Thomas Center Exhibit Explores Womanhood

EVE :: Woman from Archetype to Abstraction, featuring more than 35 works from a wide variety of local and regional artists, opens this week at the Thomas Center.

"Releasing Pink," by Amy Freeman
“Releasing Pink,” by Amy Freeman

In Amy Freeman’s large-scale painting titled “Releasing Pink,” more than a dozen flamingos have seemingly taken over the living room of an apartment.

Curator Anne E. Gilroy wipes down the frame of a painting.
Curator Anne E. Gilroy wipes down the frame of the painting “I Am No Bird,” by Brianna Angelakis.

A quilt pattern dominates the left side of the painting. On the right, a pregnant woman leans back against a wall and stares at the viewer, the exhausting task of imminent motherhood etched on her tired face.

“The woman is pregnant with a girl,” Freeman said. “The pink flamingos represent the weight of that child. The quilt pattern is taking over, creating this child.”

The captivating painting is one of 36 pieces that will be on display through Jan. 10, 2017, as part of the exhibit titled “EVE :: Woman from Archetype to Abstraction” in the Mezzanine Gallery at the Historic Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.

An opening reception for the exhibit takes place Friday night from 7-10 as part of Artwalk Gainesville. There will be open waltzing downstairs in the Spanish Court with the Gainesville Old-Time Dance Society and Thomas Royal at the piano. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited.

The exhibit spotlights 30 artists, including 11 from the Gainesville area. “EVE :: Woman from Archetype to Abstraction” includes paintings, sculpture, photography, mixed media, drawings, collage, mosaic, digital art and etchings.

Adam Germann prepares to install John Wards painting "Venus."
Adam Germann prepares to install John Ward’s painting “Venus” in the Mezzanine Gallery.

When envisioning the new exhibition, curator Anne E. Gilroy sought to make a universal statement about womanhood.

“What I thought it was going to be is much different from what it is,” she said. “Instead, I have all these artists’ perspectives on some tiny pieces of that idea. I can’t come close to describing the whole idea.”

The exhibition does show women as the artists’ Muse.

“I wanted all the pieces to fit together, like a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces are white,” Gilroy said.

Detail from "Nesting," by Amy Freeman
Detail from “Nesting,” by Amy Freeman

Freeman, a UF visiting assistant professor in Visual Art Studies, has two pieces on display. In addition to “Releasing Pink,” there is also “Nesting,” which shows a barefooted woman sitting in an armchair contemplating motherhood. Visible in her hair are three baby robins. The birds’ mother is perched on a fireplace mantel behind the woman.

“It’s all about the idea of waiting for the role of motherhood to come,” she said. “I use a lot of metaphors to represent events and people in her life.”

Freeman said she often uses a large canvas so that her paintings feel “stagelike” — a performance unfolding on a grand scale.

Freeman has lived in Gainesville for six years. Her work has been displayed regularly around town. Last year, her piece “Mother Dream” was part of the Harn Museum’s 50th-anniversary exhibit. She also had a solo exhibition when the old Doris space opened several years ago on North Main Street.

"Venus," by Art Werner
“Venus,” by Art Werner

“I’m very interested in the female role within the domestic space,” she said. “I’m also interested in the narrative — the history of family, ancestry and the role of the female. Each story is built upon each other and you learn from previous history.”

Other local artists in the show include Dan Stepp, Dessarae Bassil, John Ward, Melanie Peter, Nika Zakharov, John Moran, Brianna Angelakis, Ani Collier, George Ferreira, Christina Carfora and G.V. Kelley.

Gilroy said the exhibit, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year, is the result of ongoing “art safaris.”

“I don’t just go around town,” she said. “I search constantly on the Internet and regionally, going to art openings in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tampa. Plus, every artist knows others artists and they tip me off on things. I also rely on very generous collectors.”

The pieces of art I want are the ones that serve my story.”
— Anne E. Gilroy, curator

The result is an exhibition built around a theme rather than just a random display of work.

“As a curator, I am telling a story of some kind,” Gilroy said. “The pieces of art I want are the ones that serve my story. This is not a juried art contest; this is a curator telling a very subjective art story.”

"The Dress I Never Made," a painting by Susan Ober.
“The Dress I Never Made,” a self-portrait by Susan Ober.

She said that another goal as curator is to show work that artists can come and be inspired by.

“That’s why I reach farther out and deeper into collections,” Gilroy said. “We have the opportunity to show work you don’t see in many other places.”

The “Eve” exhibit will run concurrently with “Tree of Life,” a display of numerous wood sculptures by the late Jesse Aaron. The exhibit, which began in the spring, has been extended through December in the first-floor Main Gallery and will also be open during Artwalk.

“’Tree of Life’ has been one of our most popular and prestigious shows,” Gilroy said.

— Noel Leroux

The Thomas Center Galleries are located at 302 NE 6th Ave. in Gainesville. Gallery hours are weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays 1-4 p.m. Admission is free.

"Girl with Flowers #4," by Jeffrey Luque
Detail of “Girl with Flowers #4,” by Jeffrey Luque