Recently, I was in Jacksonville, Florida to visit my daughter when I was invited to meet Jefree Shalev, the curator of an exhibition I happened to have already heard about at The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, a “must see” museum if you are in the city. Being a collector of vernacular photography, I discovered this exhibition quite by accident through social media, and as it turns out, the exhibition itself was conceived because of an serendipitous and accidental discovery of some Super 8 films that belonged to the curators parents.
When Jefree volunteered to have his parents 45 year old films transferred to DVD, he discovered a new world of his parent’s past life. Intrigued enough to freeze-frame certain scenes for closer inspection, he discovered certain “moments” he felt might gain power by sharing the images with others. Together with his girlfriend, photographer Carolyn Brass, they selected 175 film stills and dispersed these intimate family images with the Florida art community. The idea eventually manifested itself with this exhibition at The Cummer. They named the exhibition “Our Shared Past,” and there were no restrictions on how the artist might interpret the film still they selected. Shalev correctly guessed that painting was the medium most would use to interpret the works, but he was happily surprised to receive works in mixed media and video as well.
Many of the 33 artists in this exhibition are friends or acquaintances of Jefree and Carolyn. Opening the curtains to his private world proved a lot easier for Jefree that it did several artists. During our private gallery tour, Jefree, who is a poet and photographer, shared with me that some artists felt a bit intimidated at the assignment. But all prevailed, and returned with an exceptionally deep exhibition.
One of my favorite artists in the exhibition was Christie Holcheck, who delivered an abstraction that takes a leap far from the image she selected. In Something Blew, Holcheck’s interpretation of the mirror in the film still she selected is dazzling at 60 x 48 inches. The painter Jessie Barnes oil painting, Haunting, is quite masterful — handling the brush with the right amount of fluidity. The piece is direct, and powerful. Other artists deserve mention, including Thony Aiuppy, who just received his MFA last year from the Savannah College of Art. He’s an artist to watch. Leslie Robison with her painting Rush was a standout, as well as Chip Southworth’s painting Rise of the Matriarch.
If you live close enough to Jacksonville to see the show, do so soon as the exhibition closes May 25, 2014. My only wish for this excellent exhibition was that The Cummer should have produced a catalog for this exhibition. The absence of one was felt.