Olda Reviews: Melting Metaphors and the RNC

Sometimes the most contentious relationships can be the most productive ones. Artists’ and politicians’ mutual suspicion (and at times outright disdain) of each other often serves as fodder for both groups: artwork for the former and budget cuts for the latter.

by Danny Olda

Sometimes the most contentious relationships can be the most productive ones. Artists’ and politicians’ mutual suspicion (and at times outright disdain) of each other often serves as fodder for both groups: artwork for the former and budget cuts for the latter. Although this scuffle between art and professional politics has been playing out internationally over the course of decades something special is unfolding in Tampa Bay at the moment. With the Republican National Convention set to descend on the area within the next couple weeks, a sort of case study of the interplay between art and politics will present itself.

Predictably, there will be an abundance of politically themed exhibits. Naturally, Tampa’s downtown museums will be serving up limp proxy events that convention delegates are sure to find just splendid. Corresponding offerings from Cafe Hey within the convention zone as well as the CL Space and West Tampa Center for the Arts just outside it promise to be more engaging exhibits. Further outside the convention area, throughout Tampa Bay, numerous other shows intend to vie for the increased sets of eyes and political interest. The profusion of political art exhibits may make it appear that the RNC only offers the Tampa Bay art scene a curating no-brainer. However, the art hints at something different.

danny olda, RNC
Promo photo for West Tampa Center for the Arts’ upcoming exhibit “Common Sense”

One piece, a “temporary” sculpture, will be installed in Tampa’s Lykes Gaslight Square on August 27th. The sculpture from artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese is made up of the words “Middle Class” carved from a block of ice that is intended to melt quickly in the Florida summer sun. While the sentiment is a tad obvious in terms of contemporary art, the sculpture’s relationship to its intended audience is a bit more subtle. Gaslight Square is within the convention zone. That means the sculpture will almost exclusively be seen by convention delegates rather than the local art crowd. This is just one of many current pieces that appear to be directed at the RNC instead of art scene usuals.

Rather than speaking to an audience, it seems the work’s intention is to speak for one. In a way, these political works of art (if executed well) act as mediators – we allow the art to plead on our behalf. Art has the capacity for succinctness and emotional impact that can rarely be spoken or written. Informing a politician that the middle class is disappearing is very different from allowing a politician to witness it literally waste away.

However, this sense of “pleading” has a quietly sad quality also. The ample political art aimed at the RNC can feel like a desperate struggle to emotionally pique individuals that have sway over our day-to-day lives. This kind of personal authenticity is usually only reserved for last-ditch efforts because it’s so difficult to ignore. In this way the querulous relationship between politics and art produces the quietest protest downtown Tampa will see, but the most difficult to disregard.

Danny Olda is our Tampa Correspondent and publisher of
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A Contemporary Art Story: Artists and Collectors by Pamela Beck

Mothers and teens, artists and collectors, this is their story: inextricably connected, eternally annoyed.

by Pamela Beck

I’ve known of friendships between collectors and the artists they collect, where everything is simpatico. There’s a meeting of the minds whenever they talk and the collectors get first dibs on the artists’ new work.

But that’s not the tale of this reporter, no. More often what I’ve seen resembles the ongoing turf war between mothers and teenage daughters. Here’s a peek into these rich and often adversarial-by-nature territories.

It starts out:
“I’m interested in your new work and can’t wait to see it, “ says the collector to the artist. (”I’m excited that you found a college you like and hope you get accepted,” says the mother to the daughter.)
That turns into: “When are you finally going to finish that new work?” (“When did you say that admission application deadline is?”)
And ends up: “I can’t believe it’s taking you so long; how hard can it be to complete? (“I can’t believe it’s taking you so long; how hard can it be to complete?”)

In any relationship where somebody wants something from you, you’re probably going to resent being told how quickly to do it. And whether it’s an artist or teenager pressed into service, the response is likely to be a major eye roll coupled with colorful unprintable responses that signal “don’t push me.”

Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell, "The Connoisseur", 1962 The Saturday Evening Post, January 13, 1962 (cover) Oil on canvas mounted on board 37 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. Private collection

In the case of an artwork, a personal, complicated act of unique invention has occurred that can’t be punched out on a time sheet for an impatient collector. (The teenager parallel stops here, however. If you’re reading this high school seniors, punch the damn timesheet; the admissions office could care less about your aversion to deadlines.)

When the artwork is finally done, the artist and collector meet again. They exchange pleasantries, but their true heated feelings float above their heads like visible thought bubbles. The collector expects the artist to miraculously distill the abstract process of creation into explanations that will enlighten the collector and rationalize the purchase of this long awaited work of art.

But by this time, the artist, protective of the art and irritated by the collector, would rather donate the work to an overseas children’s orphanage or at least, find a more sophisticated collector. The collector, at this point, often feels the artist is acting entitled or suffers from delusions of grandeur. And what’s more, the collector thinks, the artist should take less money. After all, the artist gets to paint all day, and in comfortable clothes too. What’s to complain about?

But then, they both eye the artwork. The artist sees that the collector really does like it and can buy it on the spot. The collector sees the artist may have a Napoleon complex but the work is really good, so who cares? The artwork wins. It gets sold and all is good until the next round begins again.

Mothers and teens, artists and collectors, this is their story: inextricably connected, eternally annoyed.

For more information on Pamela, visit http://srxq.blogspot.com

ArtSlam – Realize Bradenton

October 15, 2011
As part of Festival sARTe′e, this second annual event in downtown Bradenton features hundreds of artists, musicians and performers, site-specific art installations, and interactive art experiences.

October 15, 2011 (3pm-11pm)

(Bradenton, FL) Organizers at Realize Bradenton announce the second annual ArtSlam, a celebration of the arts featuring hundreds of artists, musicians, performers, installation art, and interactive art experiences, Saturday, October 15, 3-11 p.m., along downtown Bradenton’s Old Main Street. For a complete schedule of events and locations, visit www.RealizeBradenton.com or contact Johnette Isham, at 941-350-8563.

According to Realize Bradenton’s executive director, Johnette Isham, this family-friendly festival features “out-of-the-box” performance art, theater, dance, music, video art, and even an “art fashion show.” Isham says the festival is largely interactive with plenty of opportunities for audiences to become part of the art and performances. “People will be able to work on a potter’s wheel, help paint a community mural, create art from recyclables, and dance to the music of a number of bands.” Other activities include body-painting, marionette shows, a custom skateboard park and the nighttime release of a thousand paper airplanes. There will be a food court and downtown Bradenton restaurants and pubs will also participate.

Isham explains that ArtSlam installations will be created “live” along Old Main Street during the eight-hour festival. “Because there is no set theme, collaborative teams will creatively use existing streetscape sites while engaging the general public in a brief contemporary art experience,” she says.

Art Slam 2011 is organized by Realize Bradenton, a non-profit organization that builds community and promotes economic development through collaborative events, partnerships, and interactive strategies. For more information about Realize Bradenton, visit www.realizebradenton.com.

The following line-up includes some of the participating artists and performers:

Body Art Slam (Barbara Tapley-Kenney, Brandon Sommers of Classic Ink and Southeast High School’s Visual & Performing Arts Academy.) Classic Ink and Southeast High School collaborate to create family-friendly body-painting and a body-painting installation with live models, which will culminate in a body “sculpture” window display inside the Classic Ink storefront. This is an audience interactive art project.

Community Totem Poles from Clay (Gretchen Leclezio and Palmetto Art Center) During the day, with six throwing wheels, Gretchen Leclezio and instructors will assist the ArtSlam audience to create a number of clay vessels and pieces during two, 30-minute sessions. The creations will be assembled into sculptural totem poles. The sculptures will be painted and embellished, during the last several hours of ArtSlam to create an organic, communal sculptural piece.

1,111 Windows to the Soul (Mike Bowen of Bowen Imagery) Visionary artist Michael Bowen illustrates that we really are all connected. Using light, rather than pigment, and occasional rhythmic percussion, rather than melody; he takes the viewer to explore the connections between races, ages, and genders. This project includes a video presentation in the 4th Ave. performance area after dusk. Check schedules at ArtSlam info tent, mainstage, or 4th Ave. performance area for time of video presentation.

Building Community (Leymis Bolanis Wilmott, Alyson Dolan, and Fuzion Dance) Fuzión Dance Artists, along with visual artists, musicians, and professional and student performers, will work together to create a live installation. This multi-media and multi-sensory installation will be constantly changing as dancers sculpt their bodies in and around the streetscape as it is manipulated by fellow artists. The team will also present several of their previous performances.

Little Chalkers (Denise Kowal, producer of the Sarasota Chalk Festival)
The young and young at heart are invited to participate in this interactive event to create their own mini-masterpieces, using chalk as their medium and the street surface as their canvas. Their mini-masterpieces will be a part of a day-long puzzle that will respect individuality through a project that creates unity.

Re-Cycle of Seasons (Lyndsay Martinez-Gordon and the Starlette Sisters) The public will be given a new outlook on what can be done with common things they would usually throw away or put into recycle bins. Event attendees will be invited to make their choice of several recycled art designs, then personalize them to hang in trees for nighttime illumination; or they can take their creations home with them.

Old Main Puppet Improv (Jo-Ellen Gorris of the Village of the Arts and team) An assortment of unique, self-designed and constructed puppets will entertain and interact with the audience on two specially-designed stages. Talented puppets will also paint portraits and tell fortunes. The puppets will be free to wander the streetscape and interact with the public.

Writings on the Wall (Erica Lindegren and the New College of Florida Dance Collective) This piece explores the intersections between discursive language and interpersonal connections, illuminating how it can be embodied, or inked, physically and emotionally, onto our bodies. Movement becomes spoken word, becomes text, and influenced by other group members, returns to the original sentence phrasing.

Manatee County Memories (Sarah Taylor and team) Various memories and history from residents of Manatee County will be collected and recorded prior to the day of ArtSlam. These, combined with memories and histories of ArtSlam attendees, will be represented with imagery painted onto hand-carved wooden pieces. Assembled, the pieces will form a large 3-D puzzle of a manatee.

Community Murals (Debra Gallery and a team of instructors and young students from ArtCenter Manatee) The audience is invited to assist in the creation of three large mural pieces that will be hung in an art studio at the ArtCenter Manatee facility after ArtSlam. One will represent collage, another an underwater theme, and the third expressionist work.

Elision (Paul Ramshaw, Frank Enright, Jeff Hazelton and team) This conceptual piece brings together musicians, dancers, and video artists in a collaboration that references local and national issues, and elaborates on them to create an expressive media performance. The performance includes Courtney Smith and members of the Moving Ethos Dance Company. This project includes a video presentation in the 4th Ave. performance area after dusk.

Time to Fish (Kathy Fitzgerald and Georgette D’Amelio of Bayshore High School) A sculpture created by using assorted gadgets and found objects to print with paint on precut, primed, metal fish shapes. The fish will be embellished with watch parts, and assembled into a large sculptural piece. A children’s printmaking activity will be ongoing while the aluminum sculpture is being constructed.

Art in the Air (Claudia Deschu, John Kokajko, and team) Audience participants (with assistance from volunteers) will fold 10 different types of planes, blimps and helicopters from colorful paper to prepare for a choreographed evening launch from the balcony, which will be accompanied by music and recorded by photographer John Kokajko. During the day, Kokajko will capture images of participants and immediately print out postcards to mail directly from ArtSlam.

ArtDeckO (Geza Darrah, crew and team) ArtDeckO is a one-day community “pop up” skateboard park and art project. It is its own world; built of the positivity, creativity, and energy of skateboarding as both an art form and a culture—from a local perspective. Half pipe, quarter pipes, ramps, painters, videographers, live bands, and a team competition video open to the public. Bring your video camera and enter.

A-maze-in’ Art (Steve McAllister and a collective of artists) Based on the wisdom of the ages that runs through our various traditions, the passage through the Labyrinth of the Unbroken Path will take voyagers through the path of higher consciousness to the heart of who we are as a people. Various artists have been selected to express particular stages of the journey. The end result is a community-based, interactive piece of installation art that is beautiful, creative, and consciousness-raising.

Out of the Box performances, a new addition to ArtSlam, feature local musicians, dancers, theatrical and poetic artists taking the stage to present their unique and individual talents. These performances are 3-11 p.m., and will rotate between two performance areas: The mainstage on Old Main Street near Manatee Avenue, and the 4th Avenue performance area, near the intersection of Old Main Street and 4th Avenue. The schedule features performances by The Open Door Band, Atlantico Tropical, Passerine, Blue Star, the RJ Howson Band, Bayside Community Church Band, student dancers and performers from New College, and Tapped-In, a dance troupe from Tampa, as well as additional performers and acts.

For a complete line-up of teams and locations, visit the project section of www.RealizeBradenton.com.

About Realize Bradenton
Realize Bradenton is a non-profit organization that builds community and promotes economic development through collaborative events, partnerships, and interactive strategies. We help make downtown Bradenton one of the best riverfront communities in the country. For more information, visit: www.RealizeBradenton.com.