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Imagining Florida - Renowned Artists Celebrate The Sunshine State

  • John Singer Sargent - Basin with Sailor
  • Doris Lee - Florida Vacation
  • Jules André Smith - Untitled
November 12, 2018
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The US state of Florida is a specific toponym on the northern continent; it surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and with the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Aside from being a place of exotic natural beauty, it is populated by a high percentage of different ethnicities and therefore is quite an exciting social and cultural melting pot.

In order to bring closer how important Florida was for artists of all generations, the Boca Raton Museum of Art is hosting an extensive exhibition under the title Imagining Florida: History and Myth in the Sunshine State and featuring more than two hundred works which were inspired by this peculiar land.

George de Forest Brush - Indian Hunting Cranes in Florida
George de Forest Brush – Indian Hunting Cranes in Florida, 1887. Oil on canvas, 21 x 26 inches. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, Am31:Br1..1, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold F. Wendel

The Exhibition Concept

The exhibition curators Jennifer Hardin and Gary Monroe aimed to explore the myths and realities of Florida. The decision to juxtapose the artworks made in Florida with the ones inspired by remembrances of the travelers visiting The States comes from the desire to build a certain tension required for the proper understanding of how those myths were and still are constructed.

A great number of America’s leading artists were impressed by Florida’s outstanding natural beauty and idyllic weather. The executive director of Boca Raton Museum of Art Irvin Lippman expressed that:

Imagining Florida digs deeper than previous Florida themed exhibitions. From pristine natural landscapes that have long ago disappeared, to its identity as a hyper-tourism destination. From wild frontier outposts to the mid-century Space-Age boom. From the deeply rooted Seminole and Miccosukee heritage of Florida to the historic African American communities, these imaginings come together like never before to create a powerful time capsule.

Left Gleason Waite Romer - Parrot Jungle Right Charles Rosner - Man with Jumping Dolphin
Left: Gleason Waite Romer – Parrot Jungle, n.d., hand-painted photograph, 14 x 11 inches. Private Collection / Right: Charles Rosner – Man with Jumping Dolphin, n.d., gouache on illustration board, 21 ¼ x 12 ¼ inches. Collection of Marineland Dolphin Adventure

The Selection on View

The audience will be faced with a specific time travel since the paintings, photographs, and drawings from the 18th to the mid-20th century, from naturalists to modernists will be on display such as John Singer Sargent, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frederic Remington, William Bartram, Frederick Frieseke, George de Forest Brush and many others.

One of the special features will be a cabinet of curiosities constructed of peculiar vernacular objects – alligator lamps, souvenir TV trays, and pink flamingos, all of them reflecting the local specificities transferred in memories.

Frederick Carl Frieseke - Hunting Alligators
Frederick Carl Frieseke – Hunting Alligators, Pink Sea, 1926. Oil on canvas, 25 7/8 x 32 ¼ inches. Collection of the Museum of Arts & Sciences Daytona Beach, Gift of Hyatt & Cici Brown. Photo: James Quine

Imagining Florida at Boca Raton Museum

This exhibition was three years in the making and along with a thorough historical insight it will undoubtedly tackle the issues Floridians are experiencing today, such as conserving the beaches and natural lands, and the impact of political whirlwinds sweeping the State.

It is important to underline that many of the selected artworks were rarely seen and some of them were never exhibited at a museum until now, and are from some of the leading museums and collections throughout the United States.

Imagining Florida: History and Myth in the Sunshine State will be on display at the Boca Raton Museum in Boca Raton, FL from 13 November 2018 until 24 March 2019.

Featured images: John Singer Sargent – Basin with Sailor, Villa Vizcaya, Miami, Florida, 1917, watercolor on paper, 13 ¾ x 20 inches. Collection of the Orlando Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Acquisition Trust 88.5. Image Collection of the Orlando Museum of Art; Doris Lee – Florida Vacation, c. 1944, gouache on paper, 13 ¾ x 19 inches. Collection of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida; Museum purchase, funds provided by the Caroline Julier and James G. Richardson Acquisition Fund; Jules André Smith – Untitled (Street Scene Eatonville), 1940, oil on Masonite, 29 ¼ x 35 ¾ inches. Collection of the Maitland Art Center © Maitland Art Center. All images courtesy the Boca Raton Museum of Art.