The Cultural Council for Palm Beach County’s latest exhibit, the 2023 Biennial, highlights the diversity and breadth of work created by artists living and working in the Palm Beaches.
On display through June 24, the juried show highlights more than 30 artists displaying work that spans various mediums, including video, painting, photography and sculpture.
“There’s an expansive amount of talent in Palm Beach County,” says guest curator Juana Williams, associate curator of African-American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan. “Technique matters, but I also sought profound or unique elements in each piece when selecting the works for this show. I think visitors will be surprised to see the wonderful variety of mediums and subjects that this exhibition encompasses.”
At the end of the exhibition in June, attendees will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite piece, for a People’s Choice award.
On opening night, April 20, three professional artists were awarded the exhibition’s highest honors and cash prizes. Boca Raton-based artist Fulya Acikgoz earned Best of Show for her oil painting Turkish Porcelain Plates, while Delray Beach-based artist Lucia Gómez earned second place for her mixed media oil painting City Memoirs No. 2853.
Lake Park-based artist Lupe Lawrence earned third place for her oil painting I Will Fly a Kite.
The painting depicts a young child on a tropical beach flying a multi-colored kite against an azure sky and turquoise waters of the ocean, with the greens of palm trees framing the canvas.
For Lawrence, 60, her passion for art began at an early age when she saw John Constable’s painting, “Hay Wain.” She knew then she wanted to be an artist.
“I knew I wanted to be an artist to create artwork that would stir up the emotions in others that ‘Hay Wain’ had stirred up in me,” she says in her bio.
Born in Cuba, Lawrence came with her parents and siblings to the U.S. at the age of 5 and grew up in Riviera Beach. A self-described realistic painter with “a touch of impressionism,” Lawrence says she is thrilled to be honored by the Cultural Council for her work.
Although her dream was to be an artist, Lawrence was discouraged early on by a teacher. She feels that attaining her goals without early encouragement helped build character.
“It made me a better and more compassionate person,” she says, and discovered she did, indeed, have talent after enrolling in Covenant School of the Arts in Palm Beach Gardens.
She fell in love with the architecture and tree-lined streets of Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., and went through a phase in the early to mid-2000s where she painted these street scenes exclusively.
She finds inspiration in the Hudson River landscape artists, including its founder, Thomas Cole, Frederick Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt.
More recently, Lawrence began experimenting with impasto painting, where a bright base color is applied and then darker colors added to create shadow. She prefers the thick oil paint to capture her latest subject matter — the ocean.
Using only three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, along with burnt sienna and burnt umber and white, Lawrence mixes and experiments with her own colors.
Her work has been exhibited in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida and she currently has studio space at Zero Empty Spaces in Palm Beach Gardens, where she is available by appointment. Her dream is to have a sold-out show in Paris or New York City and to return to her mother’s hometown of Las Villas, Cuba, to meet unknown relatives and to paint the countryside and capture the texture of the weathered buildings in Havana.
Colombian artist Lucia Gómez, 76, who lives part-time in Tabio, Colombia, on the outskirts of Bogotá and part-time in Delray Beach, is the daughter of a well-known Colombian impressionist, Ricardo Gómez Campuzano, who studied alongside Salvador Dali in Spain.
She studied in Colombia under masters Freda Sargent and Nelly Rojas, and at the Atena Art Studio in Bogotá with Hernando Gonzáles and in Spain at the Siena School. As a child, her father taught her about drawing, fixing the canvas and sketching. He modeled the powers of observation, studying people, colors and the sky. He told his daughter stories before she went to sleep to foster her imagination.
Initially painting landscapes, Gómez soon began feeling the need to express her internal emotions employing more metaphysical imagery.
After practicing yoga, tai-chi and meditation, Gómez began reading psychiatrist Carl Jung, learning about symbolism, metaphors and archetypes and her work evolved to a more expressionistic style using geometric and abstract forms.
She admires other artists who “express themselves from within,” such as Russian painter Wassily Kadinsky and Swiss-German painter Paul Klee.
In search of inspiration, Gómez solicits peace and calm and waits for guidance, listening to yoga chimes, classical music or Greek musician Vangelis in her studio.
“When people look at my work, I hope they will connect with their own inner self,” Gómez says.
The Best of Show artist, Turkish-born Acikgoz, earned a degree in physics and worked as a production project engineer before devoting herself to her art when she emigrated to the U.S. in 1992 and enrolled in classes at the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s art school, where she studied under Christopher Burlini and Cristóbal Sanchez-Lopez.
Her winning painting, Turkish Porcelain Plates, depicts three blue-and-white nestled bowls on a wooden table with three red pomegranates — two resting on the table and the third emerging from the bowl. A window offers a view of the lush green landscape beyond.
Her work has been shown in Turkey and at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Cornell Museum of Art, Coral Springs Art Museum and the Boca Raton Museum of Art Artists Guild Gallery.
An admirer of Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh’s ability to capture the light as well as their ability to reflect their own personal lives into their work, Acikgoz says thanks to her background in physics, she has found a way to capture the inexplicable dimensions of her existence in a 3D view and express that in her art.
“I love to paint,” Acikgoz says. “I never stop painting.” She is a signature member of the Boca Raton Museum Artist Guild and has a full-time position at the museum as a visitor experience manager and says, “I’m surrounded by art. All around me is art — I love it.”
When not painting, the artist runs, jogs and takes step classes. She dreams of having a gallery represent her work and feels that if she stays true to her style, she will one day be famous. Of her Best in Show award at the Cultural Council, Acikgoz says, “I’m so, so happy – I’m still on Cloud 9.”
The 2023 Biennial exhibition is located in the Cultural Council’s Main Gallery, 601 Lake Ave., in Lake Worth Beach. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information call (561) 471-2901 or visit palmbeachculture.com.