Two new exhibits at Art Ovation Hotel aim to broaden perspectives.
Every employee at Art Ovation Hotel — from the valet drivers to the managers — has to study the artwork on display.
A core principle of the hotel is education, so all its employees have to be able to answer any questions guests might ask about whatever exhibit happens to be hanging.
“A lot of these employees might not have had all the history classes or been exposed to visual arts at all, but they are a part of this process,” says hotel curator Francine Birbragher-Rozencwaig. “They get very excited about learning and meeting the artists, and many who are local come in and they learn what the artists are expressing.”
Staffers had double the studying to do this summer, because two exhibits are now open in the hotel. The pair of shows blend the old with the new to offer hotel guests and visitors a dynamic fusion of a visual art experience.
One of the two new exhibits is a collaboration with Alfstad& Contemporary Gallery called “Reimagining Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: 2018.” An earlier version of the show opened in 2014 at Alfstad’s previous location, IceHouse. The updated 30-piece collection now features work from artists Betsy Cameron, Robert Doyon, Kevin Hern and Roberto Trevino.
Birbragher-Rozencwaig decided to co-curate this exhibit after a conversation with the gallery’s Director of Sales Annie Alfstad, and part of the partnership will offer hotel guests a chance to try their hand at printmaking (one of the gallery’s many components).
The premise of the exhibit is equally complex as it is simple: What would iconic 20th-century artists O’Keeffe and Stieglitz create if they were alive today with modern technology? The four participating artists answer that question in a variety of ways, from canvas works made with airbrush to a closer look at flowers through photography.
Betsy Cameron is a child model-turned-photographer who was named Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1993 for her book of child photography, “Little Angels.” Now, she focuses on capturing flowers in unusually intimate ways.
“All of a sudden I really saw the flowers in my garden and saw how complex they are,” Cameron says. “I wanted to show that they’re alive.”
Her work with pigment on paper is the only one in the show that depicts flowers — O’Keeffe’s most famous subject — and she says the legendary painter was in the back of her mind while she was creating.
The pieces Cameron is showing are much larger than what she showed four years ago at IceHouse. One is even some 7 feet high, which will hopefully help get her message across.
“When said and done, it’s a flower — the colors are beautiful, the textures are beautiful,” she says. “I’m hoping that people see they’re not only beautiful and complex, but that they have a life of their own.”
The other exhibit on display at the hotel is “Transparencies,” a collection of portrait, still-life and landscape watercolor paintings by local Jerome Chesley (president of the Florida Watercolor Society) along with Terry Denson, Kathleen Durdin, Libit Jones, Donna Morrison and Mary Louise Ringers.
This ancient art style with roots to prehistoric cave paintings is being celebrated Sept. 27-30 throughout the city as it hosts the Florida Watercolor Society’s 47th Annual Convention and Trade Show.
Chesley approached the hotel last season to find a space for a FWS exhibit, Birbragher-Rozencwaig says, and at first she told him they didn’t have much room. Then she decided each of the six artists she chose from the society website could have a floor showcasing their work during the convention.
Birbragher-Rozencwaig points out this exhibit is in many ways the opposite of the other because it focuses on a much older artform, while “Reimagined” is all contemporary art. But even the watercolor artists offer a fresh perspective.
The watercolors she selected are all fairly realistic, she says, and many feature flowers or other nature-inspired themes relating to the Gulf Coast.
“We want to teach and expose people to things they might not necessarily like and also give them something they’ll enjoy,” Birbragher-Rozencwaig says. “If somebody doesn’t like abstraction, there is something more realistic they can see (in “Transparencies”).