Tag Archives: FL

Big Art in a Small Town, Giving Thanks

I’m trying to be an optimist but can’t help thinking this is a year full of lasts for our family.  As our oldest daughter applies for far flung colleges, I’m learning to let go while trying to savor each moment. So on this day of thanks, I’m almost painfully grateful to be seated next to her, even as she ferociously snaps away on her phone.  Time together used to be filled with excursions organized by yours truly. Now I give options like “would you like to sleep in or visit the Dalí Musuem? Would you like to walk to a botanical garden or lounge by pool?” This is how my husband and I find ourselves sans daughters on art outings while on family vacation in St. Petersburg, Florida.

While the small town of St. Petersburg, which neighbors Tampa, is quaint and filled with historic homes on tree lined, brick paved streets, the art scene here is quite cosmopolitan. We have the good fortune to visit the Dalí Musuem, the Museum of Fine Art, and the Raymond James headquarters, which houses 3000 works of art, all collected from living artists and mostly focusing on western and wildlife art. Today’s post focuses on the Dalí Museum which is the largest collection of Salvador Dalí work in the world.

imageWhen I visited the museum in 1991 as a Rollins College student, the collection was housed in a scrappy low nondescript building a few inches from busy commercial 3rd Street.  My, how things have changed. I’d heard about the new building and the architecture which honors Dalí with its asymmetrical lines, bulbous forms and odd protrusions. Emulating the nonsensical structures within his paintings, with unexpected vanishing points, is the central staircase which winds around into oblivion.


The collection is magnificent, following Dalí’s life and the evolution of his paintings. The one of his sister (above left), was repainted by the artist after estrangement with his family. He added the upside-down rendering which marks a turning point in his painting style as he moved toward inverted forms and altered perspectives. While famous for surreal scenes consisting of references to warped time, hyper-sensualized female figures, and vacuous land expanses, the pieces that startle me the most are those where Dalí masterfully tricks the human eye. Viewers think they see one image, but step back thirty feet and an entirely different painting composition emerges. There were also several pieces that changed drastically when viewed through a camera or iphone, such as the one below of his brother. image

Dalí’s understanding of illusion, and ability to impact viewer perception is much more powerful than I realized. It is the work of a genius, which is most evident in his large scale paintings toward the end of our tour. Due to the crowds, I am unable to step back and get unobstructed photos, but below are several detail shots of the huge paintings.

The details and various stylistic elements within each of the large paintings is astounding. How the artist composed such enormous paintings with so many dissonant features – and pulled it all together in a cohesive presentation – is awesome. These are paintings one could view for years and make new discoveries with each viewing. For example, the negative spaces and shapes become representational forms, such as animals, sculptures, and human faces. There are hidden images within hidden images, like floating heads that initially appear to be cloud like shapes. Once the heads are discovered, if the viewer continues to study the shapes, we find little faces within the eye sockets. These discoveries are eerie and jolting and joyful. Then we discover those tiny faces Dalí painted within the eye sockets are replicated elsewhere in the painting. His trickery and symbolism is a gigantic puzzle for viewers to ponder endlessly.

imageAfter visiting the main collection, we move on to a special exhibition: Dalí and Schiaparelli.  The two artists, one a painter and the other a fabric and fashion designer, collaborated for many years and presented sculptures, clothing and objects they designed together in hopes of encouraging viewers to see regular objects in a new way. As explained in a display: “Schiaparelli and Dalí desired to surprise and provoke their audiences to help them see things in a new way. A key technique for them was to alter familiar objects. By inverting, penetrating or turning things inside out, they give us new ways to understand those objects. They subverted the domestic chest of drawers into a visual pun – a “chest” of drawers.”

The exhibition provides those of us who lack fashion knowledge with a clear lesson in the connection that fashion, fabric and objects have to art and culture. We see two artists examining specific ideas by collaborating and blowing open the various possible materials that can be used to express those ideas. This, once again, reminds me that artists rarely or never work alone, as solitary as the work can seem. Influences abound and collaboration can elevate and expound concepts that would otherwise remain narrowly trapped in the individual artist perspective.

As always, thank you for reading!

Dali Atomicus, 1948 by Philippe Halsman

Dalí Atomicus, 1948 by Philippe Halsman (This photograph is part of the Museum of Fine Art collection in St. Petersburg, FL)









Returning to Winter Park, Florida Among Memories and Art: Part 3

Winter Park continued….

Another Rollins memory that brings me joy is thinking back on bike rides to the numerous parks in the area. I loved escaping campus and just plunging forward on an adventure through Mead Botanical Garden, Leu Gardens, and Kraft Azalea Park. My first photography course was sophomore year and my big manual Pentax was with always strapped on for these outings. This trip, I decided to visit each of these magical wonderlands. Some days I struck out on a bike borrowed from the Winter Park Library (thank you!) and some days on foot. One day, after a great night of sleep, a hearty breakfast, and plenty of coffee, I decided to walk from the Alfond Inn to Rollins, to Kraft Azalea Garden, to Crealde School of Art, to Polasek Sculpture Garden, back to the Alfond Inn to recuperateDSC_0131, to Rollins to pick up my daughter at tennis, to dinner, and finally, back to the hotel room where I would fall into an 10 hour slumber. IT WAS THE BEST DAY.

The Kraft Azalea Garden in the morning is just as I remembered: full of flickering light and watery reflections. I tried to emulate my artistic photographic efforts from my college DSC_0181days but realized my efforts were in vain. Capturing the serenity of the park proved difficult but it was fun to try. Next, I worked my way through several beautiful neighborhoods until I made it to the Crealde School of Art. It was a long way and an iced coffee from Whole Foods gave me just the burst I needed to make it there. Thankfully it was still early in the day and most of the walk was shaded.


“Retired” by Lynne Polley

Upon arrival at the school’s office, I met Jan Hurt who was gracious and welcoming. She answered all my questions about the school, the teachers and the classes and was very helpful as I asked about possibly teaching a mixed media workshop there someday. As I toured the onsite gallery and admired two exhibitions, it became clear that the school hosts many talented students and faculty. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced classes which draw all types of artists ranging from new hobbyists to professionals. There is a long list of classes offered in a variety of mediums: fiber arts, ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, glass, photography, painting, and drawing.



Between the beautiful grounds, the extensive class schedule and the friendly, professional staff, Crealde School of Art is a heavenly artistic oasis. I certainly hope to return, whether it be as a teacher or a student.

DSC_0190Choosing the shadiest side of busy Aloma Avenue, I headed for the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden. One of my favorite aspects of the tour was the staff. A docent guided tour departed just a few minutes before my arrival and the woman at the front desk insisted I catch up with the group. When the guide finished showing us the living quarters and sculpture studios of Albin Polasek, he insisted on circling back to the beginning and repeating the initial few minutes I missed. He was so engaging that one couple asked to return with us so they could hear it again! IMG_9026Out in the garden, I met two employees who started as volunteers and have since then been hired. Their passion for art and their expertise in landscaping make the two valuable assets to the property. One even contributes to the sculpture on the grounds (see garden hose chair below), though his materials are quite different from the wood, bronze and plaster used by Polasek. IMG_9032The staff almost outshines the studio and artwork due to their dedication, friendliness and enthusiasm for this special place. It is interesting what art can teach us, but when cared for and presented by passionate people, it takes on a higher level of impact on visitors. For this reason, I highly suggest a visit to the Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden. To read more about the artist, visit: http://www.polasek.org.

That wraps up this three part series on beautiful Winter Park, Florida. As always, thank you for reading!  Laura



Returning to Winter Park, Florida Among Memories and Art: Part 1

DSC_0114In researching summer tennis programs for my daughter, I found myself repeatedly clicking on the Nike Tennis Camp at my alma mater, Rollins College. Perhaps I was just looking for an excuse to return to blissful Winter Park, Florida, but I legitimately kept finding fabulous reviews about the camp and its director, Rita Gladstone. With Southwest Airline points tucked away, the only major cost would be accommodations. We would walk everywhere and need very little transportation. I thought, visiting the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and the Orlando Arts Museum could be important parts of my work as an artist, right? Come to think of it, staying at the Alfond Inn with its’ esteemed contemporary art collection would be a wise choice, right? Yes and Yes! This 3-part series will highlight my response to returning to the area, and of course, the numerous high quality art exhibits.

DSC_0089Regarding the development of my paintings, everywhere I go, I consider what I see and how it relates to the art I make. I am guilty of having too many bodies of work going in my studio and cohesion has been, at times, elusive. But there is one theme that returns again and again: the idea of time passing and of memory. So as I explore areas such as Winter Park, I do study the work of other artists at every opportunity but I am also constantly coDSC_0049nsidering how what I see will make its’ way into my work. While my daughter was on the tennis court each day, I walked the campus and felt an acute longing, stronger than nostalgia but milder than anxiety. I wondered, Where did it all go? That experience does not exist anymore, it is only in our memories. What is this place that does not include me anymore? It is someone else’s now. As I walked through the shaded pathways of the campus, I feel awe mingled with despair. What am I mourning…my youth?

DSC_0069Is it my irrelevance in a place that makes me feel such longing? Upon returning, how can one see clouds building over Lake Virginia, see endless archways, see weeping willows spilling toward earth, smell the musty mixture of watery reeds and moss, feel the breeze that carries smell and memory, sense the rain when an uncharacteristic coolness brushes the skin and not think time has ceased to exist? How can this feel like my place, and concurrently feel like a mystery, like a place I am forcing myself upon?


Nothing is True by Hector Arce-Espasas and Josue Pellot

Eventually I had to snap out of my nostalgic wanderings. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum was just the place to redirect my attention to the present. The current exhibit, “Displacement,” required another mode of thinking…of getting out of my own perspective and developing a clearer understanding of someone else’s perspective. Isn’t it cool how art can open our eyes to something beyond ourselves?


Church Banners by Andrea Bowers

The artists included in the exhibit are from all over the world and use a variety of mediums to make clear statements about the condition of human displacement. The exhibit is not a plea, or an aggressively persuasive presentation. The power in the artwork comes from a calm and earnest approach. Language is often combined with visuals to help clearly communicate. This is not political, it is observation and presentation of a human condition. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” “Finders. Keepers.” “Nothing is true.” In Thousands are Sailing 1, the artist uses a garish pink where green should be seen in the photograph. While beautiful, the pink is also bizarre and striking which encourages viewers to stay and look more closely. It is as if the artist is saying, “don’t ignore these displaced people, stay and look closely and consider them.”


Thousands are Sailing 1 by Richard Mosse

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is also home to a permanent collection divided into three categories: American Art, European Art and The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art. Only a fraction of the collection can be on display at any given time and guests at the nearby Alfond Inn get to reside with some of the outstanding contemporary art collection


The Hermit XI by Jaume Plensa on display at the Alfond Inn

during their stay. I was delighted to see two pieces by Hank Willis Thomas – one at the Alfond Inn and one at CFAM. Since hearing him speak during the “30 Americans” exhiit at the Arkansas Arts Center, I have been mesmerized by his visionary approach in using commonplace images from mainstream American media to show just how misinformed we are by persuasive, persistent and egregious advertising images. During his career, Thomas has methodically tackled gender issues and race issues with what seems like simple technique, but really reveals the brillian finesse of a great mind of our time. If I ever meet him, it will certainly be one of those embarrassing freak out moments where I invade his personal space with a gregarious hug. At any rate, this jewel of a museum on the east side of campus overlooking Lake Virginia should not be missed by visitors to the area.


Walk Like A Man by Hank Willis Thomas


Behind Every Great Man… by Hank Willis Thomas

Between kayaking on the lakes, visiting the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and studying the collection at the Alfond Inn, my heart was full as well as my sketchpad. Walking around the beautiful Rollins College campus and the surrounding areas during the quiet summer was a gift. It prompted memories to resurface and new discoveries to be made. And it gave more than I bargained for in terms of the inescapable painting theme of memory and the passage of time. On my last day, I entered the cool air of Knowles Chapel, and wondered if I read this poem during my years as a student and had since then forgotten, or if this was my first time to see words that only now in my life could hold such poignant weight.DSC_0087

As usual, thank you for reading. Next up: Blown Away at the Orlando Museum of Art