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Florida Artist Group's 'The Beauty of Small' proves bigger isn't always better

FLAG's annual exhibit showcases smaller, thoughtful works by local creators.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. June 4, 2019
Bettina Sego was born in Germany and has studied in three countries. Photo by Niki Kottmann
Bettina Sego was born in Germany and has studied in three countries. Photo by Niki Kottmann
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Florida Artists Group is proving that bigger isn’t always better.

At least that’s the theme of the 2019 exhibit for FLAG, a group of practicing artists who work together to “stimulate attainment of the highest standards of creative art within the state.” The collective’s 69th Symposium and Exhibition, titled “The Beauty of Small,” features works that don’t exceed 26 inches in width and height — and they’re all on display at Ringling College of Art and Design’s Willis Smith Gallery and Richard and Barbara Basch Gallery until June 20.

“It’s something I look forward to every year,” says member Judy Lyons Schneider. “I find it interesting to meet people — artists from other parts of the state — to see the work they do.”

Lyons Schneider is a mixed media artist in Lakewood Ranch who won a Merchandise Award for her piece “Ciudad Plus” during the opening weekend of the 2019 exhibit. 

As a child, Lyons Schneider gained an interest in art when a couple family friends who owned an art supply shop would often visit with a new brush, paint or other supply for her to try. 

She credits these friends for encouraging her to get comfortable in several mediums, which is now reflective in the bold, semi-abstract, semi-representational style of her paintings, collages, acoustics and other pieces. 

Sarasota-based Bettina Sego is another member who identifies as a mixed-media artist, and in this year’s exhibit she’s showcasing “Loosely in the Sky with Diamonds,” a mixed-media board with resin that’s part of her most recent series, a collection of ’60s-inspired works.

Asked what it is about this time period that piques her interest, Sego smiles and shrugs. She just loves the geometric style of the period and enjoys coming up with a personal interpretation of mid-century design.

Sego, a German-American with a master’s degree in art, didn’t sell any of her work until  after she moved to Anna Maria Island in 2000. It was during her daily walks on the beach that she found the time and inspiration necessary to get serious about her art. 

In 2012, she started showing work at 530 Burns Gallery, and since then she’s been represented at Artspace on Anna Maria, at Art Miami/Spectrum and 530 Burn’s sister gallery, Nikki Sedacca Gallery, on Martha’s Vineyard.

Like Lyons Schneider, Sego enjoys being a member of FLAG to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with other Floridian artists, but she says she’s also thankful for the opportunity to show her work in a different area of the state every year. It’s been seven years since that area was Sarasota. 

“Sarasota is a great place to be,” she says, adding that that’s true for both artists and non-artists, but she’s especially grateful to live in a place where she’s been able to hone her craft through classes at institutions like Art Center Sarasota and the former Longboat Key Art Center.

Sego recognizes that many of her fellow FLAG members also consider the tropical, coastal landscape of Florida to be artistically inspiring, but she believes her art is different in that she doesn’t copy what she sees outside. Rather, she takes the vibrant colors and distinctive shapes of her surroundings and manipulates them, eventually creating something completely different.

"Ciudad Plus" by Judy Lyons Schneider — Courtesy image

“(It’s) A bit like molecular cuisine, where you take the original apart and, with the help of various techniques, put it together in a different way,” she says in her artist statement. “You can still recognize the source, but not in a literal way.”

Lyons Schneider says she’s most inspired when she gets out of her typical environment and experiences a new place.

“When I travel, which I love to do, I use my camera as a sketchpad and then I mess with the photographs a bit,” she says. “It’s exciting. Full of surprises.”

Her work for this FLAG exhibit, “Ciudad Plus,” is inspired by photos she took during a trip to Havana. The mixed-media work incorporates her favorite mediums — printmaking, photography, collage and painting — to give viewers a look at what she calls a “once-beautiful city” through her eyes. 

Lyons Schneider says  she’s excited to show this work because three small panels such as these can easily get lost in a show of larger works, so this is the perfect occasion to display it in an exhibit of all small works. 

 As for why she does it, Lyons Schneider says creating is simply a necessity.

“It’s something I can’t seem to help myself with,” she says. “I see something, art supplies or whatever, and it sets something off and I need to work with it ...  I can’t not. I get agitated, it’s just something I need to.”

As for Sego, it’s her happy place.  When she’s creating, she’s in her most tranquil state of mind — even when working with the difficult materials she often uses.

“It’s work-intensive, but it’s a meditation,” she says.


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