Written by: Mary Schenkel June 15 2023
The extraordinary talents of area artists are on full display at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in the juried fine art exhibition Treasure Coast Creates: A Tribute to Local Artists, on view through Sept. 3.
“This show stemmed from the immense popularity of Vero Collects, which we did last winter. And, as a result of seeing the level of talent that we have within our artistic community, there was this really strong feeling that we wanted to showcase that talent,” says Sophie Bentham-Wood, VBMA director of marketing and communications.
“It’s not going to be the first show of its kind. This is the beginning of a continued relationship and connection with our very lively artist community.”
The application process, which began in September, was extended to Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie county residents, and to museum members.
Ellen Roberts, the former senior curator of American Art at the Norton Museum of Art, was given the daunting task of choosing from more than 800 pieces submitted (only one per artist was selected).
“They asked me to pick 100, but they were such a strong group that we added 35. It was difficult to choose,” said Roberts. “I particularly am impressed by the great talent of this community in all of these different media.”
The hanging of the show came at a transitional time for Anke Van Wagenberg, then VBMA senior curator. Van Wagenberg was appointed effective June 1 to replace Roberts in an expanded capacity at the Norton as senior curator of American and European Art.
To best display the diversity of the works, Van Wagenberg and her curatorial staff hung the show in sections, categorized as cityscape, landscape and seascape; abstract; figurative; and photography; with sculpture, ceramic and other 3D pieces disbursed throughout the galleries.
“It’s a really nice mix. And I think they did a really nice job of grouping the pieces. It could feel very much disjointed, because there are so many different media, but because they chose to organize it by these different sections, it works better,” says Roberts.
Roberts conducted the juried process remotely, and judged the works the evening before the show’s opening reception on May 26, when winners were announced.
The show was judged in its entirety, as opposed to mediums, due to the diversity of works, from sculpture and paintings to drawings, photography and mixed media.
“They asked me to choose first, second and third prize overall. But I thought, it’s such a strong group, let’s choose some honorable mentions as well. So there’s also seven honorable mentions,” Roberts explains.
First Place was awarded to Jensen Beach artist Eduardo Gomez Rojas for “Mountain of Grief,” an exquisitely carved marble sculpture that clearly emotes sadness despite its beauty.
“There’s some great sculpture in the show, which is impressive to me, because these are very hard media to work with. I think this artist is very talented in terms of the ability to carve marble, which is very difficult, and also to convey this emotion just through this posture,” says Roberts.
Second Place was awarded to Danielle Deptula Pokrandt, a Vero Beach Art Club member, for “Fentanyl,” a thought-provoking mixed media artwork.
“This one is just very dark, about the fentanyl opioid epidemic, but I think it’s very powerful. To me they look like tombstones, but it’s like you’re looking through an arcade at this landscape. And, when you look closely, these are maps of certain places,” says Roberts, referencing the area behind each tombstone.
“I feel like the opioid epidemic is so much worse in certain places, so it’s kind of a nice way to highlight that whole aspect of it.”
Third Place was awarded to Torenzo Gann of Martin County for his acrylic painting “Breakthrough.”
“I love this one also. The artist has written a haiku about it, which I think helps you kind of see what they’re thinking about in terms of emerging from the ashes,” says Roberts of the haiku:
‘Out of the Ashes
After the Raging Battles
The Victor Rises’
“But also, it just says acrylic, but there’s a thickness to it and holes, so the surface is very interesting,” says Roberts.
Honorable Mentions were awarded to the following seven artists.
Dennis Bartholomew of Vero Beach received one for “Conflict,” a striking bronze sculpture of conjoined faces.
“I think this is a very strong sculpture,” says Roberts. “I love the fact that these two people in conflict are so close to each other. It kind of makes you realize how personal conflict is.
And the way he’s kind of distorted the forms of their faces really conveys that very effectively.”
Lawrence Behunek of Vero Beach received it for his mixed polymer abstraction “Boundaries.”
“I honestly had not realized until I saw it in person that it’s two different canvasses, immediately right next to each other. It’s called ‘Boundaries’ and it makes you really think about boundaries,” says Roberts.
“I love the fact that the two sides of it are so different, yet some elements have crossed into both sides, so it’s almost like a permeable boundary. Then you start thinking about, are any boundaries actually absolute?”
Bill Brody of Port St. Lucie received one for his woodcut “Begguyya.”
“I love this one. The title is a native Alaskan word, and it is the name of the mountain chain in Alaska. I love the way he’s used this woodcut medium to really kind of emphasize the dynamism of that landscape. It looks like it’s alive, to me,” says Roberts.
“Leaf Bird,” a mythical bird mélange drawn with Mars Lumograph pencil, earned one for Nancy Baur Dillen of Melbourne.
“This is kind of crazy. The artist is so talented in rendering these leaves and the bird’s feet.
It’s such a weird but fascinating piece. It’s a drawing but it packs a big punch,” says Roberts.
Israel Guevara of Port St. Lucie received it for “Abacu,” a colorful multi-piece installation featuring four rows of 10 acrylic works on wood, that greets viewers as they enter the Holmes Gallery. Bentham-Wood notes that the pieces were installed exactly to the artist’s specifications.
“I really love this piece,” comments Roberts. “It’s so interesting because of how it looks so different from all the different angles. I love the way it changes as you move around and the way the shadows become part of it.”
Vero Beach photographer Nicole Leiner received one for her whimsical “Sunny Side Up,” showcasing the head of a woman resting on plate, a sunny side up egg plastered to her cheek.
“I love, love this photograph. It just makes me laugh, because I feel like that’s how we all feel in the morning. We’re trying to be optimistic that it’s going to be a sunny side up day and instead you just want to go back to bed,” says Roberts.
Vero Beach artist Lori Rowe received it for her radiant oil painting “Summer Breeze.”
“I love the brilliant colors in this one. To me it kind of throbs, in an amazing way, just all the layers” says Roberts. “When you look at it, it seems very static at first glance, but it’s actually not. I think partially because the colors are so vibrant and also the lines are not quite straight. So it kind of gives you that throbbing sense of South Florida.”
“It really is a beautiful show,” says Roberts.
For more information, visit VBMuseum.org, where a full list of the show’s artists is available.