Polk Museum of Art Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

The Polk Museum of Art and Florida Southern College are pleased to announce they have received a National Endowment for the Arts Arts Engagement in American Communities Grant. 

The grant will help support the “Sad Tropics: Visiting Artists’ Exhibition & Education Project” that will take place at FSC’s Melvin and Burks Galleries. Sad Tropics is a large, site-specific installation piece designed by artists Cristina Molina and Jonathan Traviesa, who will be in Lakeland to install the work on view Sept. 21 through Nov. 2.  

As Florida natives and New Orleans residents, Molina and Traviesa were inspired to create their multimedia exhibition by reflecting on their Florida roots, observing images along their roundtrip drives to visit family in Lakeland, researching Florida’s history and tropical paradise mythology, and naming their project in homage to Claude Levi-Strauss’ book title “Tristes Tropiques.” Through photographic murals, videos and a gift shop installation, the artists’ work celebrates and critiques the eccentricities of the Floridian aspiration.   

Multiple education programs are planned to coincide with the exhibition that will engage FSC art students in the installation process. Programs include a gallery talk and tour for Polk County sixth-12 grade students and parents led by Dr. Alex Rich on Oct. 5; Sad Tropics Artists’ Talk on Nov. 1; and an artists Sseminar for FSC students and faculty on Nov. 2. All programs will be open to the public free-of-charge and will be held at the FSC Melvin and Burks Galleries. 

“We are very excited about receiving national recognition and grant support from the NEA for our Florida Southern College collaborative Sad Tropics project,” said PMA Executive Director Claire Orologas. “It has been quite some time since the Polk Museum of Art has been awarded an NEA grant and it makes it even more special that these funds are supporting an exhibition designed by two Florida-born artists.”  

According to FSC President Dr. Anne Kerr, “Our students and faculty are looking forward to participating in this NEA grant-funded exhibition and education project. It will enrich our entire Florida Southern College and Polk County community, and raise our Polk Museum of Art affiliation to a higher level of nationwide recognition.”      

To learn more about this PMA NEA grant, contact Director of Arts Advancement Suzanne Grossberg at 863-688-7743 x298 or sgrossberg@polkmuseumofart.org.

Polk Museum of Art Receives Artwork in John Rodda’s Memory

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College announces the donation of a Yousuf Karsh photograph of British author and playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Robert and Malena Puterbaugh donated the photograph in memory of John A. Rodda, who passed away on April 30. It will be displayed in the museum in the fall.

The Puterbaughs selected the Shaw portrait taken in 1943 because it is one of Karsh’s most important and detailed photographs, Robert Puterbaugh wrote in a memo included with the donation.

Karsh said the following about the photograph:

“He said I might make a good picture of him – but none as good as the picture he had seen at a recent dinner party where he glimpsed, over the shoulder of his hostess, a perfect portrait of himself. He pushed by the lady, approaching the living image, and found he was looking in a mirror! The old man peered at me quizzically to see if I appreciated his little joke. It was then that I caught him in my portrait.”

The museum has built a collection through the years of important photographs Its collection includes other works by Karsh, as well as photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Jerry Uelsmann, Elliott Erwitt and Herman Leonard.

“We are honored to receive this generous gift in John’s memory,” PMA Executive Director Claire Orologas said. “The quality of this work is apt for the man he was.”

Rodda, founder of Rodda Construction, Inc., lent his operations expertise to the museum through the years, and as a Florida Southern College trustee, he played an instrumental role in helping the museum’s affiliation with Florida Southern become reality in 2017. He also served on the inaugural Board of Trustees of the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College.

Exhibition Focuses on Mystery of Possible Masterwork Discovery

A large-scale painting of a Roman chariot race found in a closet on the Florida Southern College campus unearthed a mystery and became the impetus for a home-grown exhibition opening June 23 at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College.  

“The Von Wagner Code” is a curated exhibition centered on the rediscovered painting that appears to be an early, lost version of Hungarian artist Alexander von Wagner’s acclaimed masterpiece, “The Chariot Race” of 1882, now in the Manchester Art Gallery.  Several early versions are known to have been painted originally in the 1870s but have vanished. 

This exhibition is also believed to be the first-ever museum show focused on von Wagner and his work, said Dr. Alex Rich, PMA curator and director of galleries and exhibitions.

The fragile but newly-conserved painting measures 52 inches by 72 inches and was gifted to Florida Southern in 1953 as a 17thcentury Italian Baroque painting by Domenico Fetti. In 2016, it was discovered in a storage closet, along with paperwork that documented it as a Fetti painting of the 1600s. Rich had his doubts.

A bit of research confirmed it to be instead a variant of von Wagner’s 19thcentury “The Chariot Race,” which was wildly popular in its day and is a staple of art history textbooks. His painting heavily influenced Lew Wallace's popular 1880 novel, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” which went on to be adapted to the stage and screen.

Von Wagner’s painting was commercially reproduced within years of its first U.S. exhibition in the 1870s, and it was common for American families to have a print of the painting in their homes.

Works that speak to the painting’s popularity that are part of this exhibition include:

·      From the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s collection, an 1875 copperplate etching made after the painting, which was heralded as the largest in the U.S. at the time. 

·      From the Library of Congress, the 1896 original sheet music of John Philip Sousa’s battle piece “The Chariot Race,” which von Wagner’s painting inspired.

·      Also from the Library of Congress, original posters from a 1901 “Ben-Hur” stage play and the 1925 film of the same name. Von Wagner’s painting inspired the imagery and cinematography for these productions.

·      From the collection of a Paris art gallery, the only locatable original study for the painting. It was purchased at auction in 2013 by a private buyer in Denmark.

“The Chariot Race” was so popular that the San Francisco Weekly Examiner placed advertisements in many Mid-western newspapers — including the Kansas Agitator as early as 1892 — offering a print of “The Chariot Race” as an enticement to those who subscribed to it. 

“All of these cultural artifacts are evidence of this painting’s impact,” Rich said. “Part of the story we wish to convey in the exhibition is the popularity and legacy of this painting and of von Wagner, and the fact that we may have uncovered an important missing piece of this complex history.” 

An opening reception for “The Von Wagner Code” is scheduled for June 29, 6-8:30 p.m., and the exhibition runs through Sept. 16. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is located at 800 E. Palmetto St. Visit www.polkmuseumofart.orgfor more information, and to RSVP for the reception. 

Polk Museum of Art Hosts Coffee with Artist Beth Ford

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College will host Coffee with the Artist: Beth Ford on June 9 at 10:30 a.m.

Ford has taught thousands of students since she started teaching college-level art classes more than 50 years ago.

This Mississippi native who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts and art education from the University of South Florida taught at Polk Community College (now Polk State College) prior to joining the Florida Southern College faculty in 1968. She formally retired from Florida Southern after teaching 38 years, but missed the students so much that she returned as an adjunct professor four years later to teach courses in printmaking. She also has taught drawing as an adjunct at USF.

Her exhibition, “Beth Ford: A Selective Retrospective,” opened in May and runs through Sept. 23. During Coffee with the Artist, Ford will discuss her body of work and the various mediums she has worked in and taught throughout her career.

A variety of mediums are represented in her show, including drawings, mixed media drawings, paintings, intaglio printmaking and silkscreens.

Ford, who turns 88 on June 10, has been featured in group and solo museum exhibitions throughout her career, and her work is in the permanent collections of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs, the University of Tampa, and the law firm Holland & Knight.

Admission to Coffee with the Artist is free, but registration is requested: https://polkmuseumofart.org/upcoming-events/coffeeford

Exhibition Invites Guests to Crack the von Wagner Code

A painting of a chariot race found tucked away on the Florida Southern College campus unearthed a mystery and sent Dr. Alex Rich, PMA curator and director of galleries and exhibitions, on a quest to discover the story behind the work. 

The painting in question appears to be an early version of Hungarian artist Alexander von Wagner’s “The Chariot Race,” which is believed to have been painted originally in the 1870s. For all of the answers Rich has unearthed in his search for information on the painting, many questions remain. 

“The Von Wagner Code” is a curated exhibition that poses those questions about the mysteries of the painting’s history to the public. It is believed to be the only exhibition of von Wagner’s work ever held in the United States, Rich said.

In the Closet

The work in question measures 52 inches by 72 inches and was gifted to Florida Southern in 1953 as a 17thcentury Italian Baroque painting by Domenico Fetti. At some point, the work was admired more for its frame than the painting itself, so the canvas was removed, rolled up and replaced with a mirror.

In 2016, the tattered painting was discovered in a storage closet, along with paperwork that documented it as a Fetti painting. Rich had his doubts. The painting of horses and a chariot in a Roman forum arena simply didn’t look like an Italian Baroque painting, he said.

After performing initial conservation work to the damaged canvas in February 2017, art conservationist Rustin Levinson confirmed Rich and other PMA staffers’ suspicions when she determined the painting couldn’t be older than a 19thcentury work, based on the materials used. 

Rich researched further and confirmed that it appeared to be a variant of von Wagner’s famous “The Chariot Race.” Although von Wagner was known to have painted several versions on the theme, Rich located the only presumably extant version of the work in the Manchester Art Gallery in England dated 1882. 

Commercial Popularity

In its various early versions, “The Chariot Race” was wildly popular in its day. It was commercially reproduced, and it was common for American families to have a print of the painting in their homes.

In 1875, the largest copperplate etching in the U.S. at that time was made after this painting. It is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection. The Smithsonian has loaned the work to PMA as part of the upcoming exhibition. That black and white image measures 18 1/8 inches by 28 1/8 inches. 

Proof of the painting’s popularity is seen in various art forms. Von Wagner’s painting inspired John Philip Sousa to write the battle piece “The Chariot Race” in 1888. The Museum has secured the original sheet music from the Library of Congress to be part of the PMA’s exhibition, and an orchestral recording of the march will play alongside it.

Von Wagner’s painting also inspired many of the literary and film depictions we associate today with Roman chariot racing, including the cinematography for “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” in 1925. The movie was based on Lew Wallace's popular 1880 novel of the same name, which was influenced heavily by von Wagner’s paintings on the theme from the previous decade. Prior to the movie, a theatrical adaptation of Wallace’s novel was produced first in 1899, and the commercial advertising for the play replicates von Wagner’s painting.

The Museum has secured from the Library of Congress original posters from a 1901 “Ben-Hur” stage play and from the 1925 film for “The Von Wagner Code” exhibition. Rich also discovered 1916 silent movie playing cards with images of von Wagner’s painting on the cards. A deck of the cards is among the several dozen objects that illustrate the widespread popularity of the painting as part of the exhibition.

“The Chariot Race” was so popular that the San Francisco Weekly Examiner placed advertisements in many Mid-western newspapers — including the Kansas Agitator as early as 1892 — offering a print of “The Chariot Race” as an enticement to those who subscribed to it.  

“All of these cultural artifacts are evidence of this painting’s impact,” Rich said. “Part of the story we wish to convey in the exhibition is the popularity and legacy of this painting and of von Wagner, and the fact that we may have uncovered an important missing piece of this complex history.” 

Clues in the Painting

The reason behind the exhibition’s name is because the Museum is looking for evidence that the featured painting is definitively by von Wagner, Rich said.  

As part of the search for answers, Rich located the original study for the painting, discovering that it had been sold at auction to a private buyer in Denmark in 2013. Now held in the collection of a Paris gallery, the original study is on its way to Lakeland, on loan to the PMA exhibition. The Museum hopes it could yield a host of answers.

The painting upon which “The Von Wagner Code” exhibition is built is only the left half of the scene in von Wagner’s finalized and best-known Manchester version. Guests will be invited to examine elements of the painting for clues to its authenticity. For example, the lower left corner of the painting features a chariot wheel that has spun off. On the wheel is a symbol. Does it read “VW” for Von Wagner, or something else?

Come see for yourself when the exhibition opens June 23. It runs through Sept. 16. Admission to the Museum is free daily.

 

Polk Museum of Art Announces Winners at 47th Annual MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake

Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College announces the following artists as award winners at the 2018 MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake fine art show. The winners, their hometowns, the media they work in and their booth location at the show are as follows:

Best of show ($5,000):

  • Richard Currier, Micco, Fla., painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #103

Awards of Excellence ($2,000 each)

  • Ummarid “Tony” Eitharong, Orlando, Fla., Painting- oil and acrylic, Booth #110
  • Christopher Doherty, Jupiter, Fla., Photography, Booth #6

Awards of Distinction ($1,000 each)

  • Tyler McLaughlin, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Sculpture, Booth #163
  • John Mascoll, Safety Harbor, Fla., Wood, Booth #109
  • Karen Kurta, Altamonte Springs, Fla., Photography, Booth #53
  • Jean Yao, Ft. Lauderdale, Fiber, Booth #120

Merit Awards ($500 each)

  • Tim Hall, Tampa, Fla., Photography, Booth #71
  • Susan Currier, Micco, Fla., Drawing and graphics, Booth #104
  • Jeff Eckert, Tampa, Fla., Drawing and graphics, Booth #112
  • Jinsong Kim, Seagrove, NC, Clay, Booth #167
  • John Kellum, Orlando, Fla., Clay, Booth #41
  • Russ Schmidt, Palm Bay, Fla., Glass, Booth #90

Honorable Mentions ($250 each)

  • Patrick Dragon, Lakeland, Fla., Clay, Booth #111
  • John Williams, Tampa, Fla., Wood, Booth #179
  • Charles Taube, Phoenix, Ariz., Sculpture, Booth #43
  • Hugo Cruz, Gainesville, Fla., Photography, Booth #100
  • Richard Auger, Jupiter Island, Fla, Photography, Booth #59

MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake Returns to Lake Morton for 47th Year

The Polk Museum of Art’s MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake returns to Lake Morton May 12-13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. 

Celebrating its 47thyear, this juried art show is a great way to spend time with your mom on Mother’s Day weekend, but this annual event packs a ton of fun for the rest of the family, too.

Included during the weekend of activities is Mayfaire Saturday Night on May 12, 5:30-11 p.m. This free concert features the band MPiRE at the Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror, as well as the MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire 5K Road Race presented annually by the Lakeland Runners Club. The evening ends with fireworks.

Events and activities occurring during Mayfaire include the Children’s Art Tent and Kids Zone with games and free, hands-on art activities designed for participation by children of all abilities. Live performances are held throughout the weekend on the front lawn of the Lakeland Public Library, and food trucks offer lots of tasty variety for everyone to enjoy. 

Art is available for purchase, from jewelry and pottery to paintings and sculptures in a wide range of price points. Mayfaire presents $17,000 in awards to artists annually, and this year’s winners will be determined by Mayfaire Judge Leland Michael Bryant. You can learn more about Bryant here.

An Adaptive Services Oasis is located on the library lawn to provide event accessibility information for people of all abilities. This will be staffed by volunteers who will provide assistance with communication, shuttle transport and information regarding reaching accessible entry points designed for people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. You can learn more about accessibility at Mayfaire here.

Mayfaire organizers select an artist’s work to serve as the event’s poster and T-shirt design each year, and this year’s image is by Orlando artist and long-time Mayfaire participant Tony Eitharong.You can learn more about Eitharong here.

Free parking and shuttle service is available, and free shuttles also run around Lake Morton and to the museum during the festival.

This signature event is one of the museum’s oldest traditions, and it has grown exponentially since its debut as a crafts fair on the front lawn of the Lakeland Public Library. More than 70,000 visitors from throughout Central Florida attend Mayfaire each year.

 

Visit https://www.mayfairebythelake.orgfor more information.

MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake Offers Accessibility Services

The Polk Museum of Art presents MIDFLORIDA Mayfaire by-the-Lake annually, and it has become a tradition for thousands of families and individuals from throughout Central Florida. 

Accessibility for all is important, and Mayfaire organizers routinely solicit feedback on areas where increased focus can improve upon existing measures that are in place. Based on that feedback, following are the steps coordinators have taken to make this year’s Mayfaire even more enjoyable and accessible for people of all abilities.

An Adaptive Services Oasis will be located on the Lakeland Public Library lawn. This area will be staffed by volunteers who will provide assistance with communication, shuttle transport and information about reaching accessible entry points designed for people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. 

The following amenities also are provided for attendees:

·     Three ADA-compliantportable toilets around the lake with mats placed on the grass in front of them to make it easier for attendees in wheelchairs to access.

·     ADA-compliant restrooms in the museum and library.

·     A wheelchair accessible golf cart for shuttle service throughout the event.

·     A wheelchair accessible concrete dining area with picnic table is located on the lake shore near Walnut Street.

·     Signage throughout the event directing people to accessible restrooms and the Adaptive Services Oasis.

·     An event guide and map that includes accessibility information. Guides will be available at the Adaptive Services Oasis, the museum and the museum tent on the library lawn.

·     A Children’s Art Tent that offers free crafts for children of all abilities.

Accessibility questions and requests during the event can be addressed by calling (863) 455-4990.

Please offer feedback and suggestions on additional accessibility improvements after the event via email: mayfaire@PolkMuseumofArt.org. 

Art+Dance Comes to the Polk Museum of Art

The art is coming “off the wall” in April when live commentary and interpretative dance converge for Art+Dance: Off the Wall at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College.

The event is April 19, 6:30-9 p.m. It costs $10 for members; $15 for nonmembers. Light hors d'oeuvres and beverages are provided, and a cash bar is available.

The featured exhibitions for this event are “Painting A Nation: Landscapes from the Hudson River School,” and “Masters of Spain: Goya and Picasso.” Live dance pieces choreographed and created by Ferdinand DeJesus of the FrediDance Project will bring the exhibitions to life through group and solo contemporary and hip-hop dance, as well as some acrobatics.

“I want to take the viewer inside the painting through rebellious, urban, interpretive dance,” DeJesus said.

DeJesus will collaborate with violinist Jason Baker for one of the performances.

Curator Alex Rich, who also is an art history professor and the art history program director at Florida Southern, will briefly discuss each featured work, and then the art will come off the wall in the form of dance.

Art+Dance is a fundraiser hosted by the Polk Museum of Art. Proceeds from the event benefit the museum’s education programs and exhibitions.

Purchase tickets at the door or online. For more information, call (863) 688-7743. The Polk Museum of Art is located at 800 E. Palmetto St. 

Masters of Spain Exhibition Opens Soon at the Polk Museum of Art

“Masters of Spain: Goya and Picasso” opens March 17 at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College.

The exhibition, which runs through June 17, includes more than 50 works of art and features the iconic “Tauromaquia” (Bullfighting) series of etchings by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, as well as rare late-career works by Pablo Picasso in multiple media from ceramic to cardboard.  The majority of the works in the show are on international loan from The Art Company, located in Pesaro, Italy.

Goya was fascinated by the concept of the bullfight as emblematic of Spanish history, as was Picasso, and that theme is represented throughout the exhibition, said Dr. H. Alexander Rich, PMA Curator and FSC Art History Professor. Goya explores the artistry and the violence of the bullfight in the complete 40 prints of the “Tauromaquia” series.

“I believe it can be argued that Goya was trying, through this series focused on the tradition of the bullfight, to revive an element of the collective Spanish spirit, which had been diminished severely following the Peninsular War from 1807 to 1814,” Rich said.

The bull was also an important symbol to Picasso, and the bullfight was something that recurred in his work. He often thought of himself as a bull, as it was the epitome of machismo, Rich said. Picasso’s depiction of the bull is present in his ceramic and two-dimensional work in the exhibition, alongside other frequent Picasso themes including women, his wives and mistresses, and cubistic still lifes. Other notable works in the exhibition come from Picasso’s 1969 “Portraits Imaginaires” series, two pieces on corrugated cardboard representing a king and queen and produced only a few years before his death in 1973.

“These pieces reflect Picasso’s unique use of materials,” Rich said. “All the way to his 91st year, he always loved to experiment.”

A number of famous ceramic works by Picasso are included in this exhibition, including “Corrida,” “Profile of Jacqueline” and “Tete de Chevre de Profil (Goat’s Head in Profile)” from the PMA’s Permanent Collection.

Picasso started working in ceramics in 1946, and the medium became his principal focus for the next nine years. Intentionally imperfect, his works in pottery were all handcrafted, as opposed to spinning on a wheel.

The Members Reception to celebrate the opening of “Masters of Spain” and “Painting a Nation: Hudson River School” is March 23, 6-8:30 p.m. It is free for members to attend; $10 for nonmembers.

The museum will host a free lecture on Goya by Roy Kerr on April 12, 5:30-6:15 p.m. 

A Point of View Gallery Talk on April 13, noon-1 p.m. will focus on the “Masters of Spain” exhibition. It is free to attend.