Through April 14, 2019, this exhibition will be on display at the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park, Florida.
Lay of the Land: The Art of Florida's Cattle Culture is the result of much planning and curating by Rachel Frisby, Curator of the Albin Polasek Museum, Bob Stone, artist, musician, folklife historian and archivist and myself. Together, we traveled directly to the sites of creativity, or locations of remaining collections, of each artist to choose, photograph, and document the works. We wish all visitors to this wonderful show could have experienced first hand the workshops, studios, households, and most importantly, lives underlying these works in the exhibition.
Our search extended from Live Oak to the Brighton Reservation, Polk County to Kenansville, on a traipse through Florida's heartland that included visits to 18 artists, many miles and places of great diversity truly comprising the "Lay of the Land."
In after-hour discussions at both ends of a day's travel, or riding together in the car, a common thread arose in our realizations of the unusual and unique qualities of each life devoted to intense creativity and how every artist solved the challenges of making a living in this world and keeping their art alive within this constraint. The "problem" affected every aspect of each artist's life, from making a place to work, to balancing a household, child-rearing, and in almost every case, the care and raising of livestock-- against the vagaries of the muse: inspiration, artistic vision, and the life-long process of learning the materials, and craft of one's art. Variations on that theme include disciplines of: sewing, spur and saddle-making, whip braiding, leather work, painting, beading, ceramics, drawing, photography, sculpting and casting. Each artist reached levels of proficiency only achieved by a lifetime's work and all this comes forth in one of the loveliest museum-settings, and presentations any of us could have imagined.
On exhibit is evidence of extraordinary activity brought out much of the same conditions in which we all spend our days. Yet "a road less traveled" seems to run through each life on display in terms of energy, time, and acquisition of skill required to grow the special sensibilities by which Art is conducted and thrives. It is our good fortune the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation and Polasek Museum partnered together to put on this show. Gratitude is due board members of both institutions for their vision and generosity. Lenders to the exhibition include both fully engaged artists and craftsmen, making their living from their creativity, and descendants and patrons of such people who've carefully preserved and perpetuated the Art and legacy of those now passed from this world. The show reveals to us the richness of human life attached to Florida's Cattle Industry, making an exciting connection to the working and natural landscape unlike any other selected group exhibition one could imagine. I hope you are as grateful as I am to see and celebrate these things.
It should be noted that there are two documentary artists specially included in the exhibition; Bob Stone or Gainesville, whose photographs and articles have appeared in numerous articles of the Florida Cattlemen's magazine, and Mitchell Kolbe, painter and sculptor originally from Tarpon Springs, contributing a historically accurate cowhunter and his dog bronze on loan from the collection of Ty and Jean Tyson of Micanopy.