Monday, September 6, 2010

The Way Forward: The Road Less Traveled at the Morean Arts Center

The Morean Arts Center, in one form or another, has been around since 1917. Before its current incarnation, it was the Arts Center, Arts Center Association, and began as the Art Club. Its mission has always been to exhibit and provide arts classes to members of the community of all ages, along with lectures by artists and much more. The Morean's most recent achievement has been to bring the Chilhuly Collection to the Downtown Arts District, a landmark arts destination, to St. Petersburg.

Currently, the Morean Art Center's membership is at 2,700 households. Once a year, the Center exhibits the work of member-artists, along with a month's worth of events to celebrate the exhibition, including workshops, critiques, and works for sale.

Opening night for this show was one of the best-attended events in the Central Arts District in some time. Those who went also got to vote for the People's Choice and participate in a visual Arts Scavenger Hunt among the nearly two-hundred works exhibited. This exhibit is non-juried, according to the website, but the brochure for the show states that it was juried by guest juror Adam Justice, Curator at the Polk Museum of Art..

With any non-juried member's show, one might expect a wide range in the quality of the work, but this is not the case. Participants were encouraged to show work "using unorthodox or unusual materials", a "remote place", or "innovative idea". The Way Forward has many lanes.

Curtis Sneary's "What Now Professor?", an acrylic and oil painting, showed the cast of Gilligan's Island knee-deep in a wetland setting, except they are no longer in a paradaisical island, but a wetland ruined by an oil spill. The Captain and Professor are holding an oil-covered, dying brown pelican and Gilligan asks the question of the title. Science makes so many things possible, but can it heal  Nature from disasters like this?

The New York City Skyline is something we can close our eyes and see from memory. Jean Marie DeSpiegler's "NY-NY" ingenious silver empire bracelet makes it possible to wear it on one's wrist.

Evoking American Indian history, cycles and traditions, Cheryl Yellowhawk's mixed media piece "We Begin Again" is simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking, renewal depicted in earthen Western colors.

One of St Petersburg's great photographers, Joe Walles, deviated from his figurative street photography to bring us "Bok Lair", and enigmatic, dark and exquisitely detailed near-abstract, part of which is a spider and its web.

Innovative, abstract, yet formally discernable thanks to the title, Ann Webb's "Coming Through The Rye" ink on watercolor paper drawing seduces the viewer into the field.

Hanging vertically on the edge of a wall were Wendy Bruce's exquisite, beguiling series of small (4 or 5 inch) square-framed mixed-media pieces comprising one work titled "Underlying Connections". Delicate bits of blue string, a few beads, all on or in a milky blue background. When it comes to mystery, sometimes less is infinitely more. Ms. Bruce got Art Taco's vote in the People's Choice Award.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."     
                                                          --- Robert Frost


PS. The Morean Arts Center Member's Show can be seen at 719 Central Avenue St. Petersburg, FL 33701 Sept 3rd-26th. 727.822.7872   Hours: Mon - Fri 9am - 6pm Sun 12pm - 6pm.

PPS. Kudos to Sharon Steel, Graphic Designer and Webmaster for The Morean Arts Center for her beautiful work.

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