Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Art review: Juried competition shows breadth of Florida artistic talent

Small Red Landscape, by Nadine Saitlin.

By Katie Deits

BOCA RATON -- A large painted canvas usually is impressive, but in some cases it can visually bellow.

Which is why it was so striking that the Best of Show winner at the current All-Florida Juried Competition is a diminutive work, a 12-inch-by-12-inch acrylic and pastel painting, Small Red Landscape, by Nadine Saitlin, an artist resident in Boca Raton.

Saitlin was only one of 48 artists to make the cut at the juried competition, now in its 58th year and currently on exhibit through Aug. 30 at the Boca Museum of Art in Mizner Park. This year, more than 1,200 pieces were submitted for the competition, and just 60 of them won.

The juror this year was Roy Slade, director emeritus of the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and a former director of the prestigious Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Now a resident of Clearwater, Slade also is a working abstract artist, whose works are colorful and full of geometric components.

“At times, the works reflect the colors and vitality of Florida — a state of color and contrasts, sunshine and water, flowers and fauna," Slade wrote about his work judging the competition. "Whether realist or abstract, these elements may seem apparent in many works.”

Wendy Blazier, senior curator at the Boca museum, agrees.

“While these artists share Florida as their residence, and their works collectively reveal something about Florida contemporary art, one could argue that, just as importantly, the ‘All Florida’ provides an opportunity to recognize the international world in these Florida artists’ works, rather than the region in which we reside," Blazier said. "Indeed, many of the artworks in this year’s ‘All Florida’ mirror the struggles and common energy shared by artists everywhere.”

Pedro, Jose and Jose Maldonado Sr., left, of Boca Raton,
and Michael, Amber and Kristin Don, also of Boca,
examine Day Dreamer with Botticelli Barbie and Rat Patrol,
by Fort Myers artist Jean Cappadonna Nichols.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

One of the most impressive pieces in the show is a figurative sculpture by Jean Cappadonna Nichols titled Day Dreamer with Botticelli Barbie and Rat Patrol. The Fort Myers artist created the life-size work in white earthenware and then painted the surface with a tattoo-like collage of fantastic images ranging from dark to humorous.

The dreamy, closed-eyed young woman, with strawberry-blond braided locks, sports a headpiece featuring a reference to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and wears a silver, armor-like bustier. Dreamlike images adorn her flesh — black crows caw and are perched on mechanical hands which reach out for a red button on a globe of the earth, eggs in a carton become ill-looking heads, while Mickey Mouse helps to unravel a ribbon around the figure. Fruit, leaves, sky and a black-and-white-checkered Op-Art background help to make this a fascinating piece that was a magnet for visitors who studied it intently.

“In recent years, I have looked more often at my intentions and have discovered an inconsistent hodgepodge of religious, social, political and moral beliefs …The subjects that make me squirm are the ones that I most often choose, and I find that humor is a wonderfully subversive way to look at what might be an unpleasant, ugly truth.” Nichols wrote.

Geneva Market, by Jami Nix Rahn.

Another skillfully painted piece is Geneva Market, a 26-inch by 44-inch oil painting on linen with photo paper and ink by Weston artist Jami Nix Rahn. She is interested in creating contemporary genre and history paintings in the style of the Old Masters. This hyperrealist painting started with a photograph that she shot in Geneva, Switzerland, last November.

“What at first glance appears to be a photograph, breaks down into a painting, yet upon further observation, it becomes obvious that remnants of those reference tools have become a part of the painted surface," Rahn wrote.

Parabola Cloud, by Mark Hursty. (Photo by Katie Deits)

Nearby is Parabola Cloud, a massive installation by Mark Hursty of Jacksonville. Visitors are invited to don plastic facemasks and sit on a Victorian-style sofa to watch a video projected on a hovering man-made cloud. The 11-minute video of abstract and drawn imagery transports viewers into another imaginary dimension.

Reminiscent of the innovative 20th century Italian artist Alberto Burri is a wall sculpture by Boynton Beach’s Miles Laventhall. He used natural forms with paper and resin on aged steel to create The Wall, a 41-inch-by-53-inch-by-4-inch wall sculpture.

The Wall, by Miles Laventhall. (Photo by Katie Deits)

“The power of nature and the fight between matter and spirit are constant influences that inform my work…I use natural forms to personify human gestures and aged synthetic materials to infer time and a return to truth and primal status.” Laventhall wrote.

If you’re interested in seeing what ideas artists in Florida are exploring and discovering just how many talented creators are working here, make sure to visit the show over the next couple months.

The Boca Raton Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens (65 and older), $4 per person for group tours and $4 for students. For more information, call (561) 392-2500, or visit

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