A drop in the bucket
Through Jan. 9 at Crealdé School of Art
600 St. Andrews Blvd., Winter Park

Of the 75 artists receiving professional development grants in the years 2006-2008 from United Arts of Central Florida, 18 were selected to exhibit in and around the Alice & William Jenkins Gallery at Crealdé School of Art, ostensibly to show that "the arts scene in Central Florida is vibrant, diverse in its modes of expression, and ambitious in intent," according to press materials. 

A glance at their biographies confirms that these artists are indeed the "ars intelligentsia," with heavy representation by local professors, MFAs and members of the professional gallery and museum scene. The resulting show is fine, if somewhat safe in
its scope. 

Tuning in to the painting, sculpture, video and photography in this small gallery requires that one stop for a moment and breathe; the aesthetic messages of the mostly quiet pieces are best received without clutter or noise. A serene, timeless Florida is evoked by Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson, Jolie Spelman and Cathy Hempel. Craig Richards' video, :-)2ME The Happiness Experiment, steeps happiness in irony through banal conversations implying, tongue-in-cheek, the absence of tension or strife in one's little world. Doug Rhodehamel's Migration II reappears, as do his paper-bag mushrooms on the lawn. 

Abstract expressionism ranges from Donne Bitner's "Down the Rabbit's Hole, Again," a dark palimpsest about losing control, to Fatima Lotfi Rice's bright, colorful two-panel action paintings of change and living in the moment, with an overarching orange spiritual force enveloping the delightful topography of blue-green splashes, blurs and swipes at the canvas.

Weaving is elevated to a delicate fine art in artist Hye Shin's "Over the Line" and especially "Rain Drop." Loosely woven threads act as a spatially porous grid and coiled thin threads draw one into the work: Blue waxy squares of handmade paper solidify the space, and ephemeral transparency vibrates with intensity. "Rain Drop," smaller yet more intense, is elegant simplicity embodied, yet its soft minimalism has a rigorous depth that gives the work a pleasurable tension. 

Granted! as a whole provides a glimpse at the state of visual arts in our economically challenged community; the financial and promotional support from United Arts of Central Florida and Crealdé helps to shore up careers and media that might otherwise be on the brink of extinction.

More by Rex Thomas


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