Saturday, September 14, 2013

Exposed: Face & Figure at the Lee County Alliance for the Arts

I am a big fan of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers.   In fact, the traveling show that the Alliance hosted for Black History Month in 2011 was one of the first exhibits I saw after moving to Southwest Florida, and it made me realize there are some pretty cool things going on in this neck of the woods.  (If you're interested in reading about that show, you can click here:  http://nanettesnewlife.blogspot.com/2011/02/black-creativity-arts-alliance-in-fort.html .)  And I love the fact that the Alliance has a small auditorium on site that is home to Theatre Conspiracy.  So, I find myself at the Alliance from time to time when there's an exhibit or a show that's piqued my interest.

A Bit Happy and a Little
Crazy
by Kellen Beck Mills
Last week I made the journey to attend the opening reception of Exposed:  Face & Figure.  I'll admit that I had a bit of an ulterior motive.  I knew that some artists would be there, and I wanted to promote the National Art Exhibition that the Visual Arts Center will be hosting in February.

The show included works by 31 artists who had been invited to submit "engaging and provocative depictions of the human form."  As I walked around the galleries, I was struck by the variety in the works, which included both all types of two dimensional art -- collage, painting, photography -- and sculpture.  I am always a fan of collage, and this work by Kellen Beck Mills caught my eye (perhaps because  the subject reminded me of Frida Kahlo).  When I googled Mills, I learned that she has created a Donna Quixote series of collages, and I suspect that this is part of the series.  Mills says, "The character, Donna Quixote, is a transformation of an earlier character of Wonder Woman.  She is a stumblebum super heroine who is like a paper doll, finding herself in various costumes, environments, and adventures."  I like it.

Black Sweater/White Skirt by Alicia Schmidt
As I rounded a corner of the gallery, I found myself drawn to Alicia Schmidt's Black Sweater/White Skirt.  The medium is conte, a term I wasn't familiar with.  Conte sticks are fat artist "crayons" most commonly found in shades of black, white, and gray.   Again, I took to the internet to find out more about Schmidt.  I learned that she's quite an accomplished artist whose works are included in many a corporate collection, including that of Neiman Marcus. There's a nice video on her website that was put together by Neimans entitled "The World of Alicia Schmidt."  The video lauds her art as "interpreting through simplification," which you can see in this work.  (If you're interested in seeing the video, go to     http://www.aliciaschmidtgallery.com/ )

Media Goddess by Pat Collins
Perhaps my favorite work in the show is Media Goddess by Pat Collins.  Who wouldn't like a mannequin decoupaged with feminist statements? The mannequin's breasts are topped with a headline about a court ruling granting women the right to go topless. Based on an excerpt (on the torso) from an article about the ruling, it appears that the judge made his decision based on the fact that "all breasts are physiologically similar."  I presume this refers to the biological similarity between men's breasts, which of course are bared frequently in public, and women's breasts.  I wasn't able to find out anything more about the court's ruling, but I did find an entry on Wiki about "TopFreedom."    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topfreedom  While I understand this issue in the context of mothers wanting to breastfeed their infants in public places (discretely, one would hope), I don't quite get putting a lot of energy into the cause of having the right to go topless.   In any event, Media Goddess is a truly fascinating work and an interesting take on the subject of the human figure.

Faceless #6 by Marcus Jansen
I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the show included a work by Marcus Jansen, a local artist with some serious international credentials.   I first learned about Jansen a couple of years ago when I went on an artists' studio tour sponsored by the Alliance.  Jansen's studio is housed in a warehouse (which is necessary given the sheer size of many of his works) and was the venue for a post-tour reception.  Jansen is a Gulf War veteran, and his experiences there have a definite influence on his art.   In 2011, Absolut vodka "boldly made its iconic bottle into a blank canvas to inspire artists throughout the world to collaborate and fill it with creativity."  (This over-the-top statement is from Absolut's press release.)   Jansen was tapped as one of 18 artists selected to create such a work.  In doing so, Jansen became part of a long line of artists (starting with Andy Warhol) commissioned by Absolut to paint bottles to be used in its advertising campaigns.  It's quite a fun collection.      http://www.absolutartcollection.com/#/step-1   Jansen's works are included in museums around the world, and it's a coup for the Alliance to have one of his works in its show.

I came away from the reception quite pleased that I'd opted for making the trek to Fort Myers to see the show over going home to sit on my couch.  (It was touch and go there for a while, though!)   I was able to promote the upcoming National Art Exhibition while seeing some fun and thought-provoking art.  That's what I call a win-win.  





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