Visual art answers many questions. “Who?” and where?” are the focus of the regional exhibit “Faces and Places” at the Art Center Sarasota, which called for art that reflected artists’ homes and local identities. 173 Florida-based artists responded and the work you will see is based on their submissions, and the work was judged by Amanda Cooper, chief curator of the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg.
Karla Pirona“Southgate” (2022), which won first place, is a richly detailed oil painting of the modernist marquee at Southgate Mall in Lakeland, not Sarasota. The Pirona piece is definitely not painted by numbers. Let’s start with the proportions. The painting has the widescreen aspect ratio of widescreen film, like a freeze frame of a letterboxed director’s cut. What looks photographic across the room looks painterly up close. A scene of lush colors and impressionistic sunbeams.
But Pirona’s framing of the image is also off the beaten track. The mall entrance is in the center of the painting. As a rule, it should dominate the illusory window of the canvas. But Pirona relegated it to the lower right, in a view across the parking lot – a cropped view, cutting off the cars in the foreground. A sky of stratocumulus clouds receding in perspective fills most of the picture. Pirona’s work breaks the rules of landscape painting, architectural rendering (and photography, for that matter). It is certainly something else.
Second place went to Li Volk‘s “Shane” (2021), a charcoal-on-paper portrait of a journalist based in the Philippines. The woman’s face is very detailed. Here, the technique is surprisingly realistic; the hair, eyes, shadows and modeling are all in high resolution, like a high grain black and white photograph. Moving away from Shane’s face, the edges of the image blur like a rain-spattered window. Volk’s technique becomes more gestural. Charcoal smears create rhythmic patterns for themselves. The combined result is a beautiful blend of representation and abstraction.
David FithianThe oil on canvas “Quiet Pool” (2021) by took third place. This slice of summer reveals a partyless pool. A scene on a terrace: swimming pool, slide and deckchairs rendered in subtropical colors and playful geometry. It evokes the Sarasota Schoolhouse hotels on Lido Key in the 1960s – the Three Crowns, perhaps. The only thing missing are the people, although the view of the painting works for a diver on a platform, looking down and ready to jump.
Honorable mentions went to Brian Jones’ “Pink” (a shot of a right-angled hot pink modernist building adorned with curly graffiti); “Federal Style Living Room” by Tony Souza (an acrylic-on-canvas painting of a textured, gold interior as detailed as an elaborate dollhouse); Alaina Pompa’s “Sunday Float at Siesta” (a multi-layered, multicolored multimedia piece depicting two girls on the beach at sunset); and Nika Zusin’s witty “Home” (a plastic sculpture with severe, industrial angles, its only organic shape, a golden figure leaning its head on the wall like Charlie Brown).
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The Merit Awards went to Tony Reinemann’s “Danger on a Sutton Place Terrace” (a pencil-on-paper scene of a wild hawk gazing at an apartment full of cats) and “Bottoms Up!” by Gianna Santucci. (an oil painting on canvas of four uninhibited friends toasting).
The show’s official winners are a small sample, if not so random. Some artists have taken the “Faces and Places” theme literally. Others have returned it to places in the heart and faces in the mind’s eye. There’s some fancy craftsmanship here – plus some playful eye candy that’s caught the eye of some kids taking an art class. According to Kinsey Robb, executive director of the Art Center, they were counting the paintings inside one of Tony Souza’s paintings.
What was his vision for the show? Pleasure? Relief? Surprise?
“All of the above,” she said, “Doing a regional art show always makes me nervous, especially at the end of a pandemic! I kept thinking, ‘Are we going to get an answer?’ The answer was an overwhelming “Yes”. We have received so many exceptional pieces. Amanda Cooper has done an amazing job selecting the best of the best.
After “Faces and Places” wraps August 6, Art Center Sarasota will kick off a new season from September 1-30 with “POP!¨ a celebration of Pop Art
“Faces and Places”
Through Aug. 6, at Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-365-2032; artsarasota.org
Read more visual arts reporting and reviews by Marty Fugate