Santa Fe College, Thomas Center shows focus on water

Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 1:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 1:47 p.m.

Serendipity is the word of the day. We have two shows in two different locations, both focusing on water and both inspired by the same. The first, "Portray, Preserve, Prosper Florida's Eden: Springs Heritage Region," is running as Santa Fe College's Santa Fe Gallery. This fine exhibit is inspired by water and Cynthia Barnett's popular book, "Mirage, Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S."

The second, "Liquid Muse: Paintings from the St. Johns Region," is being hosted by the Thomas Center through Oct. 19. Once again we have a show that originated with a book. In this case, a book being written by Gainesville art historian Mallory O'Connor and Deland writer/photographer Gary Monroe. As the two gathered information about the St. Johns River watershed, they were struck by the wonderful art the area had inspired. This led to the current exhibit of 35 paintings by 35 different artists.

Of the group, 12 hail from the Gainesville area and the rest come from counties inside the St. Johns watershed. Each artist's work was influenced by water and its importance to our area.

"We are all connected through water throughout the region," O'Connor said.

While Monroe may be a photographer, this show is all paintings. Curators O'Connor and Monroe tried to mix it up with traditional, abstract and self-taught styles.

While no one will like everything, unless you are a devotee of Ashcan realism, you will be hard pressed to come away from this show disappointed. There are landscapes in the Salon style of the mid-1800s, abstracts from local favorites including Margaret Tolbert and folk pieces by Mr. B.

"Tumucuan Indians on the St. Johns River" by Mr. B. is a fine example of the Nave style. Mr. B (Jack Beverland) uses heavy applications of fabric and day-glo paints to create a fanciful interpretation of the area in centuries past. The depth of the paint almost makes this a relief while the composition will charm both children and adults.

A couple of paintings down lies "Tootoosahatchee" by Spence Guerin, a large-scale oil that borders on photographic realism. Guerin selected a small bend in the creek but spent four years completing the piece. The detail is excellent and if you look closely you will see that Guerin incorporated a touch of all four seasons in the composition.

The only piece that has a photographic history is "Amidst the Reeds" by Jack O'Connor. The dark, ruby red composition started as a photograph of a stream bank but O'Connor has painted over the original with acrylics. At first the work seems ominous and unsettling; your head screams "blood" but there is elegance as well. The artist incorporates several Asian aspects. There is Chinese calligraphy on either side of the two-panel composition and O'Connor has painted bamboo stems down the center of each panel to give the impression of a traditional four-panel screen.

This show is already booked to go to four other sites around the state. There is a reception for the artists tonight from 5 to 7.

There is also a related public forum addressing water usage in Florida at Santa Fe College on Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception for the exhibit in the Santa Fe Gallery from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

While you are at the Thomas Center, you can head upstairs to the Mezzanine Gallery where a new exhibit of linocuts entitled "Rollercoasters, Diners and Wind-up Toys," opens today. The collection is the work of Santa Fe College graphic arts students. The public reception is also tonight from 7 to 9. Can't tell you much as I have not seen this yet, but since you are already there ...

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The University Gallery has a very intriguing show booked to open Tuesday entitled "The Roar of the Crowd." I suspect that this site-specific digital media installation will be one of the most heavily attended events the gallery will hold all year. To cut to the chase, this show is all about the Gators and Gator fans. Seven different projectors will be displaying the digital creations of New York City-artist Tim Lauren and Marissa Maza from Berlin. Lauren is fascinated with the crowd dynamics of a Gator game and his installation will display his own interpretation. For those of us who did not get seats to a game this year, this might be a unique alternative. Maza has focused on women's diving, gymnastics and basketball.

Curator and gallery director Amy Vigilante has set up an ambitious public reception on Oct. 10. From 7 to 9 p.m., the Fine Arts Courtyard will be filled with bleachers, pep and marching bands, cheerleaders, the Dazzlers dance team, Albert and Alberta, coaching staff and a silent auction. There is also an artists talk set for Oct. 9 at noon.

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Last but not least, the Art Festival at Thornebrook is this weekend, Oct 4 and 5.

David Hackett can be reached at

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