Marya Summers is the former editor of Pandemonium art and literary
magazine and also the former art and theater writer for Free Press, Palm
Beach County's alternative source for art and news. Now, she's a freelance arts
writer, a poetry and theater artist-in-residence in the public schools, an
English instructor at PBCC, and the host of a weekly poetry slam in Delray
Off and On in the Off-Season
by Marya Summers
What I've learned covering the arts in Palm Beach County is that off-season
shows are a great way for emerging artists and lesser-known art
institutions to get attention that would normally go to the established and
better-known ones. While the winter months are dense with seasonal
residents and are the time to attract the largest numbers of patrons, it's
the summer months when the arts are lean and journalists are hungry for
fodder that savvy art entrepreneurs make their move.
Of course, this doesn't apply to Palm Beach County's largest and best known
museum, the Norton Museum of Art. It won't be hurt much by a weak summer
exhibit or poor attendance. The newspapers will cover even a unimaginative
and skimpy exhibit like this summer's Road Warriors: Knight Riders
when its launched by a museum of its repute.
The summer show was obviously the result of budget constraints and a crisis
of imagination. Despite this exhibit's appeal to medieval enthusiasts (the
armor from Pennsylvania's Higgins Armory) and an increasingly popular
motorcycle crowd (less than a dozen bikes of varying ages and modifications), the show has little to offer. The exhibit has too few
objects to be considered a historical perspective. Further, the parallel between
medieval knights and modern bikers is made clear not so much visually as it
is by the placards on the wall which inform that besides straddling their mounts and wearing
gear that is as decorative as it is protective, these road warriors have
been societal symbols of independence and have developed their own codes of
conduct to govern them. Thematically, the exhibit may be appealing especially in the wake of the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club, but the show is
too thin to make much of an impression.
From their permanent collection, the Norton also offers Shooting
Legends: Hollywood by Halsman and Hurrell, a collection of photographs
of Hollywood stars during 1940s through the 1960s, which has been up since
April and continues through September 10. While the photos are dramatic
and document the glamour of that film era, the six month continuation of
the exhibit is slap in the face to the county's permanent residents who
could stand to attend more than one exhibit in six months.
If it weren't for such stasis, perhaps people from West Palm Beach would
never venture to the southern part of the county to check out a place like
The Boca Raton Museum of Art, which it doesn't garner as much attention as the Norton. The first is housed an old, ugly, and little building in the
middle of suburban Boca and has a limited permanent collection of minor
works; the second has new, elegant, and roomy digs just outside of downtown
West Palm Beach and boasts the more impressive and extensive permanent collection. When it comes to their summer exhibits, however, its the
Museum that deserves notice and has received critical praise this season.
Through September 10, Don Eddy: From Logic to Mystery, a nationally
touring exhibition organized by Duke University, and Miles Batt:
Reality's Illusion, part of Boca Museum's own "Florida Artist's
explore reality rather than render it conventionally.
In the main gallery, a retrospective of Don Eddy's photorealism moves from
the literal to the figurative. The Californian-turned-New Yorker's early
work from the 1970s painstakingly reproduces its subjects in airbrushed
acrylic paint. The slavish devotion to detail results in photorealism that
captures a window full of silver shoes ("Silver Shoes") or a display
case of silver ("Silverware for M") and their myriad refractions and
reflections, producing effects that range from abstract to ethereal.
Moving into the 1980's, Eddy's photorealism begins to explore subjective
experience by including objects he'd chosen by free association. Eddy's
latest work begins juxtaposing images, frequently in multi paneled pieces
and frequently drawing on Judeo- Christian mythology and symbolism. In the
artist's own words: "I'm not dealing with the nature of perception at all
anymore, but with the nature of experience."
Complementing the Eddy exhibit is the work of South Florida resident Miles
Batt. His vivid, transparent watercolors deal in contradiction. On
one hand, his work is an abstraction of memory and idea. On the other
hand, realism is just as integral to his art as abstraction. This is
evident in the red, office-envelope button painted true-to-life in each
painting. Sometimes the button makes sense in the paintings, as in
Collar Rip-off" which features the normally anomalous envelope button as
the shirt's button. Usually, the button is completely out of context and
makes the viewer question the relationships within the work.
Although the Boca Museum's tight space requires temporary walls to accommodate the art and make it difficult for viewers to experience the
paintings from the differing perspectives, the exhibits are worthwhile.
The intelligence of the art compensates for the inconvenience of its
display. And the exhibits' scheduling in what would otherwise be the horse
latitudes of the Palm Beach County art season puts it in the mainstream of
things to see this summer.
See Don Eddy: From Logic to Mystery and Miles Batt: Reality's Illusion through September 10 (Tuesday through Friday 10 - 4 pm;
Saturday and Sunday noon - 4 pm) at The Boca Raton Museum of Art, 801 West
Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, FL 33486. Admission: $3 adults/$2
seniors/$1 students. Call 561/392-2500.
See Road Warriors: Knight Riders through September 3 and Shooting
Legends: Halsman and Hurrell through September 10 at the Norton Museum
of Art, 1451 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401. Admission:
$6 adults/$2 students/free to children under 12. Call 561/832-5196.
Email to Marya
Palm Beach Art
220 North G street
Lake Worth, Florida 33460