RE-Birthing and Hope at DFAC

August 20, 2021 | By Beth Gelman

RE-Birthing and Hope at DFAC


Through August 27
Dunedin Fine Art Center
Details here


I had a sort of rebirth during the pandemic, where I recognized and focused on what is important to me. I am richer in relationships, richer in mind body, and soul, richer in knowledge, and richer in work life balance. The pandemic, and post pandemic, has brought me “Wealth.”
Artist Michael Montini

Artwork by Kasie Cavanagh


You have a very short window to celebrate the return of WEARABLE ART at the Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC) because it closes on Friday, August 27. This event includes an exhibition of professional artists, as well as an aligned exhibit from community contributors.

When the exhibition was being planned, the expectation was that the world would have moved past the pandemic. In this spirit, DFAC christened its 15th WEARABLE ART fashion show with the theme “RE-Birth.” But rebirth from the pandemic has proven to be just as painful and complicated as birth itself. As Covid infections rose to new heights in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, DFAC appropriately canceled in-person performance art experiences and a much-anticipated RE-Birthday Party.

However, an excellent pop-up exhibition of Wearable Art is waiting for you in the airy galleries of the Dunedin Fine Art Center. An invited group of professional artists, many favorites from years past, have created wearable art and 2D models to “show us how to come back to LIFE (and what to wear)” and reaffirm our hope for the possibilities beyond the pandemic. 

DFAC invited the community to submit their own conceptions of RE-Birthday suits resulting in a small collection of 2D and 3D representations on the theme that augments the main show. That willingness to not only encourage creativity from the community but to showcase it in addition to art created by professional artists, is something that sets DFAC apart from other galleries.

So… rather than simply reviewing the shows, I decided to participate and create a RE-Birthday Suit myself. It was a fascinating process that allowed me to delve into the theme – though it was a little daunting to create something that I knew would be shown in public! It certainly gave me even more respect for the artists in the show, who grappled with this theme to create and communicate their personal thoughts and messages in such a beautiful and skillful manner.

While I’ve highlighted a few of their perspectives and pieces, I urge you to see the exhibition in total while it’s here as it’s been beautifully curated by Curatorial Director Catherine Bergmann and Assistant Curator Nathan Beard.


Emerging, by Cynthia Linville


When I thought of the phrase rebirth, it made me think of spring and the first blades of grass and flowers emerging from the winter snow.
– Artist Cynthia Linville

Artist Cynthia Linville created Emerging, what looks like a white wedding dress covered with colorful patches and flowers.  Patches are normally put on to repair damage, to hide the weakness below, but these bursts of color and pattern enhance the wedding dress in a surprising way. Rather than venerating innocence and purity, Linville’s patches transform the dress into a map of a life lived, celebrating the beauty in the lessons learned and fabric reinforced.


Lina Teixeira’s RE-Birthday Suit


Lina Teixeira

Artist Lina Teixeira found inspiration for her RE-Birthday Suit via the Covid vaccination itself. “I have a research company involved in the clinical trials administering COV 19 antibodies,” said Teixeira.  “While preparing for the trial I came across the image of the COV 19 molecule rendering. I was struck by how beautiful it was despite its destructiveness. I viewed all the concentrated effort of the medical community as the Hope we needed to overcome this deadly virus.”


Pronaos, by Francesco Gillia


Humans live if hope is present.
– Artist Francesco Gillia

Artist Francesco Gillia contributed two winged paintings with gold and silver leaf as well as one his 16 Pronaos nudes. Hanging in the main gallery, artfully lighted and displayed, it is a celebration of the splendor of a mature and less traditionally idolized figure – the imperfections of the body only highlighting its beauty.


Because of the pandemic, I unfortunately had a lot of free time… But with that time, I was able to really dig deep into what I wanted to be, and what I wanted to create as an artist.  – Artist Ashley Rivers

Artist Ashley Rivers found that working during the pandemic resulted in a change of style. Using ural and other types of clay, she created body cast pieces to focus on the issues of femininity, identity and the body, with a goal to “empower strength, hope, and the acceptance of individual identities.” They are reminiscent of statues left to the elements over centuries that still retain their beauty and elegance.


Madonna at the Beach, by Jason Hackenworth


As an artist, I see my function as similar to a hiker on a remote trail who piles stones along the way to help others remain on the path. – Artist Jason Hackenwerth

Jason Hackenwerth, best known world-wide for his large projects constructed of balloons (and locally as a faculty at Eckerd College), contributed two paintings for the show. He says his purpose in creating art is as a “reminder to let go of the need to reach the destination and rather, to recognize that what is most sacred are the examples we leave for others along the journey.”


Birth is painful but also a Beautiful and magical experience.
– Artist Olga Saretsky

Artist Olga Saretsky, who represents Kikimora Studio in Miami does not have a piece in the gallery but created a performative piece about “the Portal for all humans to travel through in order to be born” as well as “the pain of stigma and beauty of birth and living” that will be captured on video in the galleries by the folks at DFAC.

Two works, one created by a professional and one by a community artist, struck me as the perfect metaphors for where we are today. First, they are both paintings, echoing how most of our interactions this year have necessarily gone from 3D to 2D this year. Secondly, they convincingly illustrate the concept of needed change and how hard we must work to achieve it.


The Monarch, by Julian Hartzog


Julian Hartzog’s The Monarch is a portrait of a woman standing in a beautiful garden in a beautiful dress that uses butterfly wings for its collar and back. Hartzog, a talented painter as a well as designer, created the painting for DFAC when he learned that the original dress could not be shown, having been accepted into New Zealand’s World of Wearable Art exhibition. The butterfly metaphor is apt; while the woman is smiling, we all know how hard the caterpillar must work in order to emerge and take flight in beauty.


Ultimate Phoenix Lady and Chicken, by Vera Clark Beard


Similarly, community artist Vera Clark Beard’s The Ultimate Phoenix Lady and Chicken, reveals a woman with an eggshell still on her head, a reminder of the messiness and the strength needed for transformation. While Hartzog is a well-known artist and Beard is a young artist, both portraits successfully communicate with the viewer and remind us of our own losses and rebirths. And that, in essence, is the power of art!

My own journey – I am not a visual artist, but the theme of rebirth is of particular interest to me. In the midst of a job change, transformation is something that has been front of mind. As I contemplated how to express rebirth, I thought about how our worldview can assist or hinder us in the process. I decided to use the words of neurologist and author Viktor Frankl as my inspiration, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”


The Risorgimento Collection of Sunglasses, by Beth Gelman (detail)


Re-birth, like birth, can be a long, messy, painful process largely out of our control. Researching the theme, I discovered the Italian word “Risorgimento,” which literally means “resurrection.” There is suffering – necessary and unnecessary – in all resurrections. How we respond to the long, messy, painful process, how we look out at the world during our metamorphosis, that is the only thing within our control. 

Thus, the Risorgimento Collection of Sunglasses was born! Each pair of sunglasses reveals the perspective and consequences of seeing the world through that state.

I want to thank the Dunedin Fine Art Center for organizing this terrific contemplation on the theme of RE-Birth and inspiring me to get in touch with my own creativity.  I hope the show inspires you to get in touch with your own!

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