Undoubtedly unique in its environment, both cultural and ecological, Florida has seen its share of ridicule as the “Punchline State.” It is also, as Florida cultural critic Dave Barry has argued in his latest publication, the Best. State. Ever. It is difficult not to be influenced by the natural light of Florida, the endless swamps, the precarious rise and fall of sea levels. Indeed, many of the artists exhibited here address the myriad issues of Florida’s landscape – its role as a tourist mecca, and its unique, rich ecologies that are under threat.
This year’s exhibition explores themes of identity, performance, temporality, and the processes of 62 Florida artists. Overall, 391 artists representing 85 cities submitted entries for consideration. The exhibition is intended to capture the diverse practices of regional contemporary artists. All participating artists are provided with Center memberships, and we’re honored to host such a vibrant exhibition.
Enid Blechman (Awarded Best in Show) has created a fictional company called Adipose Industries, aimed at solving ecological catastrophes, and researching the “repurposing of fat as a new source of energy and as a natural ingredient for personal use.” Using humor as an entry point to her explorations of the Everglades and their preservation, Blechman’s abstract paintings depict the research and findings of Adipose Industries. Kate Alboreo is inspired by the struggles of the natural world: the battle scars of bark, the twisted limbs of trees. Her moody, propulsive paintings based on sketches and photographs taken en plein air depict the energies of natural forms, and appear to take on anthropomorphic narratives.
The absurdities of Florida living are at the forefront in Michael Bauman’s work. In his series involving the World’s Smallest Airboat, the artist upends the trope of the intrepid explorer as he traverses the Everglades in a laughably scaled vessel. Sarah Knouse’s Pastoral Flamingos are a nod to the pastel paradise of Florida tourism. Shiny and pink the flamingos appear to melt into the shag carpet they stand on. The baroque pedestal support appears to bolster the idealized image of Florida fauna.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website