ST. PETERSBURG — Exhibitions featuring Florida artists are heating up this summer in Tampa Bay, and showing just how much creativity and talent our state boasts.
“Fresh Squeezed 5″ at the Morean Arts Center is one such show. The annual exhibition was originally conceived five years ago to showcase emerging Florida artists. Because five years is a milestone, there is also a companion exhibition happening now, “Juicy: Fresh Work by the Artists of Fresh Squeezed 1 thru 4.”
From more than 100 applicants, curator of exhibitions Amanda Cooper and a selection panel chose five emerging artists. To qualify, artists must never have had a solo exhibition in Florida.
Zoraye Cyrus of Coconut Creek explores the Black experience from her own perspective and the overall struggles of Black people. In a set of two large-scale charcoal and pastel works, titled A Place of Rest, figures are leisurely posed under a beach umbrella, a scene largely left out of the canon of art representing Black people. In her artist statement, Cyrus said she uses different forms of charcoal in their skin tones “to showcase the variations in which blackness can be perceived by us and ‘others.’” Cyrus’ mastery of pastels is evident in Make a Choice, a photorealistic vision of the overwhelming amount of products in a grocery store.
Miami-based artist Carolina Alamilla’s installation in a pale pink gallery is summer incarnate. Ceramic fluffy clouds hang above beach chairs made from pastel-colored fabrics, and floral fabric lifesavers and a pool float are piled up. It’s meant to evoke the free feeling of swimming in a pool as a reaction to these uncertain times, and it’s effective. But the showstoppers here are the leather bathing caps dotted with ceramic stars and diamonds, flanked by portraits of the photogenic artist wearing them. Titled Space Swim, Alamilla is inspired by heroic portraits of astronauts.
Justin Nolan is a fine-art photographer from Daytona Beach. He photographs everyday scenery in malls, stores, theme parks and roadside attractions that is devoid of people. This is particularly effective in the piece Two Chairs, St. Augustine, which shows two plastic chairs pushed away from a table, in front of a wall featuring a mural of ships. His practice explores how public spaces create nostalgia and fantasy, which is illustrated to perfection with Round Sofa, taken at Barbie’s Dreamhouse Experience.
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Brigitte Coovert is a Palm Harbor artist who creates candy-colored sculptures that beckon touch (but please don’t). As confectionery as they appear — one series is called Sugar Cube — Coovert is reacting to her diagnosis with an autoimmune disorder. Coovert considers the sculptures reflections of herself as she makes peace with her illness.
Jacob Z. Wan
Jacob Z. Wan of Melbourne is a bookbinder who creates conceptual mixed-media “books.” In his installation, stained sheets with images of rabbits and words on them hang around a pink book on a pedestal in the center. On an opposite wall, underwear are framed in shadow boxes. Wan is dealing with his experience as a gay Chinese man. Around the installation are painted portraits of young men and self-portraits.
“Juicy” brings together the artists from the previous Fresh Squeezed exhibits. Standouts include Alexa Vélez’s sublime video installation, Of Water, which shows her dancing a piece she choreographed to a song she composed. Teneé Hart’s Constrainer is a sculpture made of a bra, a hair net and a neon light that explores feminism. Performance artist Brian Feldman found a way to continue his practice by installing a video doorbell in the gallery, which guests can press and he’ll answer on his cellphone. It’s called hey.
If you go
“Fresh Squeezed 5″ and “Juicy” are on display through June 24. Free. Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-822-7872. moreanartscenter.org.