The second annual “Art of the Bicycle” livening up Palm Coast’s City Marketplace this month is all spokes: the Gargiulo Art Foundation, the Flagler County Art League, Hollingsworth Gallery and City Repertory Theatre are all in on it, minus last year’s training wheels, and adding momentum to the evolving cohesiveness of the small town art scene.
The Gargiulo Art Foundation and Flagler County Art League each displayed bicycle art, while winners of a bicycle-theme poetry competition read their winning poems at the art league gallery. Next door, John Sbordone’s City Repertory theater opened its door to sponsor the first ever poetry slam in the area, which was tied to the event through competition rounds related to bikes. The bicycle themed show opening was timed to run in tandem with the Tour De Palm Coast through local parks, which first enabled the foundation to secure a Palm Coast city cultural grant last year. (The council today agreed to increase those grants by a few thousand dollars.)
Like last year, tour and show are tied to raise interest for people–art or bike enthusiasts–who may not normally feel the need to visit Palm Coast, says the foundation’s Tom Gargiulo.
And it is attracting topnotch artists. Roberrt Mielenhausen, for example, is a New York artist whose bicycle work is on display at Hollingsworth. These include a few of his mixed media pieces, a photo of a bicycle juxtaposed over a composite painting of a New York City residential street among them. It’s a masterful display of harmonizing disparate elements into a representational collage, paralleling the recent movements of the neighboring arts organizations. What will be most impressive to some about Mielenhausen’s work is that, while the piece is already scheduled to be shown at a gallery in Chelsea, the painting is there to be seen at Hollingsworth before it winds its way up to Manhattan.
“This is significant because we’re now getting the attention of New York artists,” says Gargiulo, referring to Mielenhausen. “He’s going to stay in our hotels, he’s going to dine in our restaurants. And he’s going to bring others who are going to do the same.”
Another incentive for artists who entered “the Art of Bicycle” exhibition at Hollingsworth Gallery: four will be selected for a special four-person show in March.
One piece standout at Hollingsworth is by Weldon Ryan, the 2011 Gargiulo Art Foundation Artist of the Year. (Ryan also has an ongoing show, “Versimilitude,” at the Yvonnen Scarlet Golden Cultural and Educational Center in Daytona and then later at the Hammock Wine and Cheese, on Aug. 3.)
Ryan’s oil painting at Hollingsworth, “Peeling Streaker” (see above) depicts a racing bicyclist, expertly rendered, zooming across the canvas—the yellow stripe on the rider’s shorts spilling out in an impressionistic splatter behind him, melting into a background that’s an explosion of momentum, speed, and color. Any fan of the just-ended Tour de France will recall that the most honorable color of that race is the leader’s yellow jersey.
“Contemporary realism,” Ryan calls it. Usually a realistic painter and for that matter a non-bicyclist, he says, “Traditional art gets a little boring sometimes; you have to bring in some other elements to bring energy and interest, whether that’s through texture and color.” In a way, it’s his vicarious attempt to depict speed in a sport that’s actually too “grueling” for his taste, the former New York City policeman says.
“I always like to add little something extra because of my interest in science fiction and surrealism,” he says, though much of his work seen locally has been realistic in nature. With the added elements he managed to incorporate here—a piece he admits he began but failed to finish in time for last year’s bike show—he has achieved what he calls successful “accidentals.” The key is for all these accidentals to fall into place: “an avenue of accidentals.”
At the art league, one successful embodiment of the theme was executed by Jacki Ware, who painted a lush watercolor titled “Primary Ladies.” In the painting, three congregating “ladies” gossip in the garden. Each one dons a bonnet primed in one of the primary colors, each cranking their necks at the approach of a possible, invisible suitor. Of course, these congenial ladies happen to be parked bicycles.
Another difference with the collaboration this year is the inclusion of motorcycles in the art league gallery, possibly hoping attract any Hell’s Angel who might have floated in during bike week with some repressed urge to make art.
“I was very delighted that the larger than usual gathering was full of new people in addition to all those creative poets,” says Ann Delucia, art league president. “The ongoing effort of both galleries is to make the larger community aware of the arts and culture available here in Flagler County – all of which contributes to the overall vibrancy of the area.” Florida poets Joyce Sweeney and Al Hubbs judged the poetry part of the competition, and entries came in from as far out as Atlanta, Southeast and Southwest Florida.
The bicycle poetry competition was chaired by Stephanie Salkin, a member of the Florida State Poets Association and editor of the Spectrum, the art league’s monthly newsletter. The art league had sponsored two previous poetry exhibitions on its own. The first was themed Flagler County, as was the show that month, and the second one was “All About Light,” also the accompanying show theme.
“This is the first time that the foundation and the art league did both art and poetry together,” Salkin said. All the poetry entry fees went towards prizes and judges’ honorariums. At the same time, all the poems, even the ones which didn’t win prizes, were compiled into a book for visitors to thumb through and read.
Both judges chose the same poem for first place. Sculptor Harry Messersmith, the former director of the Deland Museum of Art, who has his own bicycle sculpture on display at Hollingsworth, won second place in the poetry competition. He then went on to win the poetry slam.
Gargiulo says it’s not likely that there’ll be an exact repeat of the bike theme next year, for logistical reasons. “The Palm Coast grant is set up in such a way that the first and second year, they want you to do something that’s never been done before,” he says. Next year, he plans to build upon this theme to include Palm Coast parks. “I think we’ll bring in some plein air artists to paint on the spot. This theme could include joggers, walkers, or just people sitting on a park bench–and, bicyclists, of course, as well.” Plein air is French for “in the open,” and is the art of painting outdoors.
On August 1, Robert Mielenhausen will give an artist talk at Hollingsworth. On August 3, there’ll be a closing, encore and free reception. It’s not only for those who missed the show the first time around, Garguilo says. Onlookers will get the unique chance to see the artists take down their work and get an idea of the amount of time that goes into hanging a gallery show. In doing so, they’ll lay their eyes on a gallery that’s now completely devoid of art, which can be as striking as walking onto a street in Times Square with no people. Or to a lesser extent, a Palm Coast bike path with no riders.