As defining as it is of Flagler County’s culture, the coastline has never been the subject of an art show. Now it is. The Flagler County Art League’s first ever “Go Coastal” show, opens during City Market Place’s “2nd Saturday” art walk. Consider it a commemoration.
At the same time, Hollingsworth Gallery will open its “6th Annual South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art Members (S.E.C.C.A) Show.” As a whole, the theme there is less conceptual, more just about good contemporary art: You’re not likely to find much objective or representational art there.
Take Linda Solomon’s expressionist piece, “The Gathering.” It’s not easy to discern what the viewer is looking at, though one can certainly sense there is a story there, feel the gathering of personalities within all the vibrant shapes, all part of a highly rendered scene that looks like it could be in a desert or maybe heaven, imagined by an artist whose spirituality is tangible. There’s something inherently childlike about it all, but at the same time, it possesses the skill of someone who’s toiled for decades to forge her own style.
In Sandy Harrington’s “Street Lights,” the title tells viewers what they’re looking at, though they may have to guess through what kind of lens they’re viewing the urban lights. The delicately regal-looking bulbs and rods are reminiscent of some forms—especially with all the bits of gold and blue—found in the work of Gustav Klimt, only in Klimt’s work those forms are more peripheral design elements, and here they’re precisely what you’re looking at. A blue, watery cross is the dominant shape jutting out from the upper right third of the canvas. Within that cross all of what must be the street lights manifest themselves. Perhaps they’re reflections in a puddle in the street.
Hollingsworth Gallery owner J.J Graham’s work “Slightly Temperamental” is an intense representation of a woman writer friend, or at least the aura she left behind in an arbitrary moment when she walked into the gallery as Graham was poised to paint. “It’s not a portrait of her. It’s just the stance that she had,” he says. “She was kind of fierce, and I had just started to paint and saw her out of the corner of my eye and just kind of reacted to it.”
Whether it’s literal or figurative, the woman appears to be moving through a whirlwind chipping away at her flesh. One can see what her insides look like, her skeleton and innards. Her face is not transparent, however, and—spilling between red and green—the eyes and mouth are codified into austere horizontal lines of impassivity.
At the neighboring art league, “Go Coastal” is by nature more representative. While the league has done shows with themes like “Anywhere in Flagler County” before, says Ann DeLucia, president of the nonprofit organization, “We thought, if you think about a coast, it might spur people to think about how important the oceans are, how important it is to look at out coast and see how it might be threatened.”
Nevertheless, most of the art in the show is–thank heavens–not corrupted by a message. “The committee was thinking more in terms of let’s have some nice pretty ocean work, that sort of thing,” DeLucia says. “But some of us were thinking more in terms of the environment.”
A case in point is gallery director Wendy Roth’s environmentally conscious sculpture, “Hope-The First Step,” made from steel armature, paper-mache, plastic, cloth, sand, concrete, and coquina rock. The five-and-a-half foot sculpture depicts a young Japanese woman. One of her feet is stuck in concrete rubble while the other soot-covered foot is finding its way out. The woman becomes more and more human as the eye moves up her body. She’s holding a long bamboo pole with a Japanese fish windsock, known as a Koinobori.
Three years ago Japan experienced the devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Roth, whose son lives and works in Japan, says the Japanese people came together and responded with incredible integrity, though in her view they bear some of the blame, presumably for building a flawed nuclear plant, so the sculpture has one hand tainted black, symbolizing man’s fault in the disaster.
“I just felt with this March show, ‘Go Coastal,’ conservation isn’t really a question of morality, but it’s a question of our own survival,” Roth says. “And we have to do more than just, you know, think about it. As artists and as writers, we have to do what we can to make people aware.”
“Go Coastal” features 78 works. It’s the first show where the art league has done away with categories, so there’ll be fewer prizes but they’ll mean more. “So the curators are going to be able to put a colored pencil next to an oil and they can go together,” DeLucia says. “Curating is going to be a lot more fun for our people.”
The league also has a new sponsor, the ubiquitous David Alfin of Watson Reality. He became aware of the art league at the most recent Chamber of Commerce leadership program. Part of the program involved a presentation on arts and culture. The art league was a part of it. Alfin was impressed right away, he says, because the presentation made by the art league was “done with such passion and such excitement, it was genuinely moving.” Because of Alfin’s sponsorship, the prizes will be more lucrative than usual.
“I’m also very dedicated to the economic development of Flagler County,” Alfin says, “and I think economic development requires the underpinning of arts and culture. I think that’s a very, very important asset that has to be invested in for an economy like ours in Flagler County to grow.”
The show’s judges were Hollingsworth’s JJ Graham and Florida landscape artist Sydney McKenna whose work, as she describes it at her website, “explores the humid atmosphere that is one of the key elements that define life in Florida. I am fascinated with evaporation.”
The art league’s “Go Coastal” show opened March 8, at City Market Place, at 6 p.m., with a free reception. For more information, reach the gallery at 386/986-4668 or go to its website. Hollingsworth’s “6th Annual South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art Members” show opened March 8 at 6 p.m. at City Market Place. Call 386/871-9146 for more info or visit the website.