Then family friends took us in.” Their parents followed six months later. “We were among the lucky ones.”
After high school, Brito studied to become an art teacher. “My MDC drawing courses made a big difference in my work.”
Now a well-established artist, Brito’s works are in collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park in South Korea and the Cintas Collection. She has also received awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, among many other honors, including induction to MDC’s Hall of Fame in 2002.
The work of Miami Dade College alumnus Adler Guerrier captivates an international audience and is frequently exhibited in important galleries and museums in New York, South Florida and beyond. However, few Miami artists represent the city as intimately as Guerrier does, most notably through his photographic landscapes of Miami’s urban areas.
“At Miami Dade College, I really enjoyed being immersed in Downtown Miami,” said Guerrier, who studied at North and Wolfson campuses before receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from New World School of the Arts at MDC.
“Wolfson Campus is at the center of it all, with events like Miami Book Fair International and exhibitions at MDC’s Centre Gallery that transform Downtown Miami itself into a campus for learning, for art, for an urban education.”
Sharing his passion for art and Miami, Guerrier runs the art space Dimensions Variable with fellow NWSA alumni Leyden Rodríguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly in Downtown Miami’s World Center district.
Guerrier, who represented the Visual Arts in Miami Dade College’s 2012 Alumni Hall of Fame and was selected for the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2008 Biennial, recently won the 2013 South Florida Cultural Consortium fellowship. His work will be on display in one of Pérez Art Museum Miami’s inaugural exhibitions in the new year.
One of Miami’s most renowned artists, MDC alumnus Robert Chambers is always on the move.
Known for inventive, playful sculpture incorporating elements of science and technology, Chambers has won prestigious awards, including the Nancy Graves Award and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. His works are found in numerous public and private collections, including the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, Mo.
Born and raised in Miami, Chambers was influenced by his father, a scientist, and his mother, an artist and philosopher. Growing up in both the lab and the studio, he solidified his commitment to art at MDC.
“I came to study with Robert Huff,” a respected Miami sculptor and longtime MDC professor. “I wanted to learn the hands-on part, the fabrication,” Chambers said, “and Huff knew how to fabricate.”
After earning an associate degree with a focus in art education from MDC, Chambers completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and then graduate school at New York University, where he went on to teach. “That was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had professionally,” he said. But as his star soared, it took him from the classroom to travels around the globe.
Chambers’ current stomping ground is Basel, Switzerland, where he works on trans-European projects involving the re-adaptation of centuries-old architectural remnants into new works. At Art Basel Miami Beach, his work will be on display at Ping Pong Projektraum (Booth M54). Also, his famous Rotorelief, a Duchampian test vehicle sculpture, will be parked at the Sagamore Hotel.
Other Distinguished Alumni
Miami Dade College and its New World School of the Arts have produced many outstanding visual artists, including:
Tasha López De La Victoria (TM Sisters)
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