Friday, March 22, 2013

PCCA Alumni Exhibition @ Morean Arts Center

Morean Arts Center Facade detail.

Pinellas County Center for the Arts: Three Decades, 1984 - 2013 is on exhibit at the Morean. It is nearly impossible to review a show like this and do it justice. There are twelve faculty members, and many more alumni being shown. The work spans three decades.

The PCCA, as it is known, is a magnet school for gifted arts students. It began with Pinellas County school administrator John Blank,  who had the vision for a program to emphasize the arts within the county. Five years later, with lots more people becoming involved, grants secured, and much effort, the program was launched. Three decades and over 10,000 grads later, the PCCA is widely recognized, and a significant per cent of St. Pete's prominent artists are graduates from the program, people like Laura Spencer, Derek Donnelly, Tes One, Reid Jenkins, Jennifer Kosharek, and many, many others.

Morean gallery view.
Looking over the many works in the show, it was obvious that the PCCA trains its students very thoroughly in the craft aspects of their chosen media. From the alumni I personally know, the notions of hard work and creative daring are instilled.

For this show, each alumnus submitted one work, and it had to be no older than five years, and not made while they were a student at PCCA. These are contemporary works.

A few works that caught my attention, in no particular order....

Laurance Miller, "Before the Earth Was Round."

 "Before the Earth Was Round", a wood and forged steel sculpture by Laurance Miller, who as a teacher started the photography program for the PCCA. It is a boat, complete with three galleys of highly stylized oars in sets of threes, and on top a steel snake and seven circles of the same material. The title may refer to that time when the planet was thought to be flat, yet those who navigated it in primitive boats knew better. Why is it so tall, instead of the normal marine boat proportions? There are ten bands of dark wood and in between lighter blonde wood. The general outline is urn-like. The vertical elongation renders this monumental. What are those circles of steel on top?

Mr. Miller passed away about 2 years ago.

Work by Joyce Ely Walker

Joyce Ely Walker taught @ PCCA for 25 years. She paints landscapes en plein air in several locations in the U.S. and Costa Rica. In "Landscape #3, Brushy Creek", on the left, we do not see a conventional landscape, but what seems like more of a botanical. Click on the picture to see it bigger, and you will see that the forms are minimal, nearly abstracted. They connect with each other. This is not so much a literal reproduction of a landscape as it is about a sense of it.

(L. to R.) Joyce Ely Walker, Jennifer Kosharek

Work by Derek Donnelly

Derek Donnelly, whose work and shows have been reviewed here several times, is a painter and the owner of Saint Paint Gallery at 6 6th St. N. St. Pete. A PCCA alumnus, his piece in the show is a self-portrait in the act of painting, from the POV of the canvas. It is hard to see in the lighting in the picture @ left, but this work has a lot of three dimensional elements. The cap, the hand and the brush are built-up. The brush reaches out toward the viewer. Note the determined look in the figure's face, and its asymmetry, particularly around the mouth. This is an artist in the prime of his life, and you are his canvas.

Derek Donnelly

Tes One, PCCA alumnus and well-known artist, primarily for his mural, including two in St. Pete, had this work, titled "Poppy O'Possum" in the show. It is a near-profile of a man in high contrast, giving the face a sculptural look. Behind it are colored squares, diamonds and darts. It reminds me of a Rosenquist that used to hang in the lobby of a bank in Tampa a decade ago in some ways, but far more economical in its execution.

Work by Jennifer Kosharek

Jennifer Kosharek is a high-profile PCCA alumnus, artist, and owner of Eve N Odd Gallery in the Crislip Arcade on the 600 block of Central Ave. St. Pete. This is one of her Gretchens, a recurring figure in many, but by no means all of Ms. Kosharek's work. This one began life during a live paint at a local event. The artist is not averse to multiple perspectives, surreal aspects or the inclusion of text with imagery (or viceversa). She is no stranger to Vispo (visual poetry), and in this work one can see some of that in the writing inside the ghostly koi. The effect is like that of a Greek chorus, resonating from and altering the visuals. The outline of the Gretchen figure is reminiscent of Russian Matryoshka Dolls whose origins are said to come from Japanese Daruma dolls.
Detail of above work
The artist has appropriated the form and redefined it for herself. In the Russian dolls, only the surface of the outermost can be seen. With Gretchen, viewers can see into her. She has no arms to manipulate/interact with her environment, no legs to stand or run on. She almost never smiles. This one is in the form of a hot-air balloon which floats serenely among the clouds. Note the flowers in her head/headress. Below her chin is an angelic-looking face radiating gold and yellow beams (?) onto what  appears to be three small boats precariously perched on red and white waves. In the upper corners there are pink hummingbirds hovering (as they do around flowers), in the basket below the Gretchen "balloon" are two small owls tending to the burners.

Congratulations to all the artists, faculty and alumni, and to the Morean, for a very good show. Special Props to the PCCA for enriching the community by training and nurturing so many strong artists!

--- Luis

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