Orlando Art: Value it. Honor it. Experience it.

Art by definition is the expression of one's creativity or imagination, perfected, and appreciated for its beauty or emotional value. It's the difference between looking at a picture, and seeing a moment captured in time. The difference between listening to an actor recite lines, and watching a performance artist captivate an audience. The difference between a musician playing notes and chords, and an artist becoming the music. It's intangible. The elements within fleeting moments, artists possess the great ability to document. The capacity to pull us into their experience, as told through their lens and medium. Visual Arts are no exception. 

It's why we can look at a Vasya Kandinsky or Lillian Verkins painting and feel our pulse quicken, or a wave of calm wash over us. 

It's the very vivid nostalgia I experience when taking in a Matthew Cornell piece. "Shine," a small painting we recently acquired, takes me back to 11-12 years old. The days when myself and other neighborhood kids had to be home when the street lights came on. "Shine" evokes an independence. A rebellion. It's summer time. The Florida air is sticky; it smells like wet grass, and the sound of crickets fills the quiet street.  I'm out later than I am supposed to be. The street lights have just come on, and night has begun to blanket the neighborhood. Quiet yards set against houses with life shining through their windows seem to magnify the stillness of the street. I'm on my way home, albeit not in a hurry, and I am savoring the freedom. 

It's the feeling of that first taste of freedom that I experience every time  I stop and appreciate "Shine." There are days when I prolong it, just to get lost in it for a moment longer. A lover of fiction, "Shine" is every bit as engrossing as a well-written novel.  Cornell is also a master of technique. His accolades include being the only artist, ever in 55 years, to win the Winter Park Art Festival's top award - three times. In addition to taking home best in show in 2003 and 2013. And concerning detail, his photorealistic style rivals many photographs. 

Orlando as a growing city, may not yet boast a large amount of truly talented authentic artists. We do, however, have incredible, genuine artists who call Orlando home. Artists who inspire, enthrall and transport viewers with their craft.  At Henao Contemporary Center we not only celebrate these artists but we bring them together. 

© Meagan Westerberg Henao & HENAO Contemporary Center

I passed 15,000 likes on my artist page, Matthew W. Cornell - Artist.  Thank you for your support.  Here is something I did last fall that I think is one of my best.

I passed 15,000 likes on my artist page, Matthew W. Cornell - Artist
Thank you for your support. 
Here is something I did last fall that I think is one of my best.

*From Orlando artist Matthew Cornell's FB page.


The Case for Boredom

© Meagan Westerberg Henao and Henao Contemporary Center

I tagged along on one of Jose's recent business trips – a quick (think: less than 24 hours) jaunt down to Coral Springs to meet with an artist. While a little rushed, it was a delightful break from the, sometimes monotonous, routine of life with two small kids. After Jose finished his meeting and blessed with beautiful weather, we spent a few hours eating and drinking our way around Downtown Boca - an area that despite my time living in South Florida, I had not spent much time exploring. The day ended with a chance opportunity to view a collection of Andy Warhol's acclaimed work in person, at the Boca Museum of Art. The trip had far exceeded the, almost non-existent, expectations I had of it, and I found myself feeling full with gratitude as we headed home.  

Interestingly enough, what has stuck with me most about this experience was not the food, the great company of my husband, or gaining a new appreciation for Warhol's meticulous work, but was a comment that was made by the artist. Remember, meeting with an artist was the sole reason for this adventure. It's important also that I clarify that the artist we were meeting was not just any artist. We were meeting with Steven Assael. A man who, if you were to do a quick Google search of, would bring up statements like: "An American painter recognized nationally as one of the leading representational figurative artists of his generation" (Wikipedia). In addition to praises of his work: "…Assael's canvases radiate mastery and authenticity of purpose" (Huffington Post). To say that he is talented is an insult to his talent, and even more so he is incredibly easy to talk to and down to earth. 

We met for breakfast and  were able to chat a bit. I knew that he had started drawing before the age of 10, and was curious as to what motivated a boy of such a young age to pursue drawing. Steven shared with me that he was from a typical working class family, his mother a seamstress, and his father a merchant. He would go to work with his father, who had a fruit stand, and would watch the people as they made their way through the market. Quite simply, Steven was bored. So, he drew them. 

I am not sure what I was expecting him to say. I was just curious, mostly, yet I was surprised by his answer and its simplicity. He was a kid, who was bored, so he began drawing. I wondered if Steven had been at that fruit stand, now in 2016, would he have picked up the pencil? Would he have even noticed the people, let alone been intrigued enough by them to draw them? Would he, instead, have had his face buried in a movie, a game of Minecraft, or in some educational program on a tablet of sorts? We are so quick to squelch the boredom that might plague our children today, and of course, we all know what happens with idle hands. But, at what cost? 

Like most parents, I grapple with the pros and cons of screen time or the effects of media on our children's lives. We do the best we can to ensure our children live balanced lives. I am intrigued, however, by what our kids are capable of when we leave them with idle minds. I urge us not hear the statement "I am bored" as a problem for us as parents to fix, but as a possibility of what they can do in the face of their boredom. Next time we hear the phrase "I'm bored," I challenge us to bestow some Betty Draper Wisdom on our entertainment challenged offspring: "Only boring people are bored" – Betty Draper.


En Pointe

© Meagan Westerberg Henao and Henao Contemporary Center

Carriage, lines, extensions; Emanating from the long, lean, Principal Ballerina. She is the juxtaposition of soft fluidity and a chiseled frame, more sculpture than human. The monochromatic combination of her pale pink tights and matching pointe shoes creates an almost endless movement that is liable to take your breath away.  The experience of this effect is not an accident. The traditional pink tights and shoe pairing is, by design, intended to create the artistic appearance of a long, leg line; expressly the long leg line of a tall, thin, white female. 

Until recently, not only did dancers of color not see themselves represented on stage, but they did not even have options for proper costuming should they courageously pioneer the art form. When American Ballet Theater Principal Ballerina Misty Copeland, also notably the first African American Principal Ballerina, began dancing at age 13 she was blessed to train in a studio where her artistic director valued and understood the importance of this visual impact.  She honored the craft of ballet and empowered her dancers by dying tights and shoes for her dancers of color. She painted shades of Amber, Sienna, Sandalwood, Mahogany, and Espresso, lyrically and dynamically, across the stage - all the way to the American Ballet Theater. 

Misty's role is equally significant. At a remarkably petite, and muscular 5'2", and an authentic artist, she counters everything that ballet has been and brings it exactly where it's supposed to be; where the artistry stems from within while adding a new depth and complexity to a feast for the eyes. That is ballet.

- Meagan Westerberg Henao