Both artists exhibit mixed media works at the Arts Center, along with the center's artist-in-residence, Jan Kimball, who works with sculpture in clay.Mention Diane Gugliotta or Italo Gazzoli around the Tampa Bay area, and the other's name is likely to pop up. Peruse a list of recent show winners in the Tampa Bay area and, quite likely, both names will appear.
Both use Italian motifs in their work, derived from their own Italian roots. Both fill their works with humor: word play in titles, compositional elements that don't seem to relate, and inside jokes brought out in the open to those who stop to chat at their show booths.
Both artists exhibit mixed media works at the Arts Center, along with the center's artist-in-residence, Jan Kimball, who works with sculpture in clay. Kimball also teaches at Pinellas County's Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School and at Eckerd College.
In spite of so much in common, Gugliotta's and Gazzoli's works are unmistakably different. Gazzoli's are more orderly; Gugliotta's are more expressive. Gazzoli draws with great clarity and cleanness; some of his best works are his drawings, though they are often overlooked in the company of his larger, brighter mixed media works. Gugliotta's forms are looser and often appear arranged at random.
In Gazzoli's Lonely Knight at a Round Table with French Fries, visual and verbal puns abound. There are inconsistencies in time (a man in a business suit and a knight's helmet) and space (a mysterious orb floating without reference to perspective). A carousel horse for the knight decorates an ordinary round table holding a basket of ordinary french fries. The Gothic arch that borders the work comes to a point at a rosette _ actually a fruit pie collage.
Diane Gugliotta's past works have revealed her personal life: her home by the Gulf, her husband's passion for fishing, her teen-age son or her progress in art. The new works in the show reveal a concern for broad topical issues. There is a series of foreheads (Mother Teresa, Gorbachev, Noriega, each very distinctive) and a series from a newspaper photo of Barbara Bush and a Saudi Arabian prince.
She makes a profound statement in a series of tiny tea trays. They serve as perfect vehicles for updated Christian icons that relate to medieval and Gothic art. In Direct Hit she portrays a crucifixion scene, the upper half of Christ's body covered by a toy warplane aiming downward. The stars on the red, white and blue plane echo the stars in the sky.
Jan Kimball sculpts in clay, using the slab method, in which she rolls out the clay, then cuts and assembles it. She uses a variety of commercially available products to decorate surfaces, including low-fire underglazes and glaze pencils, sometimes mixed and sometimes used straight.
Primitive forms inspire her. While today's ceramics have a functional or decorative purpose, the clay works of primitive people had an underlying spiritual reason for existence, "like a a celebration of being alive," she says. She strives, not for symmetry or smoothness, but for pieces that have energy, life and mystery.
House Divided is about "making an unworkable situation work," she says. There is symbolism and simplicity in the staircase that begins too high up to be accessible to a tiny climber. The works grow in meaning, much of it building intuitively as Kimball builds it physically, and much added in the viewer's own dialogue with the work. House Divided could, for a viewer, bear a relationship to the step-sided pyramids of Mexico or Guatemala.
Kimball offers good balance to Gugliotta and Gazzoli. The show is typical of Arts Center exhibits of bay area artists whose work grows richer as the viewer grows to know it better. Familiarity breeds content.