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The contemporary artist Xavier Cortada takes us on a visual journey inside the intricate relation between Individual and Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

Xavier Cortada's images of constitutional rights

In May It Please the Court, the artist Xavier Cortada portrays ten significant decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States that originated from people, places, and events in Florida. These cases cover the rights of criminal defendants, the rights of free speech and free exercise of religion, and the powers of states. In Painting Constitutional Law, scholars of constitutional law analyze the paintings and cases, describing the law surrounding the cases and discussing how Cortada captures these foundational decisions, their people, and their events on canvas. This book explores new connections between contemporary art and constitutional law. 


Xavier Cortada's visual renderings give us unexpected insights into the psychological realms of the human condition and its social, juridical, and constitutional aspects. Take a glimpse into the author's latest imaginative paintings:


CHAPTER 1: MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT: OF FLORIDA, FROM FLORIDA,

FOR FLORIDA

"Cortada's series is 'of' Florida, cases arising from instances unique to the state, in which Florida people, places, and events produce Florida things because Florida is a weird place full of weird people doing weird things. But those weird events produce legal disputes resulting in constitutional principles affecting the rest of the nation on matters ranging from criminal procedure to freedom of the press to free exercise of religion to property rights to state sovereign immunity."

- Professor and Associate Dean Howard M. Wasserman, Florida International University College of Law

CHAPTER 2: LEGAL ICONOGRAPHY AND PAINTING CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

"The viewers, interpreters, and expositors of Cortada's paintings are constitutional scholars rather than historians or theorists of law, art, or culture. This work analyses common law materials, constitutional cases, and the depiction of specific cases in twenty-first century artwork. It illustrates the potential for legal iconography to offer deeper insights into law, legal institutions, justice, injustice, and legal change in modern society."

- Professor M.C. Mirow, Florida International University College of Law

CHAPTER 3: XAVIER CORTADA: SOCIALLY ENGAGED ACTIVIST ARTIST

"For Cortada, art has the profound ability to bring public awareness to pressing social, environmental, and political issues. His activist art-making includes painted and collaged murals, easel painting, mosaics, site-specific installations, performance, textiles and banners, and interventions in the environment. In this introductory essay to Painting Constitutional Law, I consider the diverse range of Cortada's work, including murals such as Bridging the Gap; Stepping into the American Dream; and Protecting America's Children: A National Message Mural. I give sustained attention to each of the ten easel paintings that make up the May It Please the Court series, which are the subject of this volume. Lastly, I consider Cortada's science-art projects, including the environmental community-sourced Reclamation Project and the science-art installations The Markers (South Pole) and Ancestral Journeys. In this work, Cortada asserts the power of art to build community and make social connections." 

- Associate Professor Renée D. Ater, University of Maryland


Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 4: GIDEON v. WAINWRIGHT

"At first glance, Cortada's painting cannot be described as uplifting or optimistic. The prison setting is depressing, the colors muted and dark [...] But a closer look reveals that the artist has captured some of the most compelling elements of Clarence Gideon's story and his remarkable contribution to the bundle of procedural protections for criminal defendants."


- Professor Paul Marcus, William & Mary School of Law & Professor Mary Sue Backus, University of Oklahoma College of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 5: WILLIAMS v. FLORIDA

"In the gray space of the jury room, Cortada's jurors represent the myriad of perspectives and beliefs that drive the calculus of the verdict. They are everyday citizens who shine in primary colors and simultaneous contrast and union with one another. Together they tell the whole story of the doubt and credibility in the choice between condition or acquittal."

- Professor Jenny E. CarrollUniversity of Alabama School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 6: MIAMI HERALD v. TORNILLO

"Xavier Cortada's rendering of Miami Herald v. Tornillo raises the same questions as the case itself. Who's mouths speak from this newspaper? Do they represent a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Or are they effectively one voice, controlled by the entity that owns the pages? Who's voice does the public here and who decides that question?"

- Professor Leslie C. Kendrick, University of Virginia School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 7: PROFFITT v. FLORIDA

"Cortada's depiction of Proffitt v. Florida could not possibly capture all of these distortions. But what it does capture is perhaps the most important distortion of all - The humanity that is lost when we let legal formulas dictate the decision between life and death. That is the decision that most matters; it is a decision that triggers the machinery of death. Cortada forces us to see this decision more clearly."

- Professor Corinna Barrett Lain, University of Richmond School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 8: PALMORE v. SIDOTI

"Eyes are a central motif in Xavier Cortada's artistic portrayal of Palmore v. Sidoti, and appropriately so. The disembodied and disapproving eyes, in (as Cortada puts it) 'a sea of Caucasian skin,' surround the three figures forming a family tableau at the center of the painting [...] Has the weather changed for multi-racial families - and perceptions of them - since the cloud of disapproving eyes depicted in Xavier Cortada's portrait?"

- Professor Linda C. McClain, Boston University School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 9: CHURCH OF THE LUKUMI BABALU AYE, INC. v. CITY OF HIALEAH

"[For Pichardo,] the symbolism in Cortada's painting reveals a religious reality that is true and beneficial. For other religious leaders in Hialeah, the religious meaning associated with animal sacrifice made the practice especially repugnant. For these opponents, the symbolism in Cortada's painting points to harmful and false religious teaching."

- Senior Fellow Kathleen A. Brady, Emory University School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 10: SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA v. FLORIDA

"Above all, the painting forces us to reckon with conflicting ideas of sovereignty, a status that will strike many as wholly out of place in a government of and by the people, but one to which all three governments depicted in the painting - federal, state, and tribal - have long laid claim."

- Professor James E. Pfander, Northwestern University School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 11: BUSH v. GORE

"In this essay, I want to argue that it is precisely what Cortada depicts with his hourglass - time pressure - that caused the Court to go wrong. Part I reviews what occurred in November and December 2000. Part II describes the Court's decision in Bush v. Gore. Part III discusses what went wrong because of the false perception of time pressure depicted by Cortada."

- Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 12: STOP THE BEACH v. FLORIDA DEP

"Cortada's painting haunts us. And it haunts the processes of law because it forces us to see the smallness of the world that law is often deemed to be. Although the Supreme Court's ruminations and decision in Stop the Beach are 'controlled,' 'cerebral,' and reflect what we expect a court to say, the painting subtly and powerfully indicts the smallness of these processes."

- Professor Laura S. Underkuffler, Cornell University Law School

Image courtesy of Xavier Cortada

CHAPTER 13: FLORIDA v. JARDINES

"Cortada's use of color and structure mirrors this chaotic Fourth Amendment reality. We see a painting born of real life, not realism. We see colors as scents. We see vibrant confusion. We see a distorted frame that tells a story but remains unclear. And this distortion is a perfect representation of the state of the Fourth Amendment leading up to Jardines."

- Professor Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, American University, College of Law


You can learn more about Xavier Cortada's amazing projects on www.cortada.com 

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