In creating the work, 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. They are responsible for generating one-third of the oxygen on the planet. 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 foreground was living on BiscayneBay in 1566. It was creating the very air Adelantado Pedro Menendez de Aviles breathed as he planted Spain’s flag on the edge of the Miami River.
The background utilizes imagery from Cortada’s “First Encounter” mural that permanently hangs at the entrance of Miami’s City Hall.