Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” and N.C. Wyeth’s “The Giant” are just a couple of celebrated attempts at depicting the imagination of the child, a wonder which transcends barriers like language or nationality but can among the more deficient evaporate with age. Artists to the rescue.
With that, the Flagler County Art League opened its first ever “Through the Eyes of a Child” themed show while sharing gallery space with the Photography Club of Flagler County for the first time. The shows opened Saturday (June 14).
The other half of the monthly Second Saturday City Marketplace tradition takes place at JJ Graham’s Hollingsworth Gallery, with a show highlighting the work of regional artists Beth Garren, Jan Geyer, Dex Westphal, and Graham himself, among others. This is a show with “big leaps in style that give cadence,” largely tied together by abstract shapes, even in the more figurative works, says Graham.
There’s no telling how many second Saturday’s are left, as Graham is expected to leave at a yet to be determined time, the result of a decision by City Marketplace’s new owners, John C. Bills Corporation, to raise the rent on tenants whose leases are expiring.
For the Art League, there were approximately 50 show entries, less than usual because of the departure of snowbirds. The expected lull was viewed as an opportunity to challenge members, says Wendy Roth, the nonprofit’s gallery director. Hence the new theme of “Through the Eyes of a Child.”
“My committee thought it might inspire people to get very creative and use their childlike spirit,” says Roth. “I do want people to think out of the box, and, you know, break their norm styles.” Justine Wintersmith, director of the Flagler Fine Art Festivals, was the judge. Five awards were presented. (See below.)
“We have a lot of people who just sit and paint flowers,” says Ann DeLucia, though there are certainly those members who are very creative and good at looking at things from a different perspective, she says. “Looking up at something, looking down at something—that’s fairly simple. Getting into the mind of a child and looking at the world through the mind of a child, that might be difficult.”
The closest show, from a cerebral point of view, with she could compare it was a Picasso themed event in 2010.
However, theme shows like these have proved challenging in ways the art league isn’t too keen on. Certain shows have dissuaded members from entering. Recently, the show committee took a step back to analyze what shows were working and which ones had people saying, in Roth’s words, “I just couldn’t get inspired by the theme.”
Last month’s show, “Food, Glorious Food,” also a new theme, proved a tough sell. Roth thought they’d be able to get restaurants to make up platters and show off some of their specialties, but that didn’t pan out since the show fell, as they always do, on a Saturday—one of the busiest nights of the week for a restaurant. “That, we’re not doing again. For sure,” says Roth.
As for this Saturday’s show, Roth—a former art therapist who worked with children and adults, says she expects a lot of pictures of children, or perhaps “pictures that look like they were done by children.”
For her part, Roth created something that she thought a child would have a lot of fun looking at: an outrageous, bright pink bird, approximately 5 by 6 feet, made nearly completely from scraps of junk and unused quilt fabric. A salient feature is a deteriorating colored pool noodle acting as a wobbly neck. “I have no idea what I’m going to do with it once the show’s over, but it looks like it walked out of a Dr. Seuss book,” she says. It was quite a sight to see, Roth recalls, as she drove her convertible down Palm Coast Parkway. Its head bobbed up and down from its back seat perch, its tongue extending from its mouth to lap up an insect made from an acorn. Similarly, Bill Shoemaker, award-winning color pencil artist, displays a yellow, highly rendered rubber ducky.
However, not all the work in the show will be as light or whimsical. One piece, a photograph taken at a nursing home, is of an old woman, most likely suffering from dementia. She coddles a baby doll to her chest, as if it were a real child. Another photograph depicts two small twin girls resting their hands on the aged liver-spotted hand of a woman lying in a hospital bed, the rest of her hidden from view. Though probably no more than four years of age, the girls have a look of tenderness and compassion in their dark eyes. The photo is titled, “Saying Goodbye.”
In contrast, the Photography Club of Flagler County has only two requirements for its participants at the gallery show: color and black and white/monochrome, says Bob Carlsen, chairman of the club’s show and exhibition committee. Carlsen will have a notable photo on display, himself: a small corporate jet descending over a crowded beach on the Caribbean island of St. Marten. While the scene had beach goers yelping, according to Carlsen, everything turned out okay, and he managed to snap his photograph at just the right moment—as the plane passed barely over the sunbathers’ heads.
The photography club exhibition should also house about 50 pieces, and they’ll be handing out 13 awards. Susan Francis of Catchlight Studios is the judge.
“This is the first show we’re doing in many years,” says Carlsen. Why now? Because the club has grown to more than 70 members, he says, “It would be nice to show people who we actually are, you know—and what we do.” While the club regularly publishes its prized work in the Flagler/Palm Coast News-Journal and News-Tribune, they haven’t had many formal gallery shows, making Saturday significant.
Both the Flagler County Art League and Hollingsworth Gallery shows are month-long exhibitions.