The Boca Raton Museum of Art is home to Florida's oldest-running annual juried competition. This year, the 63rd-annual "All Florida Juried Exhibition" attracted nearly 630 artists from across the state who submitted 1,600 works that juror Trong Gia Nguyen had to sift through.
Winnowing down the entries to a manageable number is almost the opposite of acting as a curator, Nguyen says. "If I'm curating a show, I already have an idea of which artists I want to show, but as a juror, I'm stepping into the process and then having to select artists," says the Orlando-born, Brooklyn-based independent curator, artist, and writer.
Eventually, though, Nguyen — who has worked as senior editor at the contemporary magazine Artslant and has snagged media attention in the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine for his shows — whittled down the selections to around 80 pieces from 53 entrants. That collection is what will be on view starting Saturday, August 9.
A number of artists from South Florida made the cut, including Diane Hanson, Sarah Henderson, Clara Varas, Byron Keith Byrd, Mariusz Navratil, Lynelle Forrest, Nolan Haan, Henning Haupt, and Tara Penick.
Penick, of Fort Lauderdale, entered a photography portrait from her series "Saudade" that concerns nostalgia and a longing for the past. She stays away from using digital and doesn't manipulate her photographs, taking a traditional approach by using actual film. Her late and beloved grandmother, who raised the young brunet of Brazilian descent, inspired the series.
"What I do in my photographs is document my family, friends, gatherings, and their surroundings as a way to acknowledge their fragility," she says.
In Penick's 11-by-11-inch photograph Alex in Her Apartment, the young, short-haired subject is captured in a stunning and deeply sentimental state amid her new domestic life in her first apartment away from family.
Lake Worth resident Forrest took black, discarded, plastic objects and toys and turned them into a striking sculpture that appears to move in a joyous yet chaotic piece titled God Could Not Be Everywhere. The four-by-four-foot sculpture, which can be mounted on a wall, is reflective of Lynelle's struggle with Asperger syndrome.
The most controversial piece, perhaps, is by Miami Beach artist Byron Keith Byrd, who took a pile of feces and made it golden. In Holy Shit, Byrd irreverently challenges organized religion in a way that's off-putting yet beautiful. He sculpted the pile of poo with ceramic and adhered gold leaf to it. It sits atop an ecclesiastical pillow.
"My goal is not to offend people of any given religion but to share a whimsical view and ask that these personal convictions not to be taken so seriously," Byrd says. "Several people have asked why I chose to treat the porcelain sculpture with gold leaf. For starters, it would hardly appear as 'holy' were it to be presented in a more 'natural' tone. Also, gold is referenced throughout history as a most desirable commodity; the promise of streets of gold in heaven comes to mind.
"While most religious institutions offer a glaring display of gilded objects and artifacts, many of the Earth's inhabitants go without food and/or shelter."
The artist admits hypocrisy disturbs him, and he has made a living making art that addresses the issue.
"While certain scriptures are used to suggest marriage inequality, slavery, or perhaps improper treatment of women," he says, "other scriptures go unnoticed in order to allow the consumption of select seafood [Leviticus 11:12] or the wearing of a given fabric blend [Deuteronomy 22:11]. Heaven forbid I want to have a shrimp cocktail in my new wool and linen slacks!"