Friday, September 7, 2012

One Man's Trash ...

Trent Manning, Wire and String and Misc. Things
(What Little Girls Are Made Of)
, 2012

Trent Manning was that kid whose mom always caught him hiding under the covers drawing pictures when he was supposed to be asleep. She became a little worried when the pictures took a darker turn, and actually made him stop drawing for awhile before relenting so he could take an art class at Winter Haven High School. He was immediately hooked on art, but it took years before he realized his work was good enough to sell and support his family.

An artist involved in Ridge Art in Winter Haven persuaded him to show some of his paintings at an outdoor show in 2004. “I wasn’t what I considered to be a really good painter. I struggled with it. But about two years later, they had a ‘found object show,’ and I made a piece to participate and it really clicked. I knew I had found my niche. Now it’s about more than I can keep up with, which is a really fortunate problem to have.”

Today, Manning, 38, spends about 10 hours a day, six days a week in his studio – a former cooler that he was assigned because he likes to weld and it’s fireproof – at Winter Haven’s Arts Ensemble. He builds sculptures out of scrap metal, old tools, wire and just about anything else people will give him.

His commitment has paid off with several commissions and prestigious awards. His sculpture, King of the Mountain, won Best of Show at Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, and he won first place in sculpture at Beaux Arts in Coral Gables and a merit award at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. An exhibition of new work, titled Miscellaneous, opens Saturday (September 8) in the Murray and Ledger Galleries at Polk Museum of Art.

He sells pieces as fast as he can finish them, and so this show features all new work. He says he has been exploring “childlike” themes. “A lot of what I’m doing now is very inspired by my 3-year-old – toys, revisiting childhood games. I’m working on a tricycle pulling a train and a tug-of-war piece."

The pieces definitely have a bit of whimsy about them, but they also seem a bit dark. “There’s a nice balance of good and evil, though. It’s not all sugary clouds!” he insists. “I just sold a piece to a gallery that was kind of a Gulliver’s Travels piece. People read a lot into it – very political, very adult themes – but it was inspired by a children’s story.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Art Camp Fun

Gaining Perspective Behind the Scenes

Today's blog post is by our summer intern, Mary Quinn, who shares what she learned working "behind the scenes" at the Museum. 

Not many of us realize how hard it is to give someone a tour of anything, let alone an art museum. Do you know how many questions someone can ask? Of course, you can read the descriptions on the wall and watch the videos, but frankly, so can the people taking the tour. When I first started interning with the PR & Marketing Manager at the Polk Museum of Art, I greatly appreciated the tour she gave me. Having been there less than two years, she had extensive knowledge of the Museum’s permanent collections and why you should not touch or photograph art. It’s always interesting to gain inside information. I have been fortunate to have access to the Museum’s greatest resources for information -- its staff -- but I wasn’t fully prepared when my dad came to visit one day and asked me to take him on a tour of the Museum. How hard could it be, right?

 I gave him a tour of the Museum, and its exhibits at the time included Albert Paley’s exhibit Sketches & Steel. I tried to recall my first tour and all the information Sandy pumped out. In Gallery II, where all of the sculptures were white, I asked him to stand at a particular spot.

“Notice how as you look past each piece you can see the drawing just beyond it showing the same angle. When hanging this exhibit, they placed these pieces purposefully so you could see how much the sculptures look like the sketches.”

“Looks like the Beatles’ White Album,” he observed.

Of course it does, Dad.

Overall the experience was quite astounding, and I came away with a much greater appreciation for the time and energy it takes to understand an exhibit and a museum’s collections. I learned that I knew a lot more than I realized, although my tour obviously was far from perfect. However, I was able to share some of the knowledge that had been passed along to me. It felt good, if not nerve wracking, to realize how much I’d learned, and the next time I take a tour I’ll appreciate those extra tidbits of information that I might never know otherwise.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Invisible Elephant

(Everyone was thinking it.)
Polk Museum of Art is thrilled to present our newest exhibition, Invisible Elephant, beginning Saturday, July 7th. The show is based on an ancient Buddhist parable of a raja (or teacher) who presents an elephant to six blind men. Each man is given a different part of the animal to feel. The raja then asks them to describe the elephant. The man who touches the elephant's head says it feels like a giant pot. The man who feels the elephant's leg thinks it is like a pillar. The man who is given its ear thinks the elephant is like a fan or a woven basket. The remaining three men touch other parts of the elephant and have very different responses. The six men soon find themselves in a debate,which quickly escalates into a quarrel. As each man refuses to question his own understanding of the elephant, they begin fighting.

The message here is that different perspectives result in different interpretations, and that alternate opinions should not be immediately dismissed, but rather analyzed and discussed. The parable can be applied to many controversial topics, including politics, religion, and racial and cultural differences. Artists Kirk Ke Wang and Theo Wujcik use Invisible Elephant to explore how this principle relates to the relationship between the East and the West (or more specifically, China and the U.S.).

Kirk Ke Wang, a Chinese-American artist, describes himself as both lucky and unlucky to live in two worlds, Eastern and Western. Seeing from both sides has enabled him to find commonality between the cultures, but he has struggled to balance his own identity. His art is about searching for various lenses to capture his understanding of the world.

In this show, Ke Wang enters a dialogue with his former professor, Theo Wujcik, who has become fascinated by Chinese culture, particularly their jade culture, and how it can be associated with contemporary American society.

Theo Wujcik, Imperial Jade Quarter Pounder with Cheese, 2008, Acrylic on canvas, 56" x 56"

Nope, it's not a moldy cheeseburger. It's a jade cheeseburger. The above artwork is Theo Wujcik's Imperial Jade Quarter Pounder with Cheese, which will be included in the Invisible Elephant exhibition.

  • Why do you think Wujcik has associated jade with a cheeseburger?
  • What role does jade play in Chinese culture?
  • How do you think this painting relates to the theme of the exhibition?

Write me back. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

To see a video of our curator, Adam Justice, discussing Invisible Elephant, you can follow this link:


~ Loren from Curatorial

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The End of Traditional Photography?

For being such a young person (23), I have somehow managed to stay remarkably behind the times when it comes to technology. I, Loren Plunkett, do not own a smart phone, have no idea how to use Instagram, and honestly, couldn't even figure out how to get to the Internet on my roommate's Mac. Pathetic, I know.

My complete lack of technological prowess probably has something to do with my surprise at some statistics that my museum's director recently showed me:

Camera phones are dominating in the photography world and quickly replacing point-and-shoot cameras so much so that well-known companies like Kodak are filing for bankruptcy. As much as 3,500 photos are being uploaded to Facebook each second, and 300 million photos are added every day, as of March 2012.

  • What do you think this could mean for traditional photography? 
  • Is this just another trend that will level out with time or will camera phones replace point-and-shoot cameras entirely? 
  • Do you think this change in technology will affect fine art photography?

Write me back. I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

For more more statistics and colorful graphics, follow this link:

~Loren from Curatorial

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, PMoA!

The original building was an old church on Walnut.
Happy birthday to us! Today, Polk Museum of Art celebrates its 46th year. We’ve come a long way …

The Museum was officially incorporated as the Youth Museum of Imperial Polk County on June 21, 1966, and opened for business in a small church building at 115 Walnut Street on December 11, 1967.  At first, volunteers from the Junior Welfare League (now Junior League), Junior Woman’s Club of Lakeland, Junior Sorosis Club and Keyettes at Lakeland High “staffed” the Museum. The first director was hired in October 1968. 

In 1970, the Museum moved into a former Publix on
Palmetto Street at College Avenue.
The name was changed to Polk Public Museum at Lakeland: Science, History and Art, Inc. in 1968 and then shortened to Polk Public Museum. In 1970, the Museum moved into a former Publix Super Markets building on Palmetto Street. Eventually, the Board settled on a fine arts focus and on June 13, 1985, renamed the Museum for the last time:  Polk Museum of Art.

The Museum's current building opened in 1988.
The current building – a work of art in itself with soaring 16-foot ceilings and marble-tiled floors -- opened to the public in 1988. It was constructed for $5 million and opened debt-free.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

We're Bringing a Bit of the Smithsonian to You

So how do you feel about being part owner in a major cultural institution?

No, I’m not talking about Facebook’s recent IPO. I’m talking about the Smithsonian Institution. Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. It’s also about 65 percent federally funded, which means it’s ours.

The Smithsonian is the caretaker of America’s greatest treasures, from the Wright Brothers’ plane (National Air and Space Museum) to inaugural ball gowns worn by first ladies (National Museum of American History) to adorable baby red pandas (National Zoo) to artwork by beloved artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Winslow Homer (American Art Museum).

That’s why those of us at Polk Museum of Art are over the moon-rocks (National Air and Space Museum) about having the opportunity to bring a bit of the Smithsonian to Lakeland. In 2010, Polk Museum of Art became a Smithsonian Affiliate, which allows us to borrow artworks from the Smithsonian and to tap into its resources and training programs.

This fall, we’ll bring in our first Smithsonian show from the National Portrait Gallery, In Vibrant Color: Vintage Celebrity Portraits from the Harry Warnecke Studio. It is a collection of color photographs of celebrities who rose to fame at a time when color photography was in its infancy. The show was organized by the National Portrait Gallery, where it is now showing. The exhibition is on view at the National Portrait Gallery through September 9, then it’s coming to the Polk Museum of Art in October, so we’ll be the first museum to get this show outside of the Smithsonian. Pretty exciting stuff!

Meantime, if you get to Washington this summer, you should stop by your Smithsonian. (Visit to plan your trip.) And hey, since you’re a “shareholder,” admission is free.