New paintings of Port Tampa Bay are artful documentaries

Laura Waller, American Victory, oil on canvas.
Laura Waller, American Victory, oil on canvas.
Published Jan. 20, 2015

Laura Waller has been a presence in the bay area arts community for decades. Besides being involved as an advocate and supporter of various organizations, she's a painter whose loosely worked, soft watercolors have evolved into a more muscular style with a heavier water-based oil paint. And what a surprise to see the subject matter of a new series that opens at Clayton Galleries Friday.

In "The Working Waterfront: Port of Tampa," Waller explores the bustling industrial waterfront in 25 paintings that take viewers to scenes closed to outsiders and curiosity seekers because of strict security. She wrangled her way in through a personal connection and spent months exploring the area and operations from wharfs and a small boat.

The result is a triumphant hybrid of art and documentary. The ships, never designed or maintained as objects of beauty, become so on her canvases. Her compositions bring out their massiveness, emphasizing the relationship between their size and ours. Their forms dominate the paintings, though rarely shown in their entirety. The result is a sense of abstract form folded into a realist work.

The exhibition continues through March 7. Clayton Galleries is located at 4105 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Free. Opening reception is 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.; (813) 831-3753.