Mixed Without Match

Find a pretty something you can use at this Fort Lauderdale gallery

Scattered throughout the gallery -- on the walls, propped on the floor -- are more traditional fine-art works by Orlando-based artist Maria Reyes Jones, whose career got boosts when she won first place at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in 1998 and was commissioned to do the poster for the 2002 festival. Reyes works in acrylics, usually on paper, so some of her pieces have an almost metallic sheen.

Although she also paints animals, landscapes, and other subject matter, Reyes is probably best-known for her simple images of various kinds of palm trees, and all but one of the pieces at Harmony Isle are such "palm portraits." (The exception is a picture of a fat Anjou pear.) Reyes gets surprising mileage out of the quintessential South Florida tree by using subtle variations. Sometimes, she just varies the color of the background, from deep sky blues to sunset golds. Other times, she pictures the palms blowing in the wind. Some paintings are of solo palms, others of groupings.

The most dramatic departure from Harmony Isle's emphasis on craft art is a mixed-media piece by Gary Schlappal, with the generic title Tall Arch Form. It's a somewhat surreal combination of wood and ceramic; an iron-shaped wedge of blue ceramic is nestled in a hollow, rectangular space in the center of a large, oblong wooden box. The box has crude markings in black and brown over grayish blue; a small area that juts out to the right is painted white and covered with pale blue dots. The blue and white are a soothing contrast to the harshness of the rest of the box, and the blue picks up on the darker blue of the ceramic inset.

Gary Schlappal's Tall Arch Form has gravitas
Gary Schlappal's Tall Arch Form has gravitas

Schlappal's piece coexists a bit uneasily with the rest of Harmony Isle's inventory, but it also provides some gravity that's a welcome counterpoint to the gallery's lighter fare. Both Aaron and Monica Maxwell have mentioned to me that they occasionally host receptions highlighting the work of a single artist. I move that Schlappal be added to the list of nominees for a future reception.

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