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'Roadsides and Skylines' at Avalon Gallery is a kaleidoscopic look at hidden Floridas

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In this subtropical summer all of Florida is a dark, wet, green-tinged soup. But respite can be found inside the cool, dry Gallery at Avalon Island, downtown in the historic (and also green) Rogers Building, where the current exhibition Roadsides and Skylines teams up Jenn Allen, Derek Demeter, Crystal Floyd, Wayne Grant, Maureen Hudas, Spanky Hudas and DeVan Jimenez to explore aspects of Florida that don’t make it to the tourism posters.

SCULPTURE BY DEVAN JIMINEZ (PHOTO VIA GALLERY)
  • sculpture by DeVan Jiminez (photo via gallery)
Jiminez’s oak vessel sculptures at first look like stumps you might see after a developer has clear-cut a lot; look closer and they become ceramic art. Snapped-off branches writhe around the cleanly cut trunks, cracked at the top to suggest secrets concealed within. Odd creatures such as “World Tortoise,” a Florida box turtle with a bonsai tree growing from his carapace, suggest a uniquely Floridian coevolution.

These sculptures are set against Grant’s and Demeter’s dark landscapes. The landscape painting evolved in the 19th century, but night landscapes were rare, what with Victorians’ belief that night air was bad for you. Demeter captures the special essence of the Florida night, revealing the cosmic, starry sky that we could see if there were less light pollution.

Florida’s overlooked people and places are the subject matter of Maureen and Spanky Hudas. Spanky photographs abandoned cars, boats and buildings encircled by trees, carpeted by vines and otherwise transformed into something else entirely. In Hudas’ words, his quest is a “cognitive therapeutic outlet” from his day job as scenic painter, revealing eerie scenes no theme park would ever permit.

DETAIL OF "TOKENS OF AFFECTION," ASSEMBLAGE BY CRYSTAL FLOYD (PHOTO BY MATTHEW MOYER)
  • detail of "Tokens of Affection," assemblage by Crystal Floyd (photo by Matthew Moyer)
In the front of the gallery, Crystal Floyd’s “Tokens of Affection” shows a love of all things Florida, presenting various bones, insects, botanical prints and a mannequin arm inside a beautifully aged case as a kind of elegy. Nearby, her “Fuck! A Deer!” is a girl running from indifferent deer, cut from wood veneers. (She’s presumably freaked out by some forms of nature.) Floyd’s exquisite assemblages draw one into a parallel world of Florida, outside of shopping malls and theme parks.

Curator Patrick Greene has assembled a show rich with a palette of natural colors and vivid in highly personal expressions of a state that he loves. Guided by his expert eye, the viewer will come away with some of this love, off the main roads and into the paradise that Florida once was, and still is if one looks deeply enough into the mist.

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