Strength of Character. . . Evolution

Informal thoughts from the Curator

Through April 28
Creative Pinellas Gallery
Details here

Kendra and I were rummaging around a storage warehouse looking for ideas and interesting pieces or parts for – I don’t know exactly, inspiration? possibilities?

As we were about to roll down the warehouse door, she focused on a line of hand trucks mostly standing upright and she saw this very tall, yellowish metal cart and said, “What if we hung the banana chandelier from that?”

An immediate and enthusiastic YES from me.

Banana Chandelier by Kendra Frorup – painting “Brush” by Edgar Sanchez Cumbas

My first visit with Kathleen and David Bly was in their charming Tampa home where I couldn’t fully focus on conversation because I was pleasantly distracted by all the beautiful wood shapes and creations I saw around me.

When they showed me a cluster of striking solid wood stools, I said “can we stack them?”

I wasn’t sure there would be interest in that since I had just met them, and in no way did I want to disrespect their work. To my delight, they began stacking and mixing sizes – and seemed to enjoy seeing their work in a new light.

Edgar’s painting Brush was one of the last pieces he painted that included the figure, which feels significant to me, and is perhaps a sentimental marker for him. So when I casually suggested we prop Brush on a railroad tie kind-of thing, I wondered what his reaction would be. He knew exactly what I meant and had thought about that kind of presentation himself.

Wood pieces by Jib Projects, Kathleen and David Bly – partial view of wall installation of layered prints by Kendra Frorup – on left, two framed paintings by Edgar Sanchez Cumbas

The what-if factor runs throughout Strength of Character – in the examples above and as we continued the installation process.

When I was asked to write about the exhibit and to explain the title, Strength of Character, I started with a few dictionary-sounding definitions and they just weren’t ringing true for this exhibit.

It was not until the artists and I started installing the work in the Creative Pinellas Gallery that I began to understand what I was trying to articulate was happening all around me. I was working with people who loved the process of figuring things out as much as I did.

Painting by Edgar Sanchez Cumbas – wall installation of screen print screens and banana chandelier by Kendra Frorup – wood sculpture by Jib Projects, Kathleen and David Bly

While strength and character – as well as, strength of character – has many meanings and applications, in the context of our exhibit the title evolved from the obvious materials (tree trunks) to observing the “what-if” factor, which I now define as the unguarded willingness to try a new take.

Whether it’s a hand truck as a tree, stacked wood as a sculpture, or railroad ties under a large painting, what-if ideas can lead to an unexpected revelation. Regardless of the outcome, the commitment to following the thread of ingenuity is a strength, only palpable when it’s happening.

Kendra Frorup, Edgar Sanchez Cumbas, Kathleen and David Bly – working with these artists, I experienced a palpable strength of character in their collective curiosity and their combined willingness to try a different tact to strengthen the show.

That kind of problem solving – to me – is the most fun because it’s unique to this exhibit, with these artists, in this space.

A Gobioff Foundation Microgrant Project


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