Chorus of the Deep (something ephemeral and beautifully whole, when seen from the edge of one's vision, too full when taken head on) - CODAworx

Chorus of the Deep (something ephemeral and beautifully whole, when seen from the edge of one’s vision, too full when taken head on)

Client: Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Location: Buffalo, NY, United States

Completion date: 2023

Project Team


Firelei Báez

Associate Curator

Andrea Alvarez

Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Mosaic Fabricator

Mayer of Munich


Firelei Báez was commissioned to create a permanent mural for the Corneilia restaurant, as a part of the newly expanded and renovated Buffalo AKG Art Museum initiative. Restoration of historic elements combined with artistic architectural additions enhance visitors’ experiences of Buffalo’s beloved museum. “Chorus of the Deep” is a colossal, thirty-foot-long mosaic wall, crafted from mosaic tiles, that invites viewers on a captivating journey into the heart of the ocean. Báez draws inspiration from the Afrofuturist concept of Drexciya, an underwater civilization populated by the descendants of Africans thrown overboard during the Middle Passage. Drexciya, envisioned by the Detroit techno duo Drexciya, is a utopian society where inhabitants can breathe underwater. The ocean, for many with a history of enslavement, represents a tragic graveyard. Here, Báez offers a powerful transformation: the ocean as a vibrant underwater haven. Báez paints a picture of a joyful, radiant Drexciyan society brimming with creativity.


Up close, the artwork transforms into a vibrant symphony of color and light, an abstract masterpiece. As you step back, the scene clarifies, revealing figures swimming amidst flourishing sea life. This dynamic experience is precisely what artist Firelei Báez intended. The mosaic's intricate details, achieved through a variety of textures and finishes in the tesserae, encourage exploration from different angles. Within this ever-shifting underwater world, viewers are challenged to find their place, not just visually, but also historically. The otherworldly beauty of "Chorus of the Deep" compels us to confront history from a new perspective, one that celebrates resilience and offers hope for a brighter, interconnected future. She highlights the role of scale, explaining how it fosters intimacy and challenges preconceptions by connecting the artwork directly to the viewer's body. In her own words, "even if some aspects of the artwork remain unclear, everyone experiences the constant of their own physical presence in relation to the piece."


The artisans in Mayer of Munich studio carefully translated Báez’s intensely chromatic painterly composition in a complex mosaic mural. By using subtle gradations and alternating large and small smalti, they were able to match both the animated and the ethereal qualities of the original designs. Báez worked closely with the artisans. Through collaboration and experimentation, this magnificent permanent work will delight visitors each time they visit this world class museum.

Additional Information

Báez, who was born in the Dominican Republic to Dominican and Haitian parents, and now lives and works in New York City, highlights the fact that no place is neutral, and she offers opportunities for viewers to critically engage with established narratives. For her “the benefit of existing in [the] transverse space” of an Afrolatina immigrant whose experiences, identities, languages, and sense of home have naturally been fluid, has granted her a “certain flexibility and adaptability. You move away from this rigidity of form or understanding of self as singular…”[2] and instead celebrate the complexities and nuances of life. Through her work, she offers idyllic possibilities for the future born from the horrific histories of enslavement, imperialism, and other injustices. She sees art as an opportunity to make memory, history, and mythology more present and real to her viewers.