Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Exciting Art from Behind the Iron Curtain.

I made an opportunity to re-visit the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts recently, and strongly recommend spending time with the Florida Collects Folk Art which is featured thru July 8, 2007. If you arrive at a time convenient to a docent tour .. take the tour ... the stories told about some of the various artists, styles, and works bring additional meaning to some of the over 120 idiosyncratic works that defy categorization. It has been called folk, outsider, visionary, and the more accepted term, contemporary self-taught art. I agree with the museum website that contemporary self-taught art is now considered, like the blues, spirituals, and jazz, a great contribution to American culture.

I was not as impressed with the On the Road photo exhibitions. Nice prints, but with the "Kerouac" reference I longed for more background information on the photos, the photographer, and "why" the image was selected from their vast collection. An obvious short-coming was the display of just ONE picture of an old Alabama store, noted as being from a series taken in the same spot every 5 years over a period of many years. Wanting was more, more images showing the changes overtime!

But the REAL TREAT of the day was across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts. Tucked in among other interesting store front shops was the Croatian Naive Art: Gallery and Museum Collection. Glancing in the window revealed colorful, whimsical paintings with a glossy, glassy look. Each image "popped" with vibrant color.

Stepping inside I was pleased to see even more of these intriguing paintings and was just realizing they were painted in reverse on glass, when James Nannen, the moving force behind this Gallery, approached me. James readily explained that farmers in Croatia, during their cold winters between farming seasons, perfected the skill of creating art on the back of glass panes.

4 of more layers of paint are laid down for each painting .. with the foreground colors first, and the background painted last. It boggled my mind thinking about how difficult it would be to turn a vision into a reality - backwards.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union these unique original, one-of-a-kind reverse oil on glass paintings from Croatia are now available in the United States.

An 90 day exhibition at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts in 2000 called "The Fantastical World of Croatian Naive Art" introduced Croatian Naive art to the United States and drew record crowds and rave reviews. James was so impressed with the 100 paintings from the 10 Croatian artists exhibited that he spent the next few years gathering information, making contacts, traveling to Croatia several times, and finally opening his gallery in the Fall of 2006.

Do yourself a favor ... Take the time to check out the art work, the story, and the 15 minute narrated slide show - not exciting, but very informative ... it's worth the time ... at their website


Next time you're in downtown St. Petersburg, stop by 300 Beach Drive and check out Croatian Naive Art and catch the enthusiasm of James and his staff for this unique art style.