Miami’s Cuban roots run deep. Art offers a rich opportunity to learn more about those roots.
FIU News sat down with Martínez to learn more about his work and his journey as an art history educator and scholar.
Much of your research and work has been dedicated to shedding light on Cuban art and artists. What is it about Cuban art that captures your attention?
I am attracted to Cuban art for various reasons. First, I like the look of it, and I relate to its subject matter – the Cuban landscape, the city of Havana, the island’s people, its traditions and culture. I also realized in the early 1980s that there were important collections of Cuban art in Miami and no one was studying them.
Can you tell us about some of the Cuban/Cuban American artistic movements or artists that interest you the most?
I have followed the art of quite a few Cuban Americans over the past 40 years. I am most interested in and have written about the so-called Miami Generation, a loose group of about a dozen artists who emerged in Miami in the late 1970s and 1980s. I am attracted to their work because it touches areas of my own experience as a Cuban-born person who came of age in Miami. The Museum of Art of Fort Lauderdale had an exhibition a couple of years ago, which included most of them. It published a beautiful catalogue: The Miami Generation Revisited.
You taught numerous art history classes at FIU for more than two decades, impacting countless students. What was your favorite part about teaching?
I began to teach at FIU in 1989 and taught courses in European, American and Cuban modern and contemporary art. My favorite part of working at FIU was the students. Through my enthusiasm and interest in art history, I was able to get their attention and keep the majority interested in a field that was new to most of them. I was also lucky to work with fine colleagues who strived to make the curriculum relevant, set high standards and cared about their teaching.
What role do you think…