MIAMI – In the vibrant neighborhood of Wynwood, known worldwide for its colorful murals, there are four portraits of baseball players who have contributed to the culture and diversity of American sports: Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle and José Fernández .
Next to La Casa de los Trucos on Calle Ocho is a mural by Gloria and Emilio Estefan with the same colors and vivid style.
These portraits and others scattered throughout Miami look like oil paintings on brick and concrete walls in neighborhoods where their depictions hold great significance. Behind each of them is a Hispanic artist whose love of traditional art is reflected in Miami’s urban street art. His stage name is Disem.
A graffiti artist from a Panamanian, Colombian and Italian family who grew up in Kendall, Disem leaves a piece of Miami wherever he goes. He grew up in a family of artists and art played an important role in his upbringing and his style. His parents met in an art school, so it can be said that his love of art existed before his birth.
As for the name he chose to work with, it was inspired by his childhood nickname he received while playing basketball.
“When I was younger, I had a little afro and played basketball. So the kids in the park started calling me “Disco”, “she said, refusing to reveal her real name and his age.
However, he soon learned that there was another graffiti artist in the Washington, DC area who also called himself “Disco” or “Cool Disco Dan”.
Disem, studying his work, admired his style, but did not want to use the same name out of respect.
Portraits of famous baseball players
Yunel Escobar, former shortstop from Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and others, commissioned Disem to portray baseball players in Wynwood. For his project, he wanted to show diversity in baseball, but he also wanted to honor the Wynwood neighborhood and community.
“We wanted to do something for the community. I’ve interviewed a lot of artists, but because he’s from here, speaks Spanish and is globally recognized, we hired him, ”said Escobar.
They made the decision together for the four players they would add; Jackie Robinson, for pioneering black players in the 1940s during segregation; Roberto Clemente, the first Latin American baseball player to collect 3,000 hits and honor the historically Puerto Rican community of Wynwood; Mickey Mantle, an iconic Yankee; and José Fernández, a Cuban-American pitcher and beloved of the Marlins, who tragically passed away in 2016.
On Calle Ocho, Disem worked with Kcull, a non-profit organization that works to preserve Latin American heritage through art.
Walter Santiago, the founder of Kcull, wanted a portrait of Gloria Estefan, an emblematic Cuban-American artist who was a symbol of self-improvement and success in Miami. After contacting Disem, they decided they would also include her husband, the famous musician and producer Emilio Estefan.
“To me, that piece was about someone who grew up in Miami, who had the same opportunities as everyone else, and just pushed through blood, sweat and tears,” Disem said. There are blood on that portrait. There are tears on that portrait. There is sweat on that portrait to represent the struggle and what you could achieve if you overcome and commit yourself. “
Gloria Estefan went on Instagram after seeing it in person, calling it an “honor”.
Santiago said he will be working with Disem again on another project in Little Havana that will hopefully be unveiled later this year. The mural will be in collaboration with both Disem and Puerto Rican graffiti artist Don Rimx.
As much as she appreciates and appreciates portraits, her favorite piece is a mural she painted outside Survival, a clothing boutique in downtown Miami.
“I think aesthetically it’s a beautiful piece, but at the same time there are a lot of messages where the bullets falling from the sky represent the violence that is created through people pursuing materialistic things,” he said.
“There is a lot of contrast and simple gimmicks that could be caused by the pursuit of materialism, and all of these things coexist in one beautiful place,” he mused.
For the future, and as more and more people recognize his work, Disem hopes that those who appreciate him will find meaning in his graffiti.
“Most of my work has a lot more symbolism,” he concluded. “I want them to see it.”