Culture 2 Go

Maitland color
William Vincent Kirkpatrick:
American Impressionist
Through Sept. 5 at Maitland Art Center
231 W. Packwood Ave., Maitland

The American West's beauty, mountainous landscapes, purple deserts and rugged seacoasts inspired much of American impressionism. One of the best in the genre, William Vincent Kirkpatrick, studied in 1950 at Maitland Art Center (then called the Research Studio). Though the painter died in 2004, works from his estate and private collection are visiting the gallery for a small, intense show that backs up his reputation.

Born in 1939 in St. Augustine, Fla., Kirkpatrick was a world traveler who signed his work "William Vincent"; perhaps it was an embrace of his connection to Vincent Van Gogh, whose influence on the American is undeniable in this selection of works. Kirkpatrick's painting "Tribute to Alfred Morang: Red House on the Hill," for example, vibrates with vivid intensity, trees straining for space next to a taut cubical house of roaring red; it knocks the viewer on the floor like a good Van Gogh. "The paint is literally heaped on the surface," the curator notes in his statement. But this is just the beginning.

Small-sized works of California coastlines in the gallery's first room give way to larger paintings of cosmic skies and craggy peaks, rendered in bright colors and thick palette-knife applications. Kirkpatrick renders quaint Mexican towns and New Mexico scenes the same way, investing emotion in his simple architecture.

The painter studied with Lois Bartlett Tracy in Maitland, later becoming a protégé of Santa Fe artist and writer Alfred Morang. The two traveled the world, painting, drawing, making poetry and "teetering on the pinpoint of chaos", Morang is quoted as saying in the exhibit's statement; through art, they took "a deeper plunge into life that can be achieved in any other way."

The Kirkpatrick tribute to Morang includes introspective portraits, such as one of his partner, a somewhat deconstructed charcoal of a serene, peaceful face with deep, reflective eyes. His watercolors, also represented, are a bit weaker, as if the rigor of the style stayed his hand from the gusto evident in his oils.

Toward the end of his life, Kirkpatrick began a journey into abstracts, with interesting results. "Abstract No. 1," seemingly derived from a landscape, is bold and sure, and one wonders where he would have gone with this if he had lived longer. The exhibit, presented by Baterbys Art Auction Galleries, is a reminder of the incredible talent that's passed through the historic Research Studio.

— Richard Reep

Outdoor humanities
Albin Polasek Museum &
Sculpture Gardens
633 Osceola Ave., Winter Park
Gardens free through August

So it's the hot season, the time of year to appreciate the sculptures — and the breeze — outside the historic Albin Polasek house. It's not a secret, but neither is it well-known that while the artist's indoor museum with paintings remains shuttered until September, per summer custom, the stretch of landscaped lawn backed up to the lake, dotted with bronze, concrete and gold sculptures by Polasek, is free to visit on weekdays, parking and picnic tables included.

The overall effect is tranquilizing when stepping onto the three-acre grounds of the former residence of the Monrovian-born artist (1879-1965). He retired in Winter Park after almost 30 years in Chicago heading the sculpture department at the Art Institute, but continued to create private commissions, such as "Spirit of Music" that still stands in Chicago's Grant Park and "Virgin of the Corn" at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, Neb.

The layout of the gardens places the grandest of his figurative works in the center, the golden "Victorious Christ" (1939, bonze), a crucified Jesus with a look of peaceful acceptance. There are other striking liturgical works in the main garden, like "Pilgrim at the Eternal Gate" (1924, bronze), a larger-than-life-sized man with haunting eyes standing at a formidable entranceway. Breaking the solemnity are joyful nudes, such as "Unfettered" (1924, bronze), a woman opening her arms and spirit upward to a liberating embrace.

Step off the curvy concrete walkway, however, to find smaller, quirkier fare hidden amidst the shrubs and flowers, like the "Pan" and "Female Pan" (1939, concrete) guardians that stand at the passage into the cooler area of the gardens. Discover dozens of sculptures under the canopy of oaks and moss, the blue of the lake holding the horizon. "Svantovit," the Slovian god of war and fertility, sits regally astride his adorned steed, looking like something out of The Lord of the Rings, and the ruler in "Wasserman King Under the Sea" looks like a Jabba the Hutt—related Neptune, with a fish in each hand that spews water into the lily pond.

Year-round, the hard part about visiting the Polasek is turning off of busy Fairbanks Avenue and into the understated driveway.

— Lindy T. Shepherd

[email protected]
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