Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Re-Imagining O'Keeffe & Steiglitz at Ice House Gallery

Our Georgia by Alfstad&
I need to trust my instincts more often.  Sometimes I hear about a show or an exhibit that piques my interest, but I can't get myself motivated to get out the door, especially if a drive to Sarasota is required.  And so, two week-ends ago, I missed the opportunity to see actress Jenny Aldrich doing her impersonation of Georgia O'Keeffe.  The event took place at the show "Re-imagining Georgia O'Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz: 2014" at the new Ice House Gallery in Sarasota.

Sculptural stripe series 

With or without Aldrich's performance, the show sounded fascinating.  The concept was for artists from around the world to "re-imagine" the works of O'Keeffe and Stieglitz using media as varied as ink jet paintings, digital design, installations, silkscreens, and dance.  The show had a limited run -- only from February 8th-16th  -- so when Dorrit and I (along with Dorrit's long-time friend Lindy) ended up in Sarasota last Sunday, we stopped in to check it out.

From the Airbrush Portrait series by Roberto Carlos Trevino
Before we were even inside the doors, I knew we had discovered something special.  In the alcove above the desk was a photograph entitled "Icons of the Old West" that pictured O'Keeffe and John Wayne.  (You might have even guessed the pairing if you put your head to it and thought outside the box, which is what this show was all about.)  The "artist" was listed as Alfstad&.  When I asked the owner what that meant, he said the work was a collaborative effort created by artists brought together by an organization headed by Sam Alfstad.  Hence, the "Alfstad&" brand.   The mission of the Sarasota-based Alfstad& includes "to reimagine how to make and market art, to appropriate ideas and imagery, to create a dialogue between the past and the future, and to expand the boundaries of creativity in the 21st century."  If "Re-Imagining O'Keeffe and Stieglitz" is representative of their work, count me in!

From Nathan Wilson's Multiverse
The show was filled with creative and exciting art.  The first room included a Virtual O'Keeffe and Stieglitz section created by Nathan Wilson.  The actual work is entitled "Multiverse" and is an installation piece of aggregated commentary about O'Keeffe and Stieglitz that Wilson culled from social media sources.  (Be careful what you post out there -- it might end up in someone's art work!)   Each little piece within the installation was a gem, and the whole was truly bigger than its parts.  I could have spent an hour enjoying just this portion of the show.

From there I was on to the Letters Installation.  Over the course of their 31 year relationship, O'Keeffe and Stieglitz exchanged more than 25,000 pages of correspondence.  The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale houses the letters (along with photographs, paintings, and drawings by the couple).  The book entitled "My Faraway One: Volume One" (which reproduced 650 of their early letters) actually provided the inspiration for this show.

Lindy and Dorrit
The Letters Installation is a room blanketed with pages from their correspondence.  The room is divided into two areas:  O'Keeffe's side was styled after her home in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, while Stieglitz' side replicated the feel of Oaklawn, his family estate on Lake George, New York.  Etched onto one of the walls was a quote from one of O'Keeffe's letters that read, "We seem to be one no matter if we are miles apart."

Cameron and Dorrit with Skull Candy Masculine 
and Skull Candy Feminine

My jaw literally dropped when I rounded a corner and saw the astonishingly beautiful photographs created by Betsy Cameron.  The works were inspired by O'Keefe's large flower paintings.  As a bonus, the artist was there with her tripod and camera.  (I suspect she was there to photograph a dance performance by Fuzion Dance Artists that we weren't able to stay for.)

Magic Dust by Betsy Cameron
Embarrassingly, I couldn't think of any insightful questions for her.  I already knew the inspiration for the works.  She patiently waited to answer whatever queries I came up with.  How did she create her works?  She started with a picture of a flower and spent weeks developing the image in Photoshop.  How did she get involved in the show? Sam Alfstad is her ex-husband and, notwithstanding their divorce, is a big fan of her flower photographs.   Is she known for her pictures of flora and fauna?  Nope.  Cameron made her career hand painting her photographs of children.  In fact, her work entitled "Two Children" is the best-selling poster in the world. (I learned this last bit when I googled her work, not from Cameron.) With that, we exchanged cards, and I was back into the show.

"New York Night" by Alfstad&
The "Frame Series" included this striking work by Alfstad& entitled "New York Night."  This work, like the others in the series, appropriates one of Stieglitz' famous photographs and then "adapts Stieglitz' vision to the chopped and mixed aesthetics of today's hip hop world."  Just to give you a sense of how many people were involved in the creation of this single work, the wall card credits Ben Nathan for design, Austin Kowal for serigraph, and Dari Goggans for the frame. The work was created using an Epson Ultrchrome HDR inkjet with synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.  Now that's a mouthful!

I can't remember when I've been to an exhibit so truly exciting.  "Re-imagining" the work of O'Keeffe and Stieglitz resulted in a show that was fresh and vibrant and provided participating artists (working alone or with others) the opportunity to honor these two great artists in their own way.  I asked several people if the show was going elsewhere, and nobody seemed to know.  It would surely be a shame if more people don't get a chance to enjoy this exhibit.  One thing is for sure:  I will listen in the future to that little voice in my head.    

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