Works float between life and art 

About 15 years ago, mixed-media sculptor Jack King began studying Oriental philosophy. Inspired by Zen Buddhism, King became fascinated with the idea of shedding all your worldly possessions and beginning a journey to a different life.

"I wanted to be one of those people who could put all your stuff on a boat, push it out in the ocean and light it on fire," King says.

When King moved back to Florida in 1992, he saw in the news people who were literally taking the journey he had thought about. Cuban rafters, fleeing Castro, were packing all they had into handmade rafts and sailing for Florida. Fascinated by the plight of these Balseros, King began creating sculpture that paid homage to these brave souls and explored the dynamic of passing, both spiritually and physically, from one existence to another.

The result, which is currently on view at the Crealdé School of Visual Art, is a combination of mixed-media stand-alone sculpture and three-dimensional bronze wall art dominated by boat and water symbols.

Almost all the stand-alone pieces are combinations of boat-shaped vessels and oars with some supporting structure. In smaller pieces like "Transient Voyagers No. 2" the boats are marked with simple crosses and wavy lines and finished in smooth enamel. These pieces have a primitive feel, echoing some of the structure of early Mycenaean art.

The greatest expression of King's complex symbology comes when he plays with the scale and positioning of his main objects. "Gifts for the Balseros: The Water Is Wide" features actual-size oars that rise out of a box of beans. Carefully held at the top between the oar handles is a small fiberglass boat, partially filled with beans. It's an expressive sculpture, symbolizing the spiritual and physical nourishment the Cubans hope to find in America, as well as the incredible precariousness of their journey.

"I see the same pull between freedom and utter chaos in the plight of the Balseros as I do in my sculpture," explains King.

Although the wall art is less concerned with the Balseros, these works refine King's preoccupation with balance, something he's trying to maintain in his own life. King, now 50, has settled in as the head of the art department at the University of Tampa, but as an artist he's still restless as ever. At the opening, he thanked his wife, noting, "She understands that when we're traveling 70 down a freeway and I see some strange piece of metal, that we're going to slam on the brakes and go back and get it. Collecting seems to be part of my life -- and art."

Tags: ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

More by Todd Deery


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

March 3, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation