UF, downtown and Melrose serve up diverse art buffet

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 8:44 p.m.
There is more to a gallery opening than just free food and drinks. This is not to say I have anything against free grub; I consider an open buffet a gift from the gods, but if you're not careful you also could end up educated.
Last Friday's opening of the Art and Art History Faculty Exhibition at the University of Florida's University Gallery is a perfect example. There I was, making chit-chat and trying to determine if guacamole fulfilled my daily vegetable requirement when I casually mentioned that a piece called "Stacked Chairs" had me stumped. The next thing I knew, artist Celeste Roberge joined me and I received a quick introduction to the art of stacking.
Roberge's work consists of four crystal-clear plastic chairs by modern furniture designer Phillippe Starck sandwiched between meticulously arranged layers of slate, Arizona buckskin sandstone and Mexican capstone.
"The piece is about geological time and human time coming together," said Roberge. "Even though the chairs are newer, they are much more ephemeral; the chairs will deteriorate long before anything happens to the stone."
Indeed, as you look at the clear, perfect chairs, layered between heavy, fossil-riddled stones, you sense the fragility of modern creations.
My original thought: "Hey, I do the same thing with my lawn furniture each time we receive a hurricane warning." After more consideration, I grew to appreciate the effort and the statement Roberge has made, but I am still not sure I would want it in my living room.
Across the room, a group of six acrylic on canvas paintings by Julia Morrisroe called "Speed at Six: Hotwheels Series H" brought a smile. The series struck me as clouds or explosions laid over a '60s background. I instantly thought of old Roadrunner cartoons in which the cloud of dust denoted the hasty exit of the hypersonic bird.
Another piece that had several patrons enthralled was Katerie Gladdys' "Point of Origin." Gladdys has created a video on the orange juice industry. The performance, which is displayed on the side of a gallon jug of OJ, shows groves, trees, commercials, vending machines, souvenirs and more. The longer you watch, the more you are sucked in.
"I'm digging it, but I don't know why," said one bemused viewer.
Arnold Mesches of "FBI Files" fame is showing a piece from a new series called Coming Attractions. The painting depicts a grand and elegant cathedral interior but hung though the center are clotheslines of drying laundry.
"All my paintings are really about, 'Why?'" said Mesches. "A lot of it is tongue in cheek."
The exhibition, which runs until Feb. 10, is full of fascinating pieces, some easily understood and some challenging. There is much to digest.
The Art Walk kicks off its new year on Friday. If you have not taken the walk yet, you really should. The array of artists and disciplines constantly evolves.
Some galleries are tightly focused. Eleanor Blair Studio, for example, specializes in Blair's oil landscapes. Harold's Frame Shop is another stop that shows a dominant artist, in this case, John Moran.
The Tench Building and its neighbor Sweetwater Print Cooperative present diverse offerings by dozens of artists. Sweetwater always seems to pull together a good show for Art Walk. If you go into the Tench Building, check out Robert Roberg's room. Make sure you grab a set of the 3D glasses before you enter. It might also be a good idea to go easy on the wine before you check out his collection. You will understand when you see it.
The Art Walk runs 7 to 10 p.m. Friday. The Melrose Bay Gallery is opening a new exhibit featuring the works of Silvia Scudder and Candace McCaffery. Scudder specializes in fine woodwork using salvaged Florida hardwoods. I have seen McCaffery's dyed-and-printed quilt work before and always admired it. These are not grandma's patched quilts but rather custom pieces more at home in a frame than on a bed. McCaffery uses a strong environmental theme and wonderful color combinations. The opening reception is from 6 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 3.
Bon appetite - culturally speaking, of course.
David Hackett can be contacted at davidmhackett@cox.net.

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