Monday, April 4, 2016

Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy

Flamingo by Frederick Prescott

I've driven by the Museum of Whimsy in Sarasota dozens of times, always intending to stop and check it out. After all, it's hard not to wonder why there's a giant flamingo on Tamiami Trail. But I'd never made it in for a visit. In large part, this was due to the Museum's limited hours. (It's open from 1:00-4:00 on Thursday through Sunday during the season.) If I'm being honest, though, I also hadn't made it a priority because I expected the space would be full of kitsch with no "real" art.  I finally made it there a couple of weeks ago with Dorrit and Lindy in tow. It was definitely worth the stop.

The Museum is the creation of Marietta Lee. Lee's original occupation was as a nurse, working primarily as an EMT/paramedic. Haunted by a particularly gruesome crash scene, Lee began to sketch what she had seen. She felt her spirits lift. Not long after, she left the medical world to pursue a career in art. She graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in 1991.

By Theresa Disney
Lee's belief in the therapeutic power of art has never faltered. In 2009 she founded the Museum of Art and Whimsy in order to "create a space where people could relax and forget their problems even if only for a brief moment, to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy the present."

The Museum is in the process of expanding (with a cafe and gift shop in the works) and didn't open in December as it usually does. So many people were knocking and peering through the windows, though, that Lee broke down in February and decided to let visitors see the Museum in progress. As a result, wall cards for the works were not up during our visit, so I am only able to identify the artists in the creations shown here. Feel free to make up your own names!
By Joyce Curvin
The collection is a combination of works Lee has commissioned and works she has found across the country. (One docent laughingly said that Lee can't be let loose when an art show is around.) All of the art in the Museum was made by artists who make a living by selling their work.

This paper mache K-9 was created by Joyce Curvin and, like all of Curvin's works, is made of "multi-cycled" materials. This cutie's core is a 2 litre soda bottle; a tuna can provides the foundation for his face. A St. Pete artist, Curvin is now on my list to look for at art shows in the area.

With Dorrit and Lindy

Some of my favorite works were the ceramic totems created by Mexican artists Dan and Nisha Ferguson (working together as DaNisha Sculpture).  Dan creates the molds and Nisha does the painting. Their work comes together in the design of the sculptures. The towers in the Museum proper feature barnyard animals while the totems in what will be the cafe are made of fish. They are a great example of fine--but fun--art.

The kitsch level increases as you walk into the gardens with its monkeys hanging from the trees, flamingos populating the grassy areas and flying pigs taking a break from their adventures.We were drawn to the benches with hippo and cow heads, respectively. (The outdoor works had name plates and these were called "Hippo Chair" and--wait for it--"Cowch.")  They were created by Keith Bradley from steel, horseshoes and found objects.

With Lindy and Dorrit

A visit to the Museum of Art and Whimsy won't make you think about art and its political context or place in history. But it will make you appreciate the power of art to engage your light-hearted side and, as Lee intended, lift your spirits. And there's something to be said for that.

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