October 3, 2019 | By Tony Wong Palms
Highlights from the Stanton Storer Collection
Through November 8
at The Scarfone/Hartley Gallery
Looking at art is a pleasure.
It’s like a walk in nature. You can see rocks and trees, you can see mountains and rivers, clouds and the wide wide sky. You may also hear songbirds, or feel the wind on your face, and maybe touch and smell the soil.
If a person with knowledge, like a geologist, is also on the walk, then you may learn about the minerals in those rocks. Or a biologist can tell you the species of the trees and why they grow in certain places.
Or maybe another person with indigenous knowledge remembers a race of giants who used to roam the region, and the lakes you see are depressions from their heavy footsteps, and the dirt they kicked up are those mountains.
A lot happens when looking at art, whether it’s a singular piece in a friend’s home, or many pieces in a gallery. The Scarfone/Hartley Gallery on the University of Tampa campus is presenting an exhibition with many pieces, called Unbound: Highlights from the Stanton Storer Collection, curated by Francesca Bacci.
The starting point can be anywhere. The middle where there is a heart sitting on an open notebook is a good place. Nothing like beginning in the deep.
But first pause at the gallery entrance, where there is a Tavares Strachan neon piece, titled You Belong Here (blue), placed there to greet all who enter. How embracing is that! And how timely now as people the world over seek shelter from the many storms.
The heart and the notebook is artist Keith Edmier’s, who cast his heart in dental acrylic with data from an MRI scan.
Edmier’s The Year Without Summer harkens to the year 1815 when Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, sending a cloud of volcanic ash around the globe. This same cloud blocked out the sun, making the days gloomy for Mary Shelley, who was on vacation with other literary luminaries in Europe. In this backdrop she wrote Frankenstein. Volcanic ash from this very eruption also fills the fold of the open notebook and voids in the heart.
Next, head southwest, if looking at Edmier’s heart is facing north. From the artist’s heart to an artist’s studio. Here are many pictures within a picture. A horizontal David Hockney piece titled Inside It Opens Up As Well, is a portrait of his studio. Paintings on easels, hung on walls, on the floor, three people pondering the paintings with their backs to the viewer, inviting us to enter and do the same. Hang out awhile. Maybe even listen to the artist seen gesturing, both arms extended like a conductor.
When finished, following right along the same wall will take you encounters with Theo Wujcik, Alex Katz, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Ed Ruscha and other artist giants.
Or look east across the gallery and see a thicket of lines and shapes and colors that seem a jumble. This creation by Iva Gueorguieva titled Tree Hold is an edge to edge composition of atypical spaces that reveals complex patterns and subtle rhythms the longer you look.
You can go in any direction, spiral around, go off on one vector then zoom to another. Explore. There are over 60 pieces in the exhibition.
There is also an overarching narrative, a curatorial logic to how the works were selected and organized — along with the installation groupings into #Foundational, #Black&Color, #Storytelling, #Relations, #Voyeur and #TampaNative. Some works fit into more than one category. Overlapping ecosystems within a larger environment.
Why those categories? Why is one corner of the gallery set up with shelves of books? What is the story behind this piece, or that piece, or those pieces? Why is the formal Ellsworth Kelly next to the seductive Mapplethorpe?
This is where a person with knowledge, like a curator, or the collector himself, would be nice to have along. Sometimes they are, giving very engaging tours. Luckily there is an exhibition catalogue telling the collection history, the curatorial process and anecdotes.
Tampa is not generally considered a locus of art convergence. There are people who have traveled the world and still not found what they are looking for. Yet Stanton has put together a wide-ranging collection. It’s a developing collection, youthful, adventurous. One of his strengths is recognizing the treasures in his own backyard, like the atelier Graphicstudio, whose imprints are heavily represented.
Another strength is hearing new voices, embracing artists still holding their recently earned MFA’s while searching for suitable studio spaces. Not enough can be said of such support and friendship. A whole separate story can be written of these relationships, in particular with Theo Wujcik, the artist who made Tampa his home and Ybor City his studio. It was one of Theo’s paintings that started Stanton down his passion path.
Looking at what a collector has gathered is a bit voyeuristic. An opportunity to penetrate the careful facades we all daily and casually interact with, to other layers of identity, to passions underneath, to vulnerabilities, to gateways unexplored, to where the aesthetic experience begins.
If a singular piece of art can be delicious, then the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery is offering a banquet, a feast cooked up by its chef, Francesca Bacci, with spices and herbs and ingredients, some locally sourced, some from across the sea, all found and generously provided by Stanton Storer.