1. Visual Arts

Two exhibits at Tempus Projects explore beauty and brutality

Photo by Catalina ChengCatalina cheng's "Femme Fatale," 2018, is part of the "Dark and Full of Flowers" exhibit at Tempus Projects.
Published Jun. 5

TAMPA — Love and hate. Comedy and tragedy. Old and young. Count beauty and brutality as things that have to exist for the other to be true.

It's a concept that begs exploration in two exhibitions at Tempus Projects, "Dark and Full of Flowers" and "Guchi: Recent Works by Johanna Keefe."

"Dark and Full of Flowers" is the second installment of a series at the gallery called Sunistra. It specifically explores the dichotomy of Florida's undeniable dark side, juxtaposed with its incredible natural beauty. There is no shortage of examples for the artists in the group exhibition.

Jacoub Reyes looked back to Florida's grim history with his incredible black-and-white woodblock print, Rotten Paradise. It appears to be the aftermath of a battle between the colonizing Spanish conquistadors and the Native Americans. A group of naked figures are splayed out on the shore of a beach, surrounded by lush jungle. They've clearly been massacred. One survivor observes the scene and there's a boat off shore.

Playing with the concept of destruction, Nicholas Kalemba captured the Florida homeowner fear of a house being tented. Titled Pest Control, shadows of abundant trees in the yard dance on the red and blue tent, backed by a cloudless blue sky. The skillful depiction of shadows and light make the painting look like a photograph. It's every Florida house you know — maybe even your own. Could the white picket fence symbolize the American dream, which is slowly decaying?

Unadulterated beauty is fully explored in "Guchi: Recent Works by Johanna Keefe." Presented by Cunsthaus, Tempus Projects' women's collective, the exhibition shows Keefe's drool-worthy ceramic sculptures. Keefe splits her time between Rochester, NY and Augusta, Ga., but graduated from the University of South Florida in 2014. Her work is inspired by the Dutch Old Masters who produced "vanitas," luminous still life paintings that contain symbols of destruction to remind people to be pious. Made in the 17th century, they represented the trade happening in the world. Keefe is interested in the traded objects, things previously only accessible to royalty.

Keefe sees brutality in those objects because the ships that carried them also traded slaves. She also explores the notion that brutality always coincides with beauty, whether it's uncomfortable high heels or the bloodshed that can go along with the sourcing of diamonds.

She isn't against beauty or luxury, but rather indulges herself in making elaborate objects. Upon moving to Europe a few years ago, she began investigating luxury brands and what it means to own extremely valuable things. She made frequent visits to the Gucci factory in Italy. Inspired by the brand's craftsmanship, she created her own luxury brand, Guchi.

Keefe's series of fanciful teapots are the ceramic versions of Gucci bags, painted in the brand's colors and topped with the signature bamboo handles and adorned with gold leaf. She hangs gold nameplate chains around them, emblazons them with GUCHI and fills them with elaborate flower arrangements. At one time in history, both porcelain and tea were incredibly valuable. Now as objects we take for granted, Keefe is imparting value back to them. And as a ceramicist, she's having fun.

The exhibition is vanitas come to life. An Oriental rug hanging on a wall is a backdrop to a vase reminiscent of the blue and white Delft pottery filled with flowers. Lobster claws in vermillion and Delft blue and white are arranged with teapots and vases. In one setting, she placed a dead lizard found in the gallery to add an element of destruction.

One piece in particular crystallizes these notions of beauty and brutality. It's a pot based on Delft ware tobacco jars, called Rappe. Keefe blurred out the second "p" so that it says RAPE. Considering the tobacco trade's horrific history, the title is accurate.

Contact Maggie Duffy at Follow @maggiedalexis.

"Dark and Full of Flowers" and "Guchi"

On display through June 29. The gallery is holding a membership party from 7-9 p.m. Friday with an artists's talk with Johanna Keefe at 7:15 p.m. Free. 4636 N Florida Ave., Tampa.


  1. Art collector Stanton Storer talks about "Unbound," the exhibit of his art collection at the University of Tampa's Scarfone/Hartley Gallery. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    A new exhibition at the University of Tampa includes works from his extensive collection of renowned artists and locals.
  2. Chad Mize, left, and Jay Hoff in front of the "Pride and Love" mural they completed with LGBTQ youth this month as part of St. Petersburg mural fest Shine. Courtesy of Annie West Ellzey
    Shine is loaded with a wide range of events this year, including a street party at the Morean Arts Center.
  3. The new show called the Bourne Stuntacular will debut at Universal Studios Florida in the spring of 2020, the theme park has announced. AP (2015)
    The new show called the Bourne Stuntacular will debut at the Orlando theme park.
  4. Artist Jennifer Angus has created installations of exotic dried bugs for her exhibit "'The Grasshopper and the Ant' and Other Stories, as Told by Jennifer Angus" at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. Courtesy of Jennifer Angus
    ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant,’ an exhibition made with dried insects, also opens. Plus, a roundup of exhibits and wearable art on display.
  5. Sari (detail). Bangaluru, Karnataka ca. 1867. Silk and metal-wrapped thread. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London Courtesy of the John and Mable Ringling Museum
    ‘The Fabric of India’ will appeal to both fashionistas and history buffs.
  6. Kierstyn Breaux pours some old fashioneds she helped craft as part of the PBR Whiskey launch event in Tampa on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Daniel Figueroa IV
    From crafting cocktails with the spirit to designing the label, Tampa locals have been involved in launching the legendary brewery’s first spirit.
  7. Three of Nick Cave's Soundsuits. The artist will present a talk and lead a workshop in Tampa next week. Courtesy of Nick Cave
    Plus, new exhibits at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Clyde Butcher’s Cuba and a new gallery in St. Petersburg.
  8. "Ordinary/Extraordinary: Assemblage in Three Parts," a trio of exhibitions at the Tampa Museum of Art, includes two master works from lauded artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Tampa Museum of Art. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    A powerful installation of works by artist Purvis Young and a showcase of Haitian Vodou flags correlate to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s two masterpieces. | Review
  9. Brooklyn-based artist AdamFu will paint two of his neon-inspired murals at Sparkman Wharf in Tampa, along with local artist Bask. Courtesy of AdamFu
    Florida CraftArt and Leslie Curran Gallery roll out new exhibitions, too.
  10. Visitor Sara Crigger of Nashville views the Dali masterwork painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" (1969-1970) this month with the aid of the Dali app on her smartphone. "Using this is like holding an art history class in your hand," Crigger said. The "Visual Magic: Masterworks in Augmented Reality" exhibit runs through Nov. 3 at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    With augmented reality, 19th century prints, bronzes and food photography, a well-rounded experience awaits.