Artists interpret ‘Below the Belt' theme

Todd Palmer's photograph “Ox Peck” is among those featured in the “Below the Belt” art exhibition, which opens Saturday with a reception at the Top Secret Space, 28 N. Main St. (COURTESY OF MASS VISUAL ARTS)

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.

If someone used the term “below the belt,” what would come to mind? In the case of a new art exhibition opening Saturday at the Top Secret Space, that was the theme — and challenge — issued to 36 artists who responded, as can be imagined, with more than 50 artworks that are virtually limitless in their interpretations of the phrase.


‘Below the Belt'

What: Art exhibition with 36 artists from below the Mason-Dixon Line interpreting the show's theme.
When: Opening reception 7-11 p.m. Saturday, the exhibition continues 5-10 p.m. on the following Saturdays, and noon-6 p.m. on the following Sundays through March 25; closing reception 7-11 p.m. March 30 during Artwalk.
Where: Top Secret Space, 28 N. Main St.
Admission: Free

To begin with, “Below the Belt” refers to the fact that all of the participating artists live below the Mason-Dixon Line or, in other words, are exclusively from the Southeastern United States.

Last year's exhibition at the Top Secret Space, “American Dream” featured artists from around the entire country. And with this exhibition — the first being presented by MASS Visual Arts, a group of artists that arose in the wake of that successful exhibition last year — organizers decided to feature only artists from the Southeast.

“We wanted, for our first show, to focus on the Southeast, and so we started discussing what theme would be appropriate, challenging and interesting for artists to represent what they're doing in the Southeastern United States,” says Dale Gunnoe, executive director of MASS Visual Arts.

“So it became the Southeast region, and so there was the ‘Bible Belt,' ‘below the belt,' the ‘Mason-Dixon Line,' all those things.”

The list of artists, which includes several from New Orleans, Alabama and North Carolina along with many from North Central Florida including Andy Krone, Hanna Price, Cindy Steiler and others, interpreted the theme in a variety of creative and thought-provoking ways, Gunnoe says.

“It has many different connotations and interpretations,” he says about “Below the Belt.”

“It's a boxing term, a political term; there are lots of different interpretations and we've actually gotten some of those interpretations in the show, which is fun.

“Some people have referenced it literally as boxing, a few people have interpreted the religious connotation because in the Southeast, we're sort of stereotyped as this conservative area. So some artists have challenged those notions and others have literally represented those ideas.”

And others have offered some perhaps surprising interpretations, adds Bill Bryson, the coordinator of last year's “American Dream” exhibition and now a staff volunteer with MASS Visual Arts.

“Photographer Todd Palmer has several photographs of wildlife from his research that he does in Kenya, and his ‘below the belt' interpretation was below the Sahel, the southern Saharan belt,” he says.

“And Jasper North made a sculpture that is an astronomical body ... a spatial kind of perspective as opposed to the obvious.”

“Below the Belt” opens Saturday with a reception from 7-11 p.m., and the exhibition will be open the following weekends from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays through March 25.

A closing reception is also planned 7-11 p.m. on March 30 during Artwalk.

Admission to the Top Secret Space, 28 N. Main St., next to The Top restaurant, is free.

Follow Entertainment Editor Bill Dean on Twitter at @SceneBillDean.

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