The Life and Work of Miguel Rodez
Miguel Rodez is a contemporary artist who was born at Monte y Arrollo, in the center of Havana, Cuba in 1956. At the age of thirteen, Miguel Rodez travelled with his parents and three siblings aboard one of the Cuban Freedom Flights from his native Havana, Cuba, to the United States. The family arrived in Miami the day before Thanksgiving (November 26, 1969) and a few days later they relocated to New York City.
For the first few months in the U.S., Miguel Rodez and his relatives shared an apartment with another family at 46th Street, at Manhattan’s Theater District. At that time, the area was gaining a well-deserved reputation as “Hell’s Kitchen” due to the high amount of crime in the area, which has since dwindled significantly.
As their economic conditions gradually improved, the family relocated to better housing. They first moved to a one bedroom apartment at Washington Heights, which accommodations proved a bit challenging for a family of six, but a year later the family moved to a nicer two bedroom flat overlooking a park in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood., a venue known to house artists in the heart of the city.
In the summer of 1972, the family moved to Union City, New Jersey overlooking New York’s beautiful skyline. They remained there until the following summer, when the family relocated to Miami, Florida in August 1973. By the time he graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1975, the family was living at a charming Mediterranean-style home on Alton Road in an upscale Miami Beach neighborhood. After his high school graduation, Miguel Rodez spent a year and a half living in New York’s upper East Side, near the Guggenheim Museum, returning to Miami in 1977. Other than a stint in Bloomington Indiana while attending Indiana University School of Law from 1982 to 1985 and various extended overseas trips, he has called Miami home.
INTEREST IN HUMAN RIGHTS
Due perhaps to the temporal and geographic circumstances of his childhood, Miguel Rodez developed a strong affinity for the protection of human rights, particularly the rights of association and expression. He chose to pursue a legal career where he could satiate his interest in human rights and became a lawyer in 1985. As a lawyer, he developed a laudable reputation by providing extensive amount of effective legal services to the needy free or at a minimal charge. He also engaged in extensive volunteer community service work, including encouraging artistic development in South Florida, promoting rapid transit, seeking fraternity among various ethnic groups, and providing sports opportunities for African-American and Latin-American children in the inner city. For his community service, Miami Dade’s County Commission issued a Proclamation in his honor in 1994 and United States’ Attorney General Janet Reno awarded him a National Volunteer Service Award in 1995. These community service activities were quite spiritually satisfying to Mr, Rodez, as it was something that he felt that he needed to do at the time, but giving free advice to the poor and working as a volunteer for various charitable organizations was obviously not financially rewarding. Consequently, in 1994, Miguel Rodez accepted a quasi-judicial position in the Human Rights field. This move not only satisfied his interest in a subject that fascinated him, but it also enabled him to earn a reasonable income and to travel extensively around the globe.
In September 1996, slightly more than ten years after beginning his solo practice as a lawyer, Miguel Rodez ran for election, seeking the post of Circuit Court Judge. Based on the legal reputation and devotion to public service of both candidates, the Miami Herald newspaper indicated that in their race, whichever candidate prevailed, the public would be the winner. However, Miguel Rodez lost the race in a close county-wide election to a well-connected and distinguished opponent who raised nearly four times more campaign funds than Rodez managed to accumulate to win the election.
In 1993, Miguel Rodez joined the Board of Trustees for Miami’s Art in Public Places Trust, an organization that commissions artists to create public art for Miami-Dade County. In 1996, he became Chairperson of said Trust and continued to serve in that role until 1999. During his tenure at Art in Public Places, Miguel Rodez participated in the selection of artists for small and major public art projects for the county, including major works for the Arscht Performing Arts Center, MetroRail, and Miami International Airport.
As a Board Member and Chairperson, Miguel Rodez participated and led in the selection of artists, including such noteworthy artists as Jose Bedia, Cundo Bermudez, Anna Valentina Murch, Michelle Oka Donner, Martha Schwartz, Robert Rahway Zakanitch, and many others.
While involved in Art in Public Places, Miguel Rodez also participated in cultural professional non-profit organizations. For example: He served as Chair of the Miami Symphony Orchestra.
He was a member of the editorial board of The DCBA Bulletin for the Dade County Bar Association. He founded Herencia [Heritage] magazine for the Cuban National Heritage organization in 1995 and founded CABA Briefs magazine for the Cuban American Bar Association in 1997, the latter of which he almost entirely designed and illustrated through a publishing graphic design assistant. Although Miguel Rodez left those editorial positions to pursue other interests, the magazines that he founded continued in publication.
From an early age, Miguel Rodez possessed a passion for the visual arts. After studying the works of some of the Great Masters on his own, he competed and was admitted to the New York High School of Art and Design in 1972, where he attended for a brief stint. Subsequently, he took Art and Art History courses at the University of Miami in the early 1980s and continued to study art history on his own.
Miguel Rodez is a comprehansive artist who makes use drawing, illustration, installation, painting, photography, and sculpture to create pieces that may be visually appealing but he is not seeking to manufacture eye candy but to entice the viewer to think.
Although not limited to it, Miguel Rodez artistic output often reflects a struggle of opposing forces to various degrees of subtlety, sometimes injecting divergent themes in his works to invite multiple interpretations. For example: The series “Imagining Liberation” which he began with the creation of “Lucky Link” (an inflatable 10 meter-high sculpture made of parachute material [Mylar]) early in the summer of 2010 is the product of that influence. As Miguel Rodez explains “At one time or another, we have each felt trapped by a set of circumstances, be they political, religious, laboral, or even a bad marriage. This series is created from the perspective of someone who feels trapped and daydreams about the day when the chains of oppression will break – resulting in liberation. Because they are part of a daydream, I have sought to give the paintings a certain otherworldly quality, where chains neither look like nor behave as good chains do in the real world. These are not chains that one finds in a hardware store but in the recesses of one’s mind.” Yet, although the primary theme is “Liberty” he gives the chains an organic look that invokes a certain degree of sensuality, an often sutle sensuality that he plays with in his other works.
1 Cuba: End of the Freedom Flights, Time Magazine, September 13, 1971, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,903113,00.html
2 Congress establishes Thanksgiving, The National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/thanksgiving/
3 Gugenheim Museum, New York, http://www.guggenheim.org/guggenheim-foundation/architecture/new-york
4 Nicaraguans celebrate the New Year, El Nuevo Herald, January 2, 1998, 3A (Spanish)
5 Editorial, For Judgeships of Dade Circuit Court, The Miami Herald, August 22, 1996, Page 22A
6 Election Results, Circuit Court Group 16, Leon Firtel, 92,608 votes 55.70% and Miguel Rodez 73,660 votes 44.30%, Miami Dade Election Department Statistics, September 3, 1996,http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/results/ele96247/sep996.txt
7 See, Miami’s Art in Public Places Trust http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/about-overview.asp
11 Jose Bedia, flooring and railing designs for the Dolores and Sanford Ziff Ballet Opera House and John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, completed in 2006, http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-progress-pac-bedia.asp Accessed June 12, 2010.
12 Cundo Bermudez, Ways of Performing, completed 2006, Studio Theater, Dolores and Sanford Ziff Ballet Opera House, http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-progress-pac-bermudez.asp Accessed June 12, 2010
13 Anna Valentina Murch, Water Scores, 2006 http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-progress-pac-murch.asp [accessed June 12, 2010] 14 Michelle Oka Donner, A walk on the Beach http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-mia-doner.asp Accessed June 12, 2010.
15 Martha Schwartz 36 Street Airport Perimeter Wall Project http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-mia-schwartz.asp [accessed June 12, 2010]
16 Robert Rahway Zakanitch, Curtains, 2006, Dolores and Sanford Ziff Ballet Opera House and Scrim, 2006, John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-progress-pac-zakanitch.asp [accessed June 12, 2010]
17 Miami Symphony Orchestra, http://www.miamisymphony.org/
18 DCBA Bulletin, Dade County Bar Association, http://www.dadecountybar.org/
19 Herencia Magazine, http://www.herenciaculturalcubana.org/publications.html
20 CABA Briefs, Cuban American Bar Assn. Florida Bar Journal April 1999, http://www.cabaonline.com/page/cuban-american-bar-association-marks-its-25th-year and http://www.cabaonline.com/story/caba-briefs
21 Imagining Liberation, a solo painting exhibit at Domingo Padron Gallery, May 6-31, 2011, El Lugareno,
22 The Miami Herald, August 1 – 5 2010 http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/26/1747454/giant-inflatable-sculptures-to.html and Irreversible Giants in the City, YouTube video, August 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoLbhWCtn0w
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