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In creating a digital painting to commemorate Miami Beach’s centennial, Xavier Cortada used a microscope to photograph shells of diatoms preserved in sedimentary core samples.

Diatoms harness the power of the sun to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. These single-celled aquatic organisms are studied by FIU scientists to research what was as they address environmental concerns in the century to come.

The diatom depicted in the art was living on Biscayne Bay in 1915. It was creating the very air Miami Beach founders breathed 100 years ago as they brought the city to life.

Cortada’s original hangs permanently at City Hall.

Xavier Cortada, “Just Below the Surface: 1915,” archival ink on paper (signed, numbered, limited-edition print, edition of 5), 16” x 12”, 2015.


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Xavier Cortada, “Just Below the Surface: 1915 (The Founding of Miami Beach),” archival ink on aluminum, 60″ x 36″, 2015.
On permanent display at Miami Beach City Hall (Gift of FIU College of Architecture + The Arts and FIU School of Environment, Arts and Society)
Dimensions 16 × 12 in
Paper Print Details

Hand signed and numbered by the artist, limited-edition, Paper, Printed with archival ink