The local art scene has had a disappointing summer in 2020. Thanks to COVID-19, comedy clubs in the area have unplugged laughter, live theater stages have gone dark, and visual art spaces have closed. .
Art Center Sarasota was no exception. It offered virtual exhibitions during the year, but closed the galleries to the public. The organization’s circle of visual artists could still show their art online, but they couldn’t meet art lovers face to face.
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Despite this isolation, they did not stop creating. Now that the pandemic is (hopefully) at an end, you can see what they’ve been up to – and finally see the artists in person. ACS is now officially back in the real world art game.
The center hosts its annual regional art exhibition, this year with the luminous title “Here Comes the Sun”. It wasn’t meant to be a theme. But, from the work I’ve seen, many Florida-based artists are in a sunny mood. After all these months of creating in isolation, it’s no wonder.
Savannah Magnolia, a Tampa-based artist and graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, is the juror for the exhibit. You can see his art at the “Skyway 20/21” exhibition at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. You can see the Magnolia Art Judging starting Friday, when the winners will be announced at an opening artists reception.
In the meantime, here’s a look at this year’s summer hues.
“Heat Wave” by Susan Rienzo is a luminous explosion of joyful colors. (It’s textile art, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a quilt.) Rienzo sewed the artwork from a bag of summery images. These include figurative fragments like the faces of children, dragons and cars. There are also random text snippets and abstract patterns. Warm colors dominate; the atmosphere is bright and sunny.
Qing Wang’s “Blue, White, Yellow” is a thick waveform impregnated with yellow and white on a deep blue background. His acrylic painting on canvas has a powerful vector of movement. This implied movement grabs your attention – and your eyes instantly sweep left to right. Wang’s painting is a static image, not an animated one. But it doesn’t look like that.
Jacqueline Wasserman’s “Soil” is a spiritual and surreal painting. (Acrylic or watercolor? It’s a digital piece, so none of the above.) In true surreal style, Wasserman’s piece sends a mixed message. She happily pushes conflicting emotional buttons simultaneously. His painting represents the face of a woman in tears. You start to feel empathy and sympathy, but something is wrong. Instead of tears, she cries what appears to be multi-colored pool noodles. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry – and that might be the point.
Jim Verrilli’s “Mel-O-Dee” is unusually brooding for this sunny exposure. It’s a photograph – monochromatic and melancholy. The scene is the sign for the old Mel-O-Dee restaurant just north of the Bahi Hut on Sarasota’s famous North Trail. Verrilli pulls the sign at an angle, giving it the appearance of abstract art or a freeze frame from a film noir crime story. If you grew up in Sarasota, you will feel a nostalgic twinge. (Where are the breakfasts of yesteryear?) If you’ve just arrived, you can see it in formal terms. It’s a strong image anyway.
‘Here is the sun’
Opens at 6 pm Friday July 23, with an artists reception and runs through August 20 at the Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-365-2032; artsarasota.org.
Read more visual art features and reviews from Marty Fugate.