With Jane Lawton Baldridge’s paintings of storm surges, Kasha McKee’s conceptual photographs of flamingos splashing in the West Palm Beach fountain and Suzanne Barton’s “arctic ice angel” — all surrounded by water sounds created by Fort Lauderdale-based multidisciplinary artist, David Rosenthal — The World of Water exhibition at the Cornell Art Museum has opened with a splash.
The immersive exhibit, which runs through June 25, is organized by the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority and co-curated by its cultural arts director, Marusca Gatto, in collaboration with Debby Coles-Dobay of Art Moves You. The show highlights regional artists’ views on water, the environment, conservation and sustainability.
“The inspiration for ‘The World of Water’ comes from a lifelong relationship with the ocean and a desire to discuss our most precious resource in a meaningful and artistic way,” says Gatto, who lives and works in Delray Beach.
“My aim is to showcase all aspects of water, how we interact with it and highlight the threats to our clean drinking water,” she says. “These talented and regional artists express their relationships to water and concerns about conservation and the environment.”
With 43 artworks by 20 artists, the exhibit features textural elements in mixed media sculpture, installations, glass, digital and film photography as well as oil and watercolor paintings.
“It’s been an honor to curate this exhibition at the Cornell Art Museum with Marusca Gatto,” says Coles-Dobay. “We brought together a diverse group of artists whose artworks interpret and connect the viewer to water through multi-sensory stories.”
A centerpiece of the show is the glass sculpture of mother and baby jellyfish titled Just Follow Me, by West Palm Beach glass artist Josh Fradis, whose work also is represented by his Crashing Wave blown-glass sculptures.
Visitors to the museum are greeted by the large-scale circular sculpture titled Shallows, by sisters and collaborators Dana Kleinman, 48, and Ruth Avra, 44, of Hollywood-based KX2. The aluminum and hyper-pigmented and textured acrylic-0n-wood piece is inspired by the colors of the ocean.
The two, who began collaborating in 2007, focus on environmental themes using metal and painting to create sculpture.
“It’s fantastic to work with my sister,” says Dana Kleinman, a painter, about Ruth Avra, a metal artist who also creates jewelry. “Working as a solo artist can be a lonely endeavor,” she says. “With Ruth, I have someone to talk to each day, help with making decisions, sharing ideas and working with a partner who has a similar aesthetic and a complimentary skillset.”
Also on display is their piece titled Spouts, created after Hurricane Irma in 2017 in response to the necessity to boil water due to infrastructure damage and their Bent Pipe Obstructions, created with repurposed industrial pipes filled with recycled and hand-dyed multi-colored strips of canvas, representing the flow of water.
These industrial pieces are meant to raise awareness of our dependence on the hidden networks of city utility water works and bringing us clean, safe and drinkable water.
“Water is always on our minds,” says Kleinman, who lived in New Mexico for many years. “In Florida, we enjoy the beauty of the ocean but have to think about issues of sea-level rise and access to clean drinking water.”
“It’s a duality,” she says. “Nature vs. industry. We look at the intersection of nature, humanity and industrialization.”
Also on display are Emerald Fire and Pranam Tree, part of the Bolero series of photographs by Boynton Beach-based fine arts photographer Stacey Lipton.
Living near the Boynton Beach Inlet, Lipton would go out and shoot photographs of her rescue dog by the water. As cute as the dog was, Lipton says what stood out in the photographs were the reflections on the water and she became obsessed with capturing these mercurial images.
“I like my work to be unique,” she says. “Mother Nature is different every day – depending on the position of the sun, the strength of the waves, the time of day, I wait for the picture to form then capture it with my lens.”
With her photo of Pranam Tree, Lipton says the kaleidoscope effect came from a single image she took of a tree’s reflection in the water. She then duplicated the image and mirrored it, creating an infinite effect that can be viewed with 3-D glasses.
“I had so much fun creating this image,” Lipton says, saying that it was serendipitous. “I was in awe of the finished work. It happened organically and I love it.”
Boca Raton-based artist and printmaker Ron Garrett’s Manatee Lament, is a 84 x 32 x 26 mixed-media sculpture of a “tearful, life-sized gentle giant.” The manatee, created with recycled materials, ocean debris and detritus, depicts a manatee with visible motor boat scars on his back.
“I hope to bring attention to the plight of the manatees by creating her from the threats she faces,” says Garrett, founder of RagaPress, a fine art printmaking atelier in Boca Raton.
Also on display is his found objects/upcycled debris sculpture of a hammerhead shark entangled in debris, meant to jar our subconscious about threatened marine life. The word “fate” is emblazoned on the side of the shark.
Inspired by surrealists such as Max Ernst, Garrett also gives credit to Dr. Seuss for the whimsical elements in his work. “He was very important to me as a child,” he says.
Growing up in Florida, Garrett remembers the days of farms and dirt roads, before development and gated communities took over the area.
Never at a shortage for ideas, he says they’re triggered by objects he sees that morph into ideas which then become a “well of ideas.” His series of sunken ships, done in celebration of Biscayne National Park’s 50th anniversary in 2018, brings to life many of the underwater shipwrecks and tales of ancient mariners, now preserved as the Maritime Heritage Trail.
For his next project, he hopes to visit some or all of Florida’s 175 state parks and create a printmaking portfolio to be titled Florida the Beautiful.
“I feel a connection to primordial Florida,” he says. “I can attest to the last minutes of pioneer Florida and want to create an awareness that we are all part of the ecology and environment in Florida and we need to preserve it.”
Other artists include Eli Cecil, William Combes, Lynn Doyal, MJ Dowling, Ilene Gruber Adams, Alicja Kabat, Andres Lopez, Kass O’Brien, Hillary Pulitzer, Steve Simmons and Tony Arruza.
World of Water runs through June 25 at the Cornell Art Museum, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. The exhibit is free and open to the public. All artwork is for sale by the artist.