Featured Artist: Karen Arango

Karen Arango is an independent photographer, videographer and black and white gelatin silver printer. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Photography and Digital Imaging from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL. She also completed the General Studies photography program from the International Center of Photography in NYC.

Shirley by Karen Arango
Shirley, 9, her mother is from Mexico and her father from the United States. Her parents work hard to give her the opportunities they didn’t have at their age. Photo by Karen Arango

Please tell me where you grew up and a bit about your background.

I was born in Colombia, and I moved to the United States when I was 9 years old. My family, parents and two siblings, was in danger because of the war going on in the country, therefore, we immigrated to the United States. When we arrived to this country my parents separated and my mother ended up raising us three alone.

From Abkhazia by Karen Arango
“From Abkhazia” – The mother of an Abkhazian refugee sits in her house in Tbilisi, Georgia while her daughter tell the story of how they immigrated. Photo by Karen Arango

Can you recall the first time you used a camera?

I can’t recall the first time, but I do remember using the old school cameras that my parents had brought with them from Colombia. They were film cameras and I must have been 10 or 11 years old when I got to use them for the first time. All I know is that around 2010 I used a panoramic camera with 110 film, and I took a photo of my brother and his friends while in ROTC in high school, I still have that photo and the cameras with me.

Abkhazian Play by Karen Arango
The Abkhazian refugee mother spends some time with her daughter in the hallway while the other kids of refugees play. Photo by Karen Arango

When did you know that photography was what you wanted to do?

I always loved art, I think almost every child does. I was lucky enough to have an art class at my school in Colombia and my parents had the means to get me art materials. In high school I decided to be an architect, and after doing the AutoCAD program during my junior year of high school I realized that it wasn’t for me. When I decided to study something more unconventional at the time, graphic design some friends and family members would tell me that I would not be able to live out of design or art but I was persistent with it, my mom supported me. I got certified in Digital Design, and after seeing Ringling’s campus and photography program, my boyfriend at the time suggested that I study photography. He would tell me I was very good at it, and I never believed him because he was my boyfriend and I thought he was just saying that. It seems like he knew me well cause since the first day I began studying photography, I fell in love with it.

Xiomara by Karen Arango
Xiomara, 9, her parents are both from Peru. Her mother was deported to Peru when Xiomara was three years old she now only gets to see her mother once or twice a year. Photo by Karen Arango

What are the biggest challenges for you being a photographer?

Self motivation, I think that as an artist I need to keep myself motivated all the time, mostly to do personal work. Then finding a balance between personal and commercial work and keep the spark in my own art. It’s important for me not to let it become an obligation because I’m making money off of it. When your art becomes your means of income it can become dull and you can forget why you started doing it in the first place, but I think that as long as there is a line between commission work and personal work and we stay motivated to do our personal work, then it can be extremely magical.

Helping Brothers by Karen Arango
Brothers help each other get out of the creek in the hills of Dosquebradas, Colombia. Photo by Karen Arango

What inspires you?

Life, experiences, family, friends, strangers, light, colors, compositions, music, traveling, love, nature, helping others, making mistakes, taking risks and the unknown.

Melissa by Karen Arango
Melissa, 6, both of her parents are from Colombia. The father left her mother with three kids to raise when Melissa was still a toddler. Photo by Karen Arango

Can you tell me about some of your projects?

I am currently working on a couple of projects. One is the Miss Behave series, which is about young girls born in the US and daughters of Latin American parents. I’m starting to expand on those series.

Another project I am working on is about women who were illegal immigrants and have been abused in the United States, and as a result they were able to get the Visa U. It’s something I just found out about and I think it is extremely important to talk about this. Many women, who have no immigration status, are being abused today and they are scared to say something because they fear deportation.

Water Transport by Karen Arango
A man transports water through the hills of Santa Rosa Colombia. Photo by Karen Arango

What is your dream situation? Is this a goal you’re working on, and if so, how’s it going?

Well when I was a child I wanted to be an actress. I’ve always loved performing arts, including dancing. I think everyone who knows me well knows how much I love dancing and every opportunity I have to do it, I take it. Deep inside I still would like to be a performance artist, but in some way I feel that I am connected to it, since I am behind the camera capturing the life performances instead of doing them.

Walk around hen by Karen Arango
A hen walks around a grave in the hills of Dosquebradas, Colombia. Photo by Karen Arango

Where can people find you?

People can find me through my website: karenarango.com, I have a contact page where you can write to me. Instagram: @karenarangor, and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arangokarenr. I am currently living between Sarasota and NYC, so if I am not in those two cities then I am capturing a story somewhere!

Art: Sarasota Season Style by Pamela Beck

Join Pamela Beck in the first installment of SeeSaw to her current column, ARTdart, as she observes and explores various visual art exhibitions and happenings in the Gulf Coast area.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in the first installment of, SeeSaw, to her current column, ARTdart, as she observes and explores various visual art exhibitions and happenings in the Gulf Coast area.

No, it’s not your imagination. It really does take an extra twenty minutes to get wherever you’re going these days.For art fans, there’s a flip side to not being able to find a parking spot this time of year: More crowds=More exhibitions.

Here, below, are some eyecatchers I’ve seen while gallery hopping on a recent, sunny afternoon. They’re just a small taste of visual treats currently on exhibit in Sarasota.

For a larger picture of shows in town, click “Exhibition” found on the Sarasota Visual Art masthead.

1. Abstract, adj.: Expressing a quality apart from an object, Group Exhibition curated by Kevin Dean, Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art, till April 3rd

Peter Plagens, Get In There Fast, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 54” x 52”
Peter Plagens, Get In There Fast, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 54” x 52”

The resurgence of Abstract Painting in contemporary art provides this opportunity to explore current trends in relation to the historic movement through the exhibition of eight working painters ranging in age from their thirties’ to their eighties’ who are inspired by nature, music, mathematics, the spiritual and new media.

Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Design,
2700 N. Tamiami Trail

2. Child’s Play, Group Exhibition curated by Mindy Solomon of the Mindy Solomon Gallery, St. Petersburg, till April 26th

Second-Hand Childhood, by Don Florence Photo, partial view of children's chairs in a circle
Second-Hand Childhood, by Don Florence Photo, partial view of children’s chairs in a circle

Mindy Solomon Gallery
124 2nd Ave NE  St Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 502.0852

3. iConcept Retrospective, group exhibition curated by Lisa Berger and Eric Cross, Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota, FL, till April 26th

Observer, by Eric Cross, (made from recycled Longboat Key Observer Newspapers). Artists from around Sarasota produce pieces of fashion from avant-garde materials that walk the runway.
Paper Dress, by Eric Cross
Paper Dress, by Eric Cross

Art Center Sarasota
707 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

4. Following Ovid’s Metamorphoses: From Cosmogony to Chaos and back to the Rhizome, curated by Anne-Marie Melster, Two Columns Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Design, till April 14th

Installation View
Installation View

Two Columns Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Desing
1947 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota FL 34236

4. If the Sun was Square, curated by David and Tre Steiner, State of the Arts Gallery, Sarasota, FL, till May 1

Jim Keaton, Machine 4, 26 "x 33" .
Jim Keaton, Machine 4, 26 “x 33”

State of the Arts Gallery
1525 State Street, Sarasota, FL 34236

5. Ongoing, Nikitas Kavoukles, Stakenborg Fine Art, Sarasota, FL

Sitting by Nikitas Kavoukles, oil on canvas, 26" x 30"
Sitting by Nikitas Kavoukles, oil on canvas, 26″ x 30″

Stakenborg Fine Art
1545 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236

6. Let it Float, Matt Combs, till March 30th, Clothesline Gallery, Sarasota, FL

Matt Coombs, SRSc12 Collage on Paper, 11" x 9.25", 2013
Matt Coombs, SRSc12
Collage on Paper, 11″ x 9.25″, 2013

Clothesline Gallery
529 S. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236

Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck

Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee; Sarasota-Manatee Dance Alliance, Advisory Board Committee

Part Delusion at Crossley Gallery

October 26, 2012
Crossley Gallery, Ringling College, Sarasota FL

Part Delusion is an exhibition of recent works by Ringling College Fine Arts Alumni Brittney Hollinger 11’ and Sean Pearson 12’.

October 26, 2012
Crossley Gallery, Ringling College, Sarasota FL

Brittney and Sean explore the idea of environments and objects in isolation. Rather than focusing on the notion of isolation as an ending, Part Delusion projects a positive investigation of autonomous environments and the possibilities of interconnection.

Opening night is October 26 from 6-9pm. Come out and join us in supporting our two Fine Art Alumni.

Brittney Hollinger (b. 1988) has recently returned from the Picture Berlin Residency Program in Berlin, Germany, and is now working as gallery assistant at Ringling College’s madeby Gallery. Her work has been exhibited both within the US and internationally including “It’s Not Yesterday Anymore” a group show at UFO Presents curated by Lotte Møller in Berlin, Germany. Printed publications of her work includes, “All Tomorrow’s Parties” written by Dmitry Bezouglov as a Featured Artist in the November 2011 edition of Fashion Week Magazine in Russia, and “Art Takes Miami” in December 2011, in tandem with Scope Art Fair in Miami, Florida. Hollinger continues to actively exhibit in the United States.

Each piece in this series is a sculptural representation of disparate component parts that attempt to exaggerate public perceptions of a private sum. These scenes, though seemingly dissimilar, try to evoke invisible relationships of interconnectivity both physically and emotionally using the physical space and the illustrated space.


Sean Pearson (b 1989) Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He currently works at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens as well as AICAD/New York Studio Program in Brooklyn. Sean will be participating in a group exhibition at et al Projects (Brooklyn) with fellow Ringling College of Art and Design alumni Reva Castillenti ’09 in December.

My practice in this instance is an investigation of travel in its potential and extremes, particularly in how a new environment requires that special adaptations take place within the body and one’s culture, bringing about new forms. These drawings are monolithic yet express a sense of mobility, and fluidity. I am interested in the idea of experiencing a monumental form and wondering about the endeavors that must have taken place for its existence.


The Allure of Collage at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art

November 14 – December 29, 2012
Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, Sarasota FL

The exhibit features mixed-media work by Leslie Fry, Joan Giordano, Brian Haverlock, Tom Judd, Mario Naves, Neltje, Gustavo Ramos Rivera, Erika Lawlor Schmidt and Josette Urso

November 14 – December 29, 2012
Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, Sarasota FL

A reception, with artists, is December 14, 5-7 p.m. The exhibit features mixed-media work by Leslie Fry, (St. Petersburg), Joan Giordano (New York), Brian Haverlock (Montclair, N.J.), Tom Judd (Philadelphia), Mario Naves (New York), Neltje ( Banner, WY), Gustavo Ramos Rivera (San Francisco), Erika Lawlor Schmidt (Pawlet, VT )and Josette Urso (New York).

Former Ringling College instructor Brian Haverlock holds an M.A. in theology from Washington Theological Union, as well as a B.F.A. in painting from East Carolina University. He is currently enrolled at Montclair State University’s MFA program. Haverlock is a 2007-08 recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, among other awards, and his works have been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S. Haverlock’s work expresses recalled memories and sensitive reflections of events, situations and individuals he has met, known, or experienced. Using as inspiration the initial manifestation of mechanized art daguerreotypes, the artist incorporates those earlier vocabularies as he combines with precise drawing techniques pencil the images and visual syntax of a uniquely recombined and delightfully innocent vision of reality into miniature artworks. Haverlock’s images delight and surprise the viewer with their grandeur and often poignant simplicity and visual complexity.

Leslie Fry‘s sculpture and works on paper have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the United States and abroad. Fry says that her works on paper begin “by pressing a plant into paper and seeing what grows from that. These images express moments of wholeness created out of fragmentation.”

Joan Giordano has enjoyed nearly 30 solo shows and has taken part in countless group exhibitions nationally and internationally. She was invited to create installations at the First International Women Artists Biennale in Korea; the Sofia Paper Biennial in Bulgaria, and the Sosabeol International Art Expo Flame Show, 2011. Of her work, the esteemed art critic, Joan Altabe, wrote: “In Giordano’s hands, paper—the marble of modern sculpture—ranges beyond history, past prehistory, back to places of legend where paintings had magical function.”

Allure of Collage: I Work Like a River by Neltje

The artist Neltje says she strives “to make the sensed visible, to balance the interior reality of passion with the external condition of form.” Since 1985, she says, her life has been her artwork. “I create because I am driven to define moments, emotional responses to the natural world, and the chaos that seems to be life’s breath. My senses live on red alert. All of them. I am sustained by, obsessed with, my soul filled to brimming virtually daily, by the grand, the infinitesimal, the lightest and the darkest of images and insights. My passions fierce and demanding enforce me to forge a whole of reverie and reality. I paint.”

Tom Judd first exhibited his art work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where, at 25, he was included in a survey show entitled, “Contemporary Drawing: Philadelphia,” curated by Ann Percy and Frank Goodyear. The museum purchased a work from that exhibit for their permanent collection. Judd went on to exhibit his work in distinguished commercial galleries. In the 90’s, Judd had a 10-year retrospect at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Judd has also participated in many public art projects, including a billboard next to an interstate 76 in Philadelphia ; and a 70-foot chalk drawing in Salt Lake City in 1997.

Mario Naves is an artist, critic and teacher. He says that his art “is a form of painting disguised as collage. My criticism abjures the marketplace for what meets the eye. My teaching encourages burgeoning artists to question just what it is exactly they’re getting into and how to do it well.” Naves’ work has been written about in The New York Times, Art in America, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, and other formats. He has been the recipient of awards from The National Endowment for the Arts, The E.D. Foundation, the George Sugarman Foundation, The National Academy of Design and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. His writing has been published in Slate, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, Smithsonian, ARTS Magazine, New Art Examiner, and The New York Observer, where his column, “Currently Hanging,” appeared on a weekly basis from 1999-2009.

Gustavo Ramos Rivera is an abstract painter whose work is celebrated nationally for its intense emotional content and its unique, personal symbology. His paintings combine the palette and iconography of the indigenous cultural heritage of his native Mexico with classic techniques of post-war American abstraction. In his works, Rivera constructs layers of intense translucent color fields upon which he lays simple hieroglyphic markings of rich impasto which seem at once archaic and contemporary. They articulate a poetic narrative but also express the artist’s pure delight in working the medium of oil paint. In addition to his painting Rivera is also a master printmaker who works in monotypes, intaglio and lithography. He has also produced unique and limited edition artist books illustrated with original art.

Erika Lawlor Schmidt has forged a career as a visual and performing artist whose work is deeply shaped by investigations into Eastern philosophy and Indian mysticism. Schmidt received her B.F.A. from the University of South Florida in Tampa and did post-baccalaureate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She later earned an M.F.A. from the University of South Florida, where she founded the Vital Spark Performance Group, a collaborative interdisciplinary ensemble that has traveled to major U.S. cities and throughout Europe. She says that her work is “shaped by the recognition and inquiry to cyclical tendencies, including the contemplation of life cycles: birth, death and rebirth or the possibility for reincarnation. I have been interested in this all my life.”

Allure of Collage: Lemon Ice by Josette Urso

Josette Urso says that she is wants “to push the visual matrix to a crescendo just before breakdown, to find, in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, ‘The still point of the turning world.’ There is a gamble involved in this, and my circular arrangements put me in mind of roulette wheels, just as they provide an insight into the spectral nature of consciousness. Urso is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including two grants from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. She has also received The Basil H. Alkazzi Painting Award (2000), a MidAtlantic HEA (1994), grants from Art Matters, Inc. (1988) and The Ruth Chenven Foundation (1988) as well as an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Florida State Arts Council (1986). Urso has had more than 30 solo exhibitions and has participated in more than 200 group shows around the world.

For more information about this exhibit, call 941-366-2454 or visit www.allyngallup.com. The gallery is at 1288 N. Palm Ave., in Sarasota.

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An Interview with Charles Miano on Sarasota’s Southern Atelier

Conducted by Charles Valsechi – Southern Atelier is devoted to the study of nature, not the study of a particular technique or style of painting, the direct observation of the natural world including its personification the human figure.

by Charles Valsechi

What separates the Southern Atelier from local art centers and private art schools?

Southern Atelier is the only local institution whose primary focus is the study of drawing and painting from life.

How does the Southern Atelier differ from every other Atelier?

Through my travels and associations I’ve had the privilege of learning methods and techniques from a variety of sources. I can honestly say that Southern Atelier is devoted to the study of nature not the study of a particular technique or style of painting. When I say nature I mean the direct observation of the natural world including its personification the human figure. We see painting as a visual language that is constantly evolving and bettering itself. Our goal is not to mimic a particular master painter or historical style but to build on the masters shoulders allowing the universal principles of nature to guide and direct our progress. I have always found that the great masters of art had more in common than they had differences. This common thread could be described as a way or path of visual truth. Fundamental principles of nature have been taught in a variety of ways. We feel we have some of the most effective methods to get these insights across to students combining traditional as well as innovative approaches. So we really believe in the whole of world art history including Eastern and Western influences. We try and stay away from replication of one particular segment of it. We also try not to promote any one particular artist over another, no matter how strong the talent. Southern Atelier is not about one person, nor fame or even a name… It’s about the progress of humanity in art.

Another thing that separates us is the concentration on the spiritual and emotional impact of realist art. Not only do we learn to copy nature skillfully but to instill it’s essence and vitality. We learn through our years of study that painting has progressed away from a colored drawing to an expression of light and life. We realize that our growth is an infinite path and through humility we give back to the art itself. This is stressed at the atelier through short and long term life studies, rigorous academic drawing development from nature and memory as well as outdoor and indoor impressionist light key study. Our location here in the Southern part of the continent gives us the benefit of studying color under the sun’s illumination all year long. Few, if any, schools have that capability or are in a position to take advantage of that.

We feel this will give an artist the development necessary to reach new heights of creative potential through the coalescence of technique and concept. In addition, you’ll find our prices, as a nonprofit, a fraction of the cost of other programs.

How did the Southern Atelier begin?

It began years ago at Art Center Manatee where I was painting at the time. I had no desire to teach but was approached and offered a “painting class”. I now realize how vital teaching is. I told them that I could not deceive a student into believing that they could learn this craft in a mere “painting class”. So I told them that if they really wanted students to learn, I would be happy to develop a program for them. That program included all the seeds of our current curriculum, including foundational drawing skills and impressionist color study.

That “atelier” program grew exponentially until we needed a place of our own. Artists began to come from all over the South. We originally rented a barn out in the country from the
Humane Society before we moved into town. Southern Atelier happened quite organically, a true grass roots movement.

Which artists from the past influence you most?

It depends on the path of my growth. For instance, if I’m interested in improving the personal and expressive content of my brushwork than I would say the literati and ch’an painters of the Sung Dynasty most influence me. If my interest is improving color, than I look to the impressionist lineage whether it be French, American or Russian. If my drawing needs expressive gesture and attention to anatomy than I am interested in studying the Italian masters. If its accuracy and refinement I’m after than I study the academicians. I am certainly one who appreciates the strengths of others and in that confluence delight in my own progress.

What kind of atmosphere does the Southern Atelier have?

The Southern Atelier is humble and enchanting. It is a joyful place bathed in natural light, a bohemian refuge from the clutter of the world where ego melts away. It’s where we heal our most potent creative energies and yet demand of ourselves tremendous discipline. Our Teachers, Staff and Monitors set the tone with great effort, making the atmosphere up building and encouraging. We also foster an inclusive community of support and sharing, an environment of growth, free from petty competition or divisiveness, with a healthy reverence and respect for each other, for art and for the natural world. We learn that when we cultivate inner knowingness, our environment improves as well as the profundity of our work.

What makes a great painting?

A going out of one’s self into nature unafraid and exalting.

For more information on the Southern Atelier, visit http://southernatelier.org/

Charles Valsechi moved to Florida at an early age and began to draw constantly. With encouragement from friends and family he traveled to Sarasota to study at Ringling College as well as the Southern Atelier. Here he fell in love with painting and has never looked back.