CONTEMPORARY REALISM IN OIL

the boulevard

THE BOULEVARD

Oil on Belgian Linen, 24 x 16 inches, 2013-2014  
*Part of Artist's Private Collection

Sara's first oil painting.

The Boulevard was inspired from a photograph the Artist took of a friend in 2011 on Biscayne Boulevard. Fascinated by this architecturally famous Miami street, the ladies planned a day of exploring the Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern relics planted along the stretch of road. The painting above represents the iconic "MiMo" (Miami Modern) architecture that flourished in South Florida from 1945 to 1960. Found in many of the motels along Biscayne, MiMo design is associated with the American obsession with Futurism during the 1950s and 1960s, and was conceptualized in architectural form by acute angles, boomerangs and trapezoid forms.

But this isn't the only architectural style you'll find of interest here. Because construction on Biscayne spans the period from the 1920s through the 1950s, you can find examples of the styles of architecture most popular during each of those decades. And each uniquely adapted to the subtropical vacation destination of this historically significant street. Together, they create a vision of Miami in transition and as such, are a remarkable collection that conveys a microcosm of Miami's history. View these detailed images of The Boulevard and then read on...

The changing wealth of Miami are no better illustrated than in that stretch of pavement called Biscayne Boulevard, or known to locals as simply "The Boulevard." Designated as the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, travel from NE 50th Street to NE 77th Street and observe how the street's architecture reflects the tumultuous economy and social trends of both Miami and the nation.

1920s: Construction began on the street during the real estate boom, introducing a Mediterranean Revival style that would continue into the 1930s.

1930s-mid 1940s: Architectural style was Art Deco. Emerging from the interwar period when rapid industrialization was transforming culture, Deco deliberately moved from the old to a new expression that sought to complement the machine age. Architects began to look for a more unique expression and one that related to a sense of place. In Miami the Art Deco designs featured maritime motifs and native flora and fauna in the building ornament. Examples of motels in this style were taken by Sara and shown below.

It was not until after World War II that the physical character of Biscayne Boulevard exhibited it’s most dramatic change, as the premier location for tourist hotels. By the mid-1950s, the Depression and World War II were over and Americans began an era of unprecedented prosperity. America moved to the suburbs in droves, abandoning the inner city. The nation became an automobile culture, possessing a freedom of movement previously denied them. The increase in automobile travel led to the development of tourist courts and motels. In Miami the consequences were enormous, as millions took to the roads in search of exotic destinations. 

MiMo: Biscayne Boulevard played a key role in this movement as it began and still remains a principal north/south artery thorough Miami. Biscayne Boulevard possesses a wealth of motor courts and motels constructed in the early 1950s, which evidenced not only new building technologies, but also a spirit and identity. For Miami that identity has been characterized as Miami Modern, or MiMo. Biscayne Boulevard contains a high number of surviving motels from this era that are quintessential reminders of this age and architectural expression. Those motels represent the inestimable importance of private automobiles that opened entirely new realms of opportunities for the traveler. 

The word “motel” is first thought to be associated with the Milestone Mo-tel in San Luis Obispo, California that opened in 1926. The word “motor” combined with “hotel” inferred that these accommodations were designed for the highway traveler. Huge signs carried on vertical poles and often sporting a rainbow of neon tubing competed for attention along the “strips”. The success of a motel was dependent on a series of factors. They included climate, access to highways, and the attractiveness of the surroundings, sufficient parking space, and the proximity to tourist destinations. For each factor, the motels of Biscayne Boulevard excelled.

Many of the motels along Biscayne Boulevard are impressive examples of Resort Miami Modernism. Their surviving numbers and the quality of their designs contribute greatly to the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District’s significance. Historic district designation will insure that any new buildings constructed will be required to consider the architectural context of the existing neighborhood. That provision enables an exciting mix of the old and the new.

Below are the photos Sara took that 2011 day while exploring Biscayne Boulevard. She recognized the beauty in these historic buildings. With the face of Miami changing yet again, the integrity of this important street was threatened. Here the Artist embraces her time with the relics.