BY ALI BERGER
The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood hosted a packed house on September 14th for its 2018 Florida Biennial grand opening and reception. This uniquely curated event is held every other year at the charmingly quaint culture center in downtown Hollywood, Florida and features a winning Juror’s pick accompanied by a winning honorable mention. This year, highly esteemed curator, Laura Marsh-accompanied by Juror Sarah Fritchey- hand-selected 68 works by 30 artists. This list was dwindled down from the original 280 plus Florida-based applicants. Communication director, Leo Sarmiento related to me, “We are very fortunate to have Laura Marsh (curator) and Sarah Fritchey (Juror) this year. They come highly qualified and work tirelessly to hand select the winners. The neat thing is that it’s all subjective, depending on their individual tastes and how the pieces fit into the thematic significance of the biennial.”
Leo has served for years as a passionate champion for the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, and was visibly delighted at the sight of the robust turnout.
As the reception began at 6 pm, the two award-winning artists stood beside Laura Marsh and Sarah Fritchey, waiting in anticipation. The buzzing crowd was energetically walking around, looking at the various pieces on display by local artists. In the main gallery, on the opposite wall is the video montage of Edison Penafiel, the Juror’s pick for this year.
Edison Penafiel’s piece is captivating, overwhelming, and stirs powerful emotion in the viewer due to the continuous motion of his subjects. Various digital scenes are displayed on separate screens that speak to a layered identity, a confusion resulting from trauma and/or displacement. Being trapped, or stuck in a mindset that is imposed by a strict government or brainwashing, coupled with the insanity that can result from a lack of strong individual cultural identity – these are the feelings Penafiel’s winning piece struck in me. I was very drawn to the black and white, the mixed gray that was seldom seen, but was there, represented in contrast. A symbolic representation of cultural identity, which results not from black and white, but the in-between liminality of mixed cultural heritage – was another aspect strongly represented.
Curator Laura Marsh – confirmed in a conversation I had with her – that an underlying theme of layered identity disrupted by political dysfunction was a major player in choosing this year’s picks. Two other prominent themes in this year’s biennial deal with our current fragile ecology in Florida, and our need for constant political questioning with respect to modern opposing chasms in the socio-political arena.
Artist and fine arts professor, Lisa Rockford, received the honorable mention for her piece,The Bride Laid Bare which speaks strongly to these modern-day tropes. Her work has helped steer the conversation towards vulnerability experienced in today’s America. In a related article, she mentioned how the placement of two halves of the whitewashed American flag pairs poignantly with the expression, “Don’t tread on me.” The fragility of American values represented in her controversial piece is indeed a bold reflection of the space we hold in a subjectively twisted society.
As the need for cultural expression intensifies, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is a doing a great job answering the call. Leo Sarmiento excitedly informed me on the healthy community involvement with respect to the summer arts programs and other family-based arts programs unique to the center. Leo’s passion and community involvement shine through in how much the center has blossomed over the years. The heartfelt, familial involvement have stirred the burgeoning participation and continue to attract families from all backgrounds to the center.
The 2018 Florida Biennial will be on display until October 21. Don’t miss your chance to experience an exceptionally curated event, open to the public and sure to inspire.
Ali Berger is a staff writer and local arts journalist by night, and creative storyteller/copywriter by day. Follow her on twitter @laquadivine or instagram @alibchi