Polk Museum of Art Receives Macy’s Grant

Macy’s recently awarded a $2,500 grant to the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College for its After School Art Family Program. This 12-session series of fall and spring classes is offered to children of all abilities ages 5-12, and their parents or guardians.

Specifically, the grant provides funds to supplement the certified art teacher’s stipend for the fall session and purchase art supplies for over 500 participants throughout the school year. All students have access to instruction, use of the museum’s classroom facilities, equipment and supplies, and are able to take home whatever artwork they produce. This program is free of charge for museum members, and nonmembers pay a nominal fee of $5 per child.

“We’re grateful for the support Macy’s provides for the program,” said Ellen Chastain, the museum’s education manager. “These classes are a good introduction for parents or guardians and their children to learn about art and artmaking together.”

The museum has offered After School Art for more than 15 years. Its objective is for children and their parents or guardians to learn new art techniques and create their own theme-based art projects. Macy’s has been a generous supporter of the program for the past three years.

After School Art has tripled its attendance since its inception. It began with a routine attendance of 20 to 25 people. The current session, which began Sept. 25, has approximately 60 attendees per class, and requires the use of two classrooms.

Chastain also uses the program as a training ground for aspiring art teachers. She has worked with Polk State College and University of South Florida art education majors in the past to teach the classes. Due to Florida Southern College’s recent affiliation with the museum, she will work with their art education majors to teach After School Art in the spring.

“We view this as a valuable professional development element because it presents an opportunity to teach in a nontraditional atmosphere,” Chastain said. “I’m pleased to say that our last two After School Art instructors went on to be hired by the Polk County School District.”

After School Art has two six-week sessions per year. Classes are held 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Mondays. The current session ends Oct. 30. The spring session runs Feb. 5 through March 12. Registration is not required. To learn more, visit the the After School Art page.   

Q&A with the Artist: Jason Myers

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College recently debuted “STATUS: fluid | dynamic,” an exhibition featuring the work of Jason Myers that runs through Dec. 10.

Here’s a look at Myers’ answers to a series of questions about the exhibition and his work as an artist.

What is your inspiration behind this exhibition?

I consider personal life experiences to be my primary inspiration, but I draw content from culture/history and the society/social issues in our lives.

This exhibition was a careful selection of works from several series, created over the past 10 years. Each series challenges certain perceptions of our lives and the answers we settle for, regarding the system within which we live. 

The aim of this exhibit was to share the unique approach I take to create in the studio. The works range from paintings, sculptures, virtual paintings and installations, and most include digital media in some way. Most of the work combines the different mixed media to create hybrid mediums. 

All the work starts with the hand in the form of drawing, painting and sculpture before it is scanned and manipulated in the digital format. It is then transferred to canvas and worked physically with many layers of paint and resin.

Most importantly, my subject is “ourselves.” My works are a reflection and metaphor for all of us. Since the beginning of art, with the cave paintings at Las Caux, artists have emulated themselves. As humans, we recognize and relate to our own reflections better than anything. A common element we all understand and a narcissistic view of the center of our universe.

What story does the exhibition tell?

I don’t think of my exhibition as comments, answers, or telling a story in a general sense. I do believe that it is a means of eliciting questions from the viewer about the world around us.

It does reflect my anxiety about life through my process, which continually evolves, by transitioning through a variety materials and media.

What is your favorite piece in the exhibition? Why?

I would consider “Visible Noise” to be my favorite pieces for many reasons. It was certainly the most difficult, took the most time, and required the most investigation of new tools and technology to create. The piece was a challenge to myself to create a work of art that captured more than a moment of time, but rather a work that was an experience of time itself for the viewer. 

It addresses the overwhelming and irreversible influence of digital technology on our lives. Within a five-minute duration, the “self” or subject is overwhelmed by and then overcomes the struggle, as the piece transitions from light to dark and back again. The handwriting symbolizes the visible noise or digital infiltration of our souls, lifestyles and the ways we live and communicate with one another. 

What does it mean to you as an artist to have an exhibition here at the Polk Museum of Art?

This is my first solo exhibition in a significant museum. It is a very important element for this body of work specifically. Most importantly, the museum allows the opportunity to share the work in its purest form, which lacks the selections being based on sales strategy or other thematic reasons of galleries or art fairs. My goal has always been to exhibit these series in a space that allows the body of work to communicate with each other visually, in its intended format.

What role does a museum exhibition play in advancing your work?

Part of my job as an artist is sharing the work with others. This exhibit has given me the opportunity to show the work in a space that presents the art in a designated higher learning environment. Museum exhibitions allow greater access to a larger audience and a wider cross section of the general public.  

Why should people come see this exhibition? What do you want them to take away from it?

I hope that people come and experience the exhibition to see something new and different than they may have ever experienced before. Being not only new methods, mediums, working processes and subject matter, but also art that questions things they may have taken the given answers for granted. I hope the audience is moved enough to evoke questions of their own, about their own lives, through a visual experience.

Gino Miles Exhibition Opens

Visitors to the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College got a taste of Gino Miles’ work when the museum installed one of his sculptures at its entrance in 2016.

The gift of that sculpture titled “Introspection” from Clearwater couple Moshe and Ella Kedan led to the exhibition “Bound Ascension: The Sculpture of Gino Miles,” which runs through Jan. 14.

Miles will discuss the exhibition at the Point of View Gallery Talk on Nov. 10. You can learn more about that here.

Miles works primarily in fabricated stainless steel and bronze. The curvilinear, often weightless appearance of his pieces creates a visual contradiction with the heavy metal materials from which they are made. His large-scale sculptures are designed to be touched, turned and viewed from different vantage points.

Some are so large that special arrangements were made to get them into the exhibition. The largest piece is titled “Shelter,” and required a crane to lift it over the museum walls and into the Sculpture Courtyard. It measures 16 feet long, 8 feet six inches wide, and stands 8 feet three inches tall. It weighs roughly 1 ton.

Several sculptures in the exhibition are a series of aluminum cubes and columns that represent the dots and dashes of Morse code.

A native of the Western slopes of Colorado, Miles earned a master’s degree in sculpture from the University of Northern Colorado in 1979.

He lived in Florence, Italy for a number of years and helped found Italart, a school for American and German students in the Chianti region. He also taught design and sculpture classes while making and exhibiting his own pastels and sculpture.

Miles and his wife reside in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You can learn more about Gino Miles here. 


Bill Rutherfoord Exhibition Opens

Bill Rutherfoord climbed down into the basement of his Roanoke home to search for some kind of authenticity and to explore the notion of inherited culture.

Over the next eight years he created a series of 11 large-scale paintings, colorfully detailed and densely populated, that investigates the idea of inherited culture and addresses capitalism.

Those works comprise the exhibition “Allegory of No Region” organized by the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, which is on view at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College through Dec. 10.

The artworks feature the characters Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, made popular in the African American folktales compiled by writer Joel Chandler Harris in the late 1800s. They also feature portraits of Rutherfoord’s ancestors, all of which are used to address the state of the art world and historical perceptions of the South, according to The Roanoke Times. Characters include Confederate soldiers, antebellum men, and people from the Reconstruction era to represent the periods “that have created the southern myth as we remember it in residual form,” Rutherfoord said in a 2014 interview.

Rutherfoord called his work on this series an exercise in nostalgia. His father is a Roanoke native, his mother is from New Zealand, and Rutherfoord was born and raised in New York City.

Childhood trips to Virginia to visit his father’s relatives first exposed him to Harris’ “The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus” featuring Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. His uncle’s mother-in-law would gather all the children into her bed and read the folktales in dialect.

“They left a mark,” Rutherfoord said. “They’re designed to drill into your head.”

Rutherfoord’s artwork also is designed to leave a mark. His paintings invite the viewer into a complex interweaving of narrative, symbol and form. Some pieces portray Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox as competing business men, where Rabbit is susceptible and Fox seems to offer an advantage. It portrays a cautionary tale about capitalism’s need to find an exploitable class of people.

“Of course I was going to use this forbidden narrative to make a point,” Rutherfoord said, adding that he does this in animal form “because it’s easier for us to address our humanity through the animal filter. It makes it kind of cute and cuddly. So these are clichés used to a purpose.”

“Allegory of No Region” debuted at the Taubman Museum of Art in 2014.

The Polk Museum of Art is open Tuesdays – Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 1 – 5 p.m. 

Polk Museum of Art Debuts Second Exhibition Showcasing Figurative Art

“Faces in the Crowd,” the second in a series of exhibitions that showcases the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College’s latest acquisitions of figurative American art, has opened.

The museum will host a Point of View Gallery Talk devoted to this exhibition on Oct. 13, noon to 1 p.m. This event is free. Space is limited, and an RSVP is requested.

“Faces in the Crowd” highlights the museum’s new principal collecting focus for its permanent collection – American figurative art in painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture.

Artworks in this collection were donated to the museum by Florida Southern College alumnus J. William Meek III, who spent several decades studiously assembling one of the nation’s largest collections of figurative artworks that illustrate the human form in a myriad of styles and techniques. In addition to donating works from his personal collection, Meek gifted a collection of more than 500 artworks from major American artists and their estates.

Meek, director ameritus of Harmon Meek Gallery in Naples, also continues to organize gifts of American figurative works of art from artists and artists’ estates to the museum.

Notable works in “Faces in the Crowd” include two nearly identical artist’s proofs on display by Robert Vickrey of his lithograph “Sean’s Pulse.”

It is unusual to hang two works like these side-by-side — two apparently identical “faces” — and while at first glance they seem replicas of one another, a closer inspection reveals that they are not, said Alex Rich, curator and director of galleries and exhibitions. Each is from a different stage of the lithographic process and reveals that even works of art made from the same lithographic stone, as is the case in this instance, can be vastly different from each other despite being part of the same series.                                                                                                                              

Other notable works in the show are those featuring anonymous figures in Richard Segalman’s universally-relatable scenes.

“Most prominent in the show are Hunt Slonem’s paintings of well-known sitters like Rudolph Valentino, whose portrait is the largest and most eye-catching work in the show,” Rich said, “and Donald Trump, who in his portrait seems to stare out at you from the salon wall no matter where you stand in the room, perhaps appropriately ever-present in our 2017 lives, even in the solace of a museum.”

The exhibition takes as its jumping-off point the concept of the human figure’s diverse representations in art. The theme plays off of the idea of what it means to be a “face in the crowd,” Rich said.

The arrangement of the show includes one wall done “salon-style,” with works hung floor to ceiling, inspired by the Royal Academy salons that began in the late 17th century.

“These faces in the ‘crowd’ of paintings we have created interact and create a visual dialogue with one other and across the four walls of the gallery space,” Rich said. “Viewers also become part of this experience of looking at faces in a crowded room of paintings or a crowded wall of paintings and realize they are faces in a crowd as well.” 

“Faces in the Crowd” runs through Dec. 17. To RSVP for the Point of View Gallery Talk, please email: Reservations@PolkMuseumofArt.org.

Polk Museum of Art Opens “STATUS: fluid/dynamic” Exhibition

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is pleased to announce the opening of “STATUS: fluid/dynamic,” an exhibition featuring the work of Jason Myers.

This is the first solo museum show for Myers, a multi-disciplinary American artist based in Logansport, Indiana and Zwolle, Netherlands.

Myers works in a variety of mediums, and the aim of “STATUS: fluid/dynamic” is to share the unique approach he takes to create in his studio. This exhibition features work in steel, resin, computer-generated prints and LED video, and takes the form of paintings, sculptures, virtual paintings and installations. Complex, layered and exquisitely executed, this is a selection of works from several series he created over the past 10 years.

Myers views this museum exhibition as an important element for this body of work.

“The museum allows the opportunity to share the work in its purest form,” instead of basing selections on the sales strategy of galleries or art fairs, Myers said.

He said he hopes people will visit the museum to see something new and different than they may have ever experienced – not only new methods, mediums, working processes and subject matter, but also art that questions things they may have taken the given answers for granted.”

“I hope the audience is moved enough to evoke questions of their own, about their own lives, through a visual experience,” Myers said.

Myers’ exhibition runs through Dec. 10. Admission to the museum is free daily. Hours are Tuesdays – Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 1-5 p.m.