Holiday Artwalk Features DNA Gallery Reception

Nava Ottenberg and Eric Bushnell will be among the artists showcased tonight during Artwalk Gainesville. They will have an opening reception at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery. 

Fishbone sculpture, by Eric Bushnell, on display at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery.
Fishbone sculpture, by Eric Bushnell, on display at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery.

If not for Nava Ottenberg and Eric Bushnell, it’s quite likely that downtown Gainesville would be void of public artwork. Together, they were instrumental in the installation of 22 sculptures that grace the sidewalks and courtyard of Union Street Station and the Sun Center.

Horses II, by Nava Ottenberg
Horses II, by Nava Ottenberg

Tonight, Ottenberg and Bushnell will collaborate again — this time for an art exhibition of their own works. An opening reception will take place for their show at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery, 218 NW 2nd Ave.

Ottenberg will display 40 of her paintings, many of which were created during a three-month visit to Italy earlier this year. Bushnell, a metal fabricator, will display nine sculptures he fashioned out of steel, aluminum and other materials.

“The exhibit is my way of thanking these two wonderful artists for all they have done for beautifying our community,” said Gerard Bencen, a lawyer who opened the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery earlier this year.

The exhibit is one of the highlights of Artwalk Gainesville, which is taking place at 16 galleries and art spaces tonight around the downtown area. The self-guided tour combines visual art, live performances and other events.

This month’s Artwalk has a holiday theme. Many of the stops will offer complimentary refreshments. Some will provide live music. (For highlights of the holiday Artwalk, please scroll down.)

Nava Ottenberg
Nava Ottenberg

Ottenberg, owner of Persona Vintage Clothing in Union Street Station, said she is excited to present acrylic-on-canvas landscapes, city scapes, flowers animals and portraits from her extended trip to Italy. A couple of paintings depict Venice, but most were painted in Rome.

“It was a dream come true,” she said. “I would open the shutters in the morning and see red-tiled roofs and listen to the sounds of the city. In the afternoon, we’d explore the streets of Rome. I was in heaven.”

She said she was enchanted by all that she and her husband, Dave, experienced in the ancient city.

“Rome is a blank canvas,” she said. “The city’s colors were so inspiring to me. I was going crazy, in a good way.”

Venice, by Nava Ottenberg
Venice, by Nava Ottenberg

One of Ottenberg’s favorite paintings, titled “Anna’s Pears,” depicts four pears of different colors that a friend had purchased at a market. Ottenberg insisted on lining up the pears and painting them before they got eaten.

Born in Israel, Ottenberg graduated from the Art Academy and University of San Francisco. She has been painting and teaching art for the past 15 years and is a huge supporter of the Gainesville arts scene.

“Nava’s awesome!” Bencen said. “I’ve known her for quite a few years. She’s an energetic woman who is skilled with colors and capturing emotion.”

Meanwhile, Bushnell’s abstract metal sculptures are real eye openers, according to Bencen.

“Eric is a non-pretentious artist who is as good as anybody at what he does,” he said. “Everything that he does speaks to me.

Many of Bushnell’s pieces seen around town are credited to his pseudonym, Jasper North, which he no longer uses. Bushnell is adept at reshaping material to create novelty beyond merely intended function.

Gerard Bencen, owner of the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery, gets a helping hand at the piano. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)
Gerard Bencen, owner of the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery, gets a helping hand at the piano. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

“I’m always fascinated with creative people who make things new and are non-obvious,” Bencen said. “That is what Eric does.”

Bencen, who specializes in contract law and intellectual property, is an art enthusiast. The six rooms in his two-story office are filled with pieces from a number local artists. He also has a large collection of his own.

“I’m my own best customer,” he said. “At some point, I’ll do a show of just what I’ve collected.”

Bencen invites anyone who appreciates art to drop by the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery during Artwalk from 6:30-10 p.m. The festivities will begin with a ribbon cutting followed by wine and cheese as well as live music.

By next year, Bencen hopes to create the Artcast Cafe, which will offer coffee and tea, as well as beer and wine.

Several other events are scheduled for Artwalk, which takes place from 7-10 p.m., unless noted. Some of the highlights include:

GFAA Gallery (1314 S. Main St.): Opening reception for a special exhibit featuring award-winning GFAA artists Ande Lister, Miriam Novack and Alfred Phillips. The exhibit continues through Dec. 10. NOTE: Tonight’s reception begins at 6 p.m.

First Magnitude Brewing Co. (1220 SE Veitch St.): Hosting an array of artists and activities, including Painting with a Twist, Kelly Quinn, University Press of Florida Pop-up Bookstore, Larry Finkle Photography, Phyllis Hilenski, Jenna Horner, Sean McGee, Bobby Fox, Ashley Phelps, Outdoor Creations (Japa and Laks Magyer), Zorse Clothing, Joe Cruz Photography, Purple Star Clayations (Violeta Lizama), Briana Maldonado, Curtis Whitman, Daniel Vélez-Climent and Mary Newberry.

4MOST GALLERY (534 SW 4th Ave.): If you are looking for inexpensive, one-of-a-kind works of art by students and faculty of the UF School of Art and Art History, come by and check out this great exhibition.

Hippodrome Gallery (25 SE 2nd Place): Holiday Art Show features art and fine crafts created by Hippodrome actors, staff, designers and friends, including Sara Morsey, Mark Chambers, Bryan Mercer, Nichole Hamilton, Lauren Warhol Caldwell, Jessica Lennon, Jason Potak, Tristan Whitehill and Jessica Layne Hurov.

Maude’s Café (101 SE 2nd Place, Suite 101): “The naked light bulb” an artist installation by Amanda Gaye Smith and Rose Vestola.

Artisans’ Guild Gallery (201 SE 2nd Place, Suite 113): Special exhibit and reception honoring the ACORN Clinic, featuring member artist Diana Tonnessen’s “Florida Oaks (Quercus Floridiana)” collection of linoleum block prints depicting the leaves and acorns of Florida’s native oak trees.

Sweetwater Print Cooperative (117 S. Main St.): “Off the Wall” holiday show features works in the gallery from as little as $5 for artist-made cards up to $200 for works in various media.

Eleanor Blair Studio (113 S Main St.): A display of new paintings, fabulous crocheted hats and free coffee.

The Bull (18 SW 1st Ave.): Celino Dimitroff offers “The Power of the Flower.”

Hardback Café (211 W. University Ave.): Local writer and musician Matt Walker will have a signing party for his new book, “Gainesville Punk: History of Bands and Music.”

The Bank Bar & Lounge (22 W. University Ave.): A range of photos by Gainesville resident Mark Enting. The collection reflects his range of interests in travel, Old Florida and automobilia.

Florida Community Design Center and Downtown Murals Walking Tour (101 N. Main St.): Turbado Marabou will give free tours of the 352Walls murals. Also see the latest works of Anzhelika (Angelica) Arbatskaia.

The Vine (627 N. Main St.): The work of Rhonda Peyton, a printmaker, photographer, paper and book artist exploring a variety of subject matter and mediums.

— Noel Leroux

dscn3101For further info, visit the Artwalk Gainesville website.