Florida Bi-Coastal at DFAC

December 4, 2020 | By Tony Wong Palms

Through December 23
Dunedin Fine Art Center
Details here

by L Felipe Noe

There is a lovely Florida bi-coastal affair happening between Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC) and Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA).

West coast DFAC curator, Catherine Bergman reached across to the east coast ACA for a look into their master artist-in-residence portfolio, and brought the exhibition, Breaking Boundaries: Explorations and Collaborations at Atlantic Center for the Arts to DFAC.

ACA, founded by Doris Leeper in 1977, is a multi-disciplinary artist residency community in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Their unique master artist-in-residence program began in 1982, and since then, over 500 masters from wide-ranging cultural spheres have bought their expertise, experience and excellence to this artist outpost.

Atlantic Center for the Arts – aerial photo of Leeper Studio Complex 1998

Besides the mentoring, these master artists also worked on their own manuscripts, sketches, paintings, poetry, recorded performances and whatever form or medium their practice finds appropriate. ACA has collected some of these into a portfolio, creating a visual and aural history of this remarkable place. From this portfolio, the artist/curator/writer, Judith Page selected 74 pieces to form the Breaking Boundaries exhibition as a traveling ambassador.

New vocabulary – ‘worldcraft.’ This worldcraft is distinguished from WorldCraft and other similar sounding computer game names that are massively popular with online players.

Worldcraft as I recently learnt it is defined as the cumulative experiences, skills, knowledge and wisdom that a person acquires in the course of their many years living on this planet.

This compound word wholly describes the Breaking Boundaries exhibition, the collective experiences these masters have created in a space of time in this particular place.

Writing studio – an artist at an ACA Residency in 2005

Sometimes, when watching sports on TV – say, baseball – when the camera pans to the dugout showing the manager, coaches, veteran players and on occasions even a guest like a retired team member, the sports broadcasters would say something like, “Folks, what you see here collectively is at least 200 years of baseball experience.” The camera continues to pan over to the DFAC’s Entel Family Gallery and the broadcaster might say, “Wow folks, what you see here is at least a century’s worth of culture-making knowledge the ACA has accrued.”

There’s a drawing from Allen Ginsberg. . . manuscript pages from Edward Albee. . . Carolee Schneemann’s energetic collages. . . a pair of William Kentridge’s hand-colored etchings. . . a musical score from Yuji Takahashi. . . thoughts, ideas, notes, photographs and expressions from Mark Dion, Lynda Benglis, Bernar Venet, John Edgar Wideman… and personal to me, I was thrilled at seeing a Kay WalkingStick landscape study. She was the master artist I studied under during my ACA residency in 1995, along with the poet Sonia Sanchez, composer Chinary Ung and their group of writers and musicians.

Kay WalkingStick – Untitled
Mark Applebaum music score

Seeing the show is, in a way, walking into these artists’ studios all at once. Stand in the middle of the gallery and do a pirouette and these wonderful records of their activities from a brief space in time dance around you.

History can be learnt in school, from books, documentaries, through stories told around a campfire, pirouetting around art galleries. . . It’s a false narrative that history is told by the victors. That’s like a tourist visiting the United States, eating only at the ever-convenient McDonalds, then claiming expertise on American cuisine. A local would suggest places like the DFAC outpost.

There’s quite a lot more on the menu at DFAC. Concurrently in their Douglas-Whitely Gallery is another gem of an exhibition, Vespertine curated by Nathan Beard. The works are intimate, layered with meaning, highly crafted and visually delicious.

‘Vespertine,’ that which comes to life in the night, like the iconic owl, or the flowering ceroid cacti. Night also brings a darkness in which imaginations create very different thoughts.

For more in-depth look on this unique gathering of artists and their visions from across the country, watch this video for a conversation Nathan had with each of the nine artists in the show.

And meet the unsung Heroes and Sheroes in the Gamble Family Gallery. Nice surprise to recognize Nikki Pike and Ronny Elliot among the roster of people with butterfly wings.

Annie-B Parson – All the Props, featured in Breaking Boundaries

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