Local artists’ diverse talents highlighted at three local art institutions
The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (MFA) is pleased to collaborate with the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Tampa Museum of Art to present an exhibition that brings together a wide variety of works by artists who live in the Tampa Bay area. “Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration” opens Saturday, June 24 at the MFA and will remain on view through Oct. 1.
The exhibition is presented across all three museums and includes works from 57 artists who live in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. Twenty-four of those artists are featured at the MFA. The exhibition does not have a formulated theme: Instead, curators have drawn connections, both aesthetic and conceptual, between the works.
Gender, sexuality and the representation of bodies are among the themes examined at the MFA’s portion of the exhibition, in particular, in works by Neil Bender and Caitlin Albritton.
“These are themes that are important to discuss in relation to a variety of LGBTQ issues,” said Katherine Pill, the MFA’s curator of contemporary art at the MFA. “These artists challenge both traditional representations of the idealized body and gender roles.”
Bender’s installation uses painting and collage to explore the complex negotiations between human desire and social norms between masculinity and gender identity. Viewers may recognize some notable wrestling figures with a local connection in Tussle.
Albritton’s recent series of narrative paintings explore gym culture. These humorous and sexually suggestive paintings upend notions of an ideal body. Her painting, Can I Get a Spot? (Incline Press), shows the strangeness of the body, and the peculiarity of certain gym exercises.
Challenging themes of violence, extremism and radicalization are also present in the exhibit.
“Art has a power to reflect and provoke creative, thoughtful engagement with current issues,” said Kristen A. Shepherd, executive director of the MFA. “It’s our hope that the works will invoke respectful dialogue about the themes and issues presented.”
Gregory Green’s installation, Worktable #9, he of Righteousness (Minneapolis, Saint Petersburg), simulates a working bomb-building workshop, although it does not include the dangerous materials that would make it truly functional. Green investigates violence and technology as agents for social dialogue and political change. He approaches it from a pacifist standpoint by exploring the external factors that create radicalization in human beings.
Noelle Mason similarly examines the social, cultural and political factors that result in extremism and radicalization. In her installation, Love Letters/White Flag, Mason takes a craft-based approach to distressing subject matter as she recreates the journal entries of the Columbine High School shooters on handkerchiefs and embroidery. The laborious act of stitching is not meant to glorify the writings of the killers, but instead to provide a chance to meditate on the factors that led to such violence.
“Some of the works remind us that we live in an increasingly divided and violent world,” said the MFA’s Shepherd. “The exhibition includes subject matter that may be uncomfortable or difficult on many levels, but we affirm the museum’s role as a safe place for expression, reflection and dialogue. We expect our visitors will find works in this exhibition to be uplifting as well as thought provoking.”
Politics, memory and loss are also themes in “Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration.”
In addition, portraiture takes on many forms in works by Claudia Ryan, Rob Tarbell, Peg Trezevant, and Joo Yeon Woo. Craft is an underlying theme, as expressed in artworks by April Hartley, Cassia Kite, Akiko Kotani, and Marie Yoho Dorsey.
Two very different approaches to the canon of art history are taken by Wendy Babcox and Anthony Record, while formal and conceptual color explorations dominate work by Pat Blocher, Bryce Hudson, and Walter Matthews.
A committee of curators from each of the three institutions and guest juror Diana Nawi, associate curator at Pérez Art Museum Miami, selected the works from nearly 300 submissions. Skyway exhibits the breadth and depth of contemporary art currently being made in the Tampa Bay area, and also sets a new precedent for institutional collaboration.
The MFA has created a series of events to celebrate “Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration.” Three panel discussions with artists who are featured in the exhibition are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on July 20, Aug. 24 and Sept. 21. The lists of artists participating in the Wayne W. and Frances Knight Parrish Series will be announced at a later date.
With a nod to the water that surrounds us, view Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), directed by Jack Arnold, Thursday, June 22 at 6 p.m. The classic horror film tells the mythical story of a dangerous half-human, half-fish creature lurking in the depths of the Amazon. The screening is free with MFA admission.
Also, enjoy Florida’s culinary history and innovation during the Simmer & Sift: Summer Cooking Series in conjunction with “Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration.” The series includes four notable Florida chefs: Kenny Tufo of St. Petersburg’s Sea Salt (June 28), Lauren Macellaro of St. Petersburg’s The Reading Room (July 26), James Beard Award semifinalist Greg Baker of Tampa’s The Refinery and Fodder & Shine (Aug. 23), and James Beard Award-winning Norman Van Aken of Mount Dora’s 1921 (Sept. 27). Beginning at 6 p.m., each event includes a discussion with a talk by the historian, a chef’s demonstration, tasting and a signature cocktail. Registration is $50 per person ($40 for MFA members).
About the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
The MFA has a world-class collection, with works by Monet, Morisot, Rodin, O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, and many other great artists. Also displayed are ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. Selections from the photography collection, one of the largest and finest in the Southeast, are now on view in a gallery dedicated to the medium. Located at 255 Beach Drive NE, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is only $5 after 5 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, call (727) 896-2667 or visit MFAstpete.org.