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Artistic medium promotes message of equality

By Paula ParkKarina Pavone
--Published April 5, 1996, Daily Business Review

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Miami lawyer Xavier Cortada’s canvas and courtroom are one. A community activist as well as an artist, Cortada uses a paintbrush and a palette of colors to show where he thinks justice has been denied.

On Thursday, three of Cortada’s primitive/cubist paintings go on display at a Soho, New York, gallery. He has shown work in California, Washington, D.C., East and South Africa and Spain.

Painting is not Cortada’s only medium. A program direct for the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), he works at trying to establish neighborhood organizations to improve communities. He gets youths into the picture by organizing them into teams that paint murals on building facades.

They have painted a door at the Modello housing project in South Dade. And they are working on two projects with a farm workers’ group, Centro Campesino, in Florida City and Homestead.

Cortada sees law and painting as two ways of saying the same thing. "My passion is to try and bring equality to this world," Cortada says. "It’s just different mediums for the same thing, trying to bring a message."Cortada chairs the Dade County Bar Association’s Juvenile Court Committee. He’s also a member of the county’s Juvenile Justice Council. Both focus on troubled youths.

Youths growing up in poverty and the mother who has to fight to feed them are the subject of one of the three Cortada paintings going on exhibit in the groups show "Women Through the Eyes of Latin American Artist," at the Carib Gallery in New York, starting Thursday.

Cortada says he designed the painting, titled "America’s Cinderella," in response to political talk about poor women giving birth in an effort to increase their welfare benefits. "It’s a fantasy to think that these women are in the cycle of poverty by choice," he says.

Another, "Adultery," shows the suffering of an abandoned wife and children. The third, "Voyeur," shows a woman surrounded by eyes, representing her inability to be alone.

Cortada started painting when he was 7 while watching his father, Carlos Cortada and uncle, Eddy Cortada, paint. Eddy Cortada owned Galleria 4, one of he first Cuban galleries in Miami.

Xavier Cortada has worked with art and with community groups all over the world, as a guest speaker and trainer for the United States Information Agency. In 1994, he worked with youth and community groups in Spain, Portugal and Africa.

Wherever he goes, Cortada says, he has found that art is "a very unthreatening medium."