13-Foot-Tall Painting is “One Hell of a Party”

Humberto Benitez's will go to any length -- or in this case, height -- to please his clients

It's a huge, vivid painting, colors and shapes jump off the canvas. Artist Humberto Benitez says he buys paints off the shelf but he juices 'em up with his own hues. The Cuban-themed works are exotic, erotic, and full of motion. His style has earned the self-taught Coral Gables artist a reputation as one South Florida's best recognized artists among those who are in the know.

And that big painting? It is a story all by itself.

Called "Casa Fiesta" and nicknamed "One Hell of a Party," the painting is 13 feet tall and 14 feet long and is designed to fit next to a stair case. The painting is so big Benitez decided that to work on it safely he'd rig it up like a sail. He could then lower the canvas so he could paint the top half of the Havana Carnival street scene.

"I worried I would get so into the painting I would forget I was on a ladder and fall."

The project took three months and was what the artist terms a daunting challenge. And why not just do a mural? Benitez said he asked the person that commissioned the work if he had considered what he would do if the home was sold.

Good question, because the client collects Benitez's art and this project would be a centerpiece of the collection. So the painting would be painted on canvas and then stretched across a huge frame.

And if the painting was to be moved and not displayed around a staircase? Benitez did not complete the portion of the painting that will be dissected by the staircase. He will fold the blank canvas under the frame and then, if moved, the painting will be completed in full.

The next trick is to install the painting. It will be rolled up and taken to the home. The framer says it will have to be stretched standing up as there is no room on the client's floor to complete the task horizontally.

"He says he has never done one this big, but no problem," the artist said.

A lot of art, a little structural engineering, and knowledge of sailing tossed in makes for a unique "Only in Miami" project.

So what's next for Benitez? He says it's top secret, but offered a hint: It's just about as big -- but there is no staircase involved.

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