The Artists of Coral Gables

In a city recently named the nation’s “ritziest” home market, known for its immensity of culture, it’s no wonder there’s so much art in Coral Gables. What we do wonder at is how many artists there are here. Truly, there is no such thing as a “starving artist” in the City Beautiful. How could there be? Our local artists range far and wide. 

There are Coral Gables natives and escapees of communism, general contractors and princesses of pop culture, rebels and allegorists, history makers and dreamers, realist painters, and abstract sculptors… a collage of the young and old and the new and renowned, using everything from fiber and found objects to paint and pencil to show us something; to make us think. When we first set out to profile these creative Gableites, we were surprised to find so many here.

Even more surprising was the breadth and scope of their works. So we have compiled some of the best and brightest, many of whom are internationally renowned. 

You’ll read about a criminal plot to steal six-figures’ worth of one artist’s works, how one Gables native rediscovered her home in the sunsplashed skies of South Florida, and how one of the best Cuban artists in the world found happiness in our fair city after a life of constant movement. Each has a different philosophy, a different style, and a vastly different personality. 

To see their works in person and get a chance to hear from them directly, join us on Friday, May 24 at the Coral Gables Museum for our collaborative exhibition: “Visions from Inside the Walls: Coral Gables Artists Today.” The exhibition is on view through October 6.

Artists of Coral Gables

The Pride of Poland: Justyna Kisielewicz

Born into the drab world of communist Poland, Justyna Kisielewicz had always dreamed of being not just a professional artist, but a professional artist in America. In 2015, that dream was about to become a reality, when she was invited to do a show in San Francisco. There was only one problem: her entire life’s work had just been stolen. “The story is crazy,” Kisielewicz says. “It could fill a couple of Netflix episodes, to be honest.” 

Right after graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, Kisielewicz was approached by a gallery that was co-owned by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and a Polish Secret Police agent. It was the latter that first spoke to Kisielewicz.

“He offered me stuff that any artist would fall for,” she says. “He was going to show me internationally, he was going to take me to Art Basel…” What he did instead was steal from her.

Robbed of the 17 paintings that comprised her life’s work, Kisielewicz fell into a deep depression. But then hope appeared when the San Franciscan gallery reached out and gave her the time to create new work. The amazing reception for the exhibition led to a visa for “extraordinary abilities in art.” And now, Kisielewicz is hoping to secure U.S. citizenship this month.

Amid all of this, she also found love. When she told her now-husband, an American lawyer she met in California, about the story of the stolen paintings, his reaction was to “sue everyone,” she says with a laugh. “He’s a lunatic!” Even her brother, also an attorney, told her she had no chance of saving her works, given the caliber of people involved in the conspiracy. But Kisielewicz had found a gem in her husband, and three years later, she flew to Poland to testify, returning home with her paintings intact.

In 2021, the couple bought a house in Coral Gables, perfectly situated near two of Kisielewicz’s favorite art stores: Jerry’s Artarama and Blick Art Materials. “My head is full of colors and ideas and I need to have a place to unwind,” the artist says. “Coral Gables is the perfect spot for after-work chilling.”

The rebellious artist’s works have now been featured internationally, from Germany to Australia to Poland. Her distinctive use of vibrant colors and the sometimes-controversial nature of her subject matter has led to high praise from critics and even protests from conservatives in Poland. “There are a lot of feminist artists who are still using female bodies. At the end of the day, when you look at that, you’re still exploiting females. So, my take was, how about we [do that] to men?” Kisielewicz says with a mischievous grin.

Many of her works feature muscular nude male bodies paired with 3D appendages that she crochets and then spray-paints. Most have deeper theme as well, from commentaries on colonialism to the exploration of popular culture. She’s been called the “princess of pop culture,” by Elle Magazine and several of her paintings now hang in the National Museum in Gdansk, Poland.

Artists of Coral Gables

A Generational Talent: Rubén Torres Llorca

One of the most celebrated Cuban artists of his generation, Rubén Torres Llorca would likely tell you he’s more of an “anthropologist”

than anything else. His work, which is world-renowned, encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, and photography, focusing on 20th-century techniques. “I don’t really tell you anything; I don’t give you an opinion about life,” says Torres Llorca of his work. “What I try to do is create a space where we can think together about problems.”

The artist believes there are two “creative moments” associated with every work of art. The first is when the artist creates the piece; the second, when it is viewed by someone else “with a completely different life experience.” Many of his works feature iconic images from American pop culture, especially from 1940s and 1950s film, which he encases in expanding circles of color, juxtaposed with contrasting titles: “Another Happy Ending” with an image of fear. 

Torres Llorca grew up in Cuba, inspired by stories of his artist father, who passed when he was young. “[Art] was a way to be connected to him,” he says. But he wouldn’t consider himself an artist until much later. He graduated from the San Alejandro School of Fine Arts in 1976 and then the Superior Institute of Art in ’81, both in Havana.

Around that time, in January 1981, he was part of a groundbreaking exhibition of Cuban art called “Volumen Uno” (“Volume One”), widely considered to be the launching point of a new era in Cuban art. Since then, his work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the world, from the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami to the Ludwig Forum for International Art in Germany.

But even now, he says, art is not the center of his life. Family holds that title. In fact, that’s how he eventually ended up in Coral Gables. “I promised my children that I would not let them suffer what I did, growing up in Cuba,” explains Torres Llorca. Initially, he moved to Argentina, but the market for art was smaller there, so the family packed up and headed to Mexico. When the Cuban government began pushing him to return to Cuba, Torres Llorca took an opportunity to move to New York and begin doing shows and exhibitions there. Still, Miami — and Coral Gables — was the end goal, mostly because Torres Llorca thought it was a better place to raise children. 

In 1993, that goal was accomplished. “I chose Coral Gables because I try to live a very, very simple life. I don’t like cars. I like to work. I like to buy the food I’m going to use that day. I do whatever I want to do and [people] pay me for it.” However, he acknowledges, “I’m not an easy artist. I’m the kind of dog who bites the hand that feeds him. But I’ve loved, I’ve been loved, and I have two wonderful kids. It’s been a fantastic life, especially considering I was born in a very, very difficult place.”

Artists of Coral Gables

Living in the Clouds: Liv Dockerty

As a native Gableite, Liv Dockerty has always been fascinated by the South Florida skies — specifically, with the clouds. “We get some of the most spectacular skies,” she says. “I’ve lived in other areas where I’ve experienced other sunsets and sunrises, but I just feel like the ones in Miami are so spectacular.”

The combination of South Florida’s flat terrain and the tropical fronts that come in off the ocean, forming the puffy cumulus clumps we all know so well, are what makes the sky come to life, she says.

Dockerty’s depictions of these skies are made evocative by her use of interference paints, which reflect and refract light so that her clouds look like they’re moving as you walk past, or as the light changes in the room.

“The clouds in the sky never stagnate, so it shouldn’t feel flat and stagnant in the art,” says Dockerty. “I live in an apartment building on the eighth floor, and I’ll see the sky, run and grab my phone, and by the time I go to take a photo, it’s changed.”

Despite being a self-described “Gables girl,” Dockerty left in 2010 to pursue an art degree at Parsons School of Design in New York. But she longed for the City Beautiful and its patchwork of colorful skies – so much so, she says, that it affected her mental health.

“I was trying to stick it out in New York,” she says, where opportunities for artists are more widespread. Ultimately, she decided to move back to the Gables, and art became something akin to therapy for her. “I started painting and painting and painting and my career took off from there,” she says.

In 2022, she was part of a group exhibition at the Americas Collection, a Gables-based hotspot for local and Latin American artists. That led to a solo show there in 2023, which she recalls fondly as the moment she felt she’d “made it.” “I’d driven by this gallery hundreds and hundreds of times,” she says. “To have a solo show was major. It felt really special.”

Today, the young artist is wrapping up a residency with the Kimpton EPIC Hotel in Downtown Miami, where she created an interactive pop-up art exhibit called “Liv in the Clouds.” Walking along a hallway lined with mirrors and Dockerty’s works, participants could, in fact, “live in the clouds.” Dockerty isn’t slowing down anytime soon. 

This summer, she plans to release a collection of limited-edition prints on her website, with the idea of becoming accessible to those without deep pockets. Several episodes of a new HGTV show will be aired in July, featuring Dockerty as she works with a client on a customized work depicting a view of the sky from their home. The show is a similar concept to Netflix’s “Designing Miami,” and will showcase the same host, Miami native and interior designer Eilyn Jimenez. “The whole process will be featured on the show, which is exciting,” says Dockerty. “It’s kind of opening a new field for me.”

Artists of Coral Gables

Flexing With Fiber: Aurora Molina

The use of fiber as a textile dates back to 5,000 BC when Ancient Egyptians made linen burial shrouds for their pharaohs. Cotton, wool, and silk are similarly ancient fibers, while today manmade fibers like nylon, polyester, and rayon are commonplace. While you’re likely to see these words printed on your clothing tags, however, you’re less likely to identify them as materials for art. But that’s just what artists like Aurora Molina use them for. 

Molina is a Cuban immigrant who arrived in Coral Gables as a highschooler, attending Gables High while her artist father and architect mother worked. “[My father] used to be the art teacher in the cultural center where we lived and I was his assistant since I was little,” she says. “I used to doodle on my mother’s blueprints. So, I grew up in that world.”

But it wasn’t until Molina took a class at Florida International University called “fiber painting” that she had her “aha” moment. “It gave me the freedom of drawing with a sewing machine,” and the speed to bring her many ideas to life, she says.

The sheer variation of methods used to create fiber art was another draw, with the ability to use embroidery, tufting, knitting, weaving, sewing, and more under the same creative umbrella. But deeper than all of this was her realization of what fiber truly meant to her, its history, and its deep feminine tradition. “[Fiber] holds many memories that have to do with womanhood,” Molina explains. “This has been our language [for so long]. Why not speak through it, tell stories with it?” 

To Molina, a crochet quilt is art, or a denim jacket that’s been embroidered. But because of the “sense of domesticity” that’s intrinsic to fiber art, “it hasn’t been elevated.” She aims to change this, partly through her Red Thread Studio, which she opened this year in Coral Gables. Eighteen multidisciplinary artists work out of the studio, using everything from sewing thread to tufting guns in order to create their pieces. 

Molina also hosts classes and workshops for both adults and children who are interested in fiber arts. “I feel like I also have a responsibility to do much more than just my work,” she says. “My work is in different collections and museums, but I’ve always felt that was circumstantial. That’s more like a consequence of the hard work. It means more to me seeing [one of my students] get into art school.”

That sense of community is also represented in her art, like a series she just finished that focuses on childhood memories, using felt to replicate photos of her family. “The texture that it has and the colors I’m using have to do with memory,” she says. “The quality of the material, the technique, and the fact that I have to sit there for hours [making it] has to do with the same thing, of going back to that particular time that I want to represent in the piece. It’s soft, it’s fragile… almost like a dream of a memory.”

Angela Bolaños

Angela Bolaños is a multidisciplinary artist and educator whose vibrant, textural works explore identity, perception, and the amalgamation of her Honduran roots with experiences in Miami and Portland. Born in Honduras, Bolaños’ early memories shaped her affinity for vivid colors and organic forms as an escape from monotony.

After studying theatre in Portland for eight years, she returned to Miami in 2014, reigniting her passion for the visual arts. Bolaños creates dimensional pieces using textiles, reflective surfaces, found objects, and traditional media. Her process-driven practice juxtaposes geometric patterns with free-flowing, biomorphic shapes achieved through expressive brushwork and embroidery techniques connected to her ancestry.

Artists of Coral Gables

Bolaños’ rich, ebullient artworks represent physical expressions examining how memory and the ephemeral nature of time influence one’s sense of self across cultures. In addition to her studio practice, she is an active teaching artist, facilitating creative discovery at institutions like Perez Art Museum Miami. Bolaños aims to inspire others to explore their own identities through artmaking.

Her work has been exhibited internationally, with notable recent and upcoming shows at Books & Books Coral Gables, the Breakwater Hotel during Art Week Miami, and Guadeloupe. With an MFA and background in arts administration, Bolaños’s multidisciplinary approach harmonizes diverse perspectives into a distinctive vision celebrating the human experience.

James Palma

James Palma is a talented architect and photographer with a career spanning over 35 years. His expertise in architecture, urban design, and interior design has led him to work on numerous large-scale projects for prestigious clients such as the U.S. General Services Administration and Miami-Dade County. Among his notable contributions, Palma served as the senior project manager for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the Miami International Airport Terminal, and the Frost Museum of Science, showcasing his ability to oversee and execute complex architectural projects.

As a photographer, Palma has garnered significant recognition for his work, which exhibits a mastery of various themes and subjects. His photographs have  been featured in several exhibitions and are included in both corporate and private collections. Palma’s primary focus is on capturing the artistic essence of the built environment, showcasing his keen eye for composition and detail in architectural photography.

Palma’s photographic portfolio also demonstrates his versatility and sensitivity as an artist. His studies of Italian memorial sculpture reveal an uncommonly delicate vision, providing a striking contrast to the bold, polished, and hard-edged style of his architectural images. This ability to adapt his photographic approach to different subjects highlights Palma’s artistic range.

In addition to his photographic and architectural work, Palma has designed and published more than 25 books. He is also a sought-after speaker, having delivered numerous live presentations on his various subjects, further cementing his position as a respected figure in both the architectural and photographic communities.

Linda Burgess 

Linda Burgess is an acclaimed artist whose poetic paintings inhabit the elusive space where memory and reality overlap. With deft brushwork and a mastery of light and atmosphere, she elevates mundane elements into iconic images loaded with underlying allegory. By capturing familiar yet fragmented moments crystallized in time, Burgess creates evocative visual narratives that intrigue the viewer.

Over her three-decade career, Burgess has exhibited extensively in galleries and museums across the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Her works are in major public and private collections including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Mint Museum, The Polaroid International Collection, and the Zimmerli Museum of Art. In addition to her prolific studio practice, Burgess is an accomplished writer and former professor. She has authored articles for Art & Antiques, ARTnews, and The Washington Review. She received her BA in Art and Music from Appalachian State University, and her MFA from Rutgers under painter Leon Golub. 

She also taught painting as an associate professor at Birmingham-Southern College and the University of New Haven in Saudi Arabia. Burgess is married to artist William Dunlap, with whom she had a visiting artist residency in Rome in 2009. The family resides between Florida, Virginia, and Mississippi, spending significant time in the artistically rich Mississippi Delta region.

Through her luminous works and cross-disciplinary pursuits, Burgess continues to push the boundaries of how we perceive and engage with the fragmented recollections that shape our lived realities. 

William Dunlap

William Dunlap, born in Houston, Mississippi in 1944, is a renowned artist, writer, arts advocate, and commentator with a career spanning more than four decades. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi College in 1967 and his M.F.A. from the University of Mississippi in 1969. Dunlap taught at Appalachian State University in North Carolina from 1970 to 1979 and at Memphis State University from 1979 to 1980 before dedicating himself fulltime to his artistic practice.

His work, which he describes as “hypothetical realism,” encompasses large-scale narrative paintings, constructions, printmaking, sculpture, and photography, exploring history, allegory, and the creative process itself. Dunlap’s paintings, sculpture, drawings, and constructions are included in numerous public and private collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

The artist has received various honors and awards, including the Danforth Award in the Visual Arts (1969), international artist fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lila Wallace Foundation, and grants from the Warhol Foundation and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. 

He has also co-curated exhibitions that have traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. In addition to his visual art, Dunlap is the author of “SHORT MEAN FICTION: Words and Pictures” and the subject of a comprehensive survey entitled “DUNLAP.” He is a sought-after lecturer and a regular contributor of arts commentary on Washington, D.C.’s “Around Town,” a cultural round table review on WETA-TV.

Marisa Telleria

Marisa Tellería’s minimalist approach encourages attentive viewing, drawing attention to both what is present and what is absent. The references to her personal history within some pieces explore the interplay between self and place, the subjectivity of memory, and how the filters accumulated through movement and transition affect one’s perception. Her practice is centered on exploring perception through reductive, elemental forms, and attenuated signs.

By distilling situations and creating seemingly unaltered environments, Tellería invites viewers to slow down and experience quiet, fleeting moments of sensorial engagement. Her works serve as documents of these ephemeral instances, aiming to suspend the space between observation and conceptualization, allowing for a corporeal, synesthetic understanding unencumbered by immediate notions of meaning.

Tellería was born in Nicaragua and received her BFA from Florida International University in 1993 and her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in ‘96. Her works are held in the collections of the Frost Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Weatherspoon Museum, among others. Notable solo exhibitions include shows at the Frost Art Museum (2014), Lehman College Art Gallery (2005), and Fusebox Gallery (2003). 

Tellería has also participated in group exhibitions at the Pérez Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Albright-Knox Gallery, and the Museo del Barrio. She continues to explore the landscapes of perception through her reductive, experiential works, inviting viewers to engage with the present moment and their own processes of seeing and understanding. 

Shaun Nowrouzi 

With a knack for creativity and a lifelong interest in the mechanics of working parts, Shaun Nowrouzi started his career as a builder and contractor, which is where his passion for creation first bloomed. His company, Modular Contractors, specialized in niche markets with a focus on high-end buildings and educational and healthcare facilities. Clients included Baptist Hospital, University of Miami, and Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart.

It wasn’t until a 2006 visit to Europe cemented his inspiration in monuments, museums, and exhibits that Nowrouzi realigned with his long-held passion for metalworking as art. The results are evocative: three-dimensional fabrications, a blend of colorful physicality and abstract metals, many of which he exhibits at his Coral Gables home. There, amongst lush foliage and gentle sunlight, Nowrouzi seamlessly merges metal and nature in a whimsical sculpture garden

Dreamily harmonizing with flora amidst figurative ballet dancers and purple metal flames, each pedestal and piece is imagined and designed by Nowrouzi before being sculpted in aluminum and other metals. All are designed, he says, to appear as outdoor pieces in gardens.

“They dance with the landscape the pieces are set in,” he explains. “It’s not just about dropping statues in a yard…. It’s about the garden as a whole.” The deeply personal nature of the backdrop adds another element of intimacy to his works; the idea is not to simply view individual works, but to understand the exhibition as artwork itself.

Peter Studl

Austrian native and Gables resident (his home is the city’s oldest), Peter Studl is a curator of found objects and the intimate grains of the physical world, creating multi-dimensional abstract works. Studl received his bachelor’s from the University of Illinois and a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, then ventured into real estate development before settling on art. 

Studl was founding chairman of the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, and was an early board member of The New Art Examiner magazine. In his works, the self-taught artist combines intense natural, industrial, and traditional materials to bridge the gap between visual art and physical objects. Scraps, coal dust, and metal shavings all have a permanent place in his works, which often represent technologies constantly being replaced. 

With movement, depth, and interest beyond the new technologies of the art world, Studl’s works move fluidly between memory and sound, crisis and peace, violence and love. Sometimes soft and sweeping, but mostly edgy and imbued with energized emotion, they are textured and layered with complexity.

Relying on flashes of memory from world travel as well as local moments from inside the City Beautiful, Studl’s pieces are experiential and sensory, with messaging that still often transcends technological motifs to allow the viewer to question planetary subjects from respect to freedom to the political machine. Studl’s teenage daughter, Avignon, an aspiring artist, works alongside him in his Gables studio, combining copper, selenite, and gold to make similarly layered works.

Kenia Arguiñao

Kenia Arguiñao, born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, in 1983, is a contemporary artist whose works have garnered international recognition. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts “Benny Moré” in Cienfuegos in 2006 and the Higher Institute of Art in Havana in 2011, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a focus on painting.

Arguiñao’s artistic practice has been showcased in numerous prestigious venues, including the Centre of Visual Arts Development, Havana Galerie (Zurich), James Braddock Park Art Center (New Jersey), and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. She has participated in notable events such as the Salon of Contemporary Cuban Art, the Havana Biennial, and Art Basel Miami.

Artists of Coral Gables

In addition to her solo exhibitions, Arguiñao has been featured in significant group shows, including “Abstracting History: On the Horizon of Contemporary Cuban Art” (PAMM, 2017), “Kindred Spirits: Ten Artists by the Hudson” (Coral Gables Museum, 2018), and “Cuba Inside & Out” (TOTH Gallery, New York, 2019). Her works are held in the collections of PAMM and private collections throughout the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.

Arguiñao’s talent has been recognized through residencies at the Gilbert Brownstone Foundation in Paris (2012) and the Vermont Studio Center (2019). These opportunities have allowed her to further develop her artistic vision and engage with international art communities. Through her thought-provoking and visually striking works, Kenia Arguiñao continues to make a significant impact on the contemporary art scene, both in her native Cuba and abroad.