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Art students eager to shed the confines of convention don't always understand that skewed perspectives and mutated forms work only after mastering traditional form. According to Florida Atlantic University art professors Walter Hnatysh and John McCoy, many of their colleagues not only encourage such thinking but actively promote it. In their joint exhibit "Walter Hnatysh and John McCoy: Spirits Kindred, Adventures in Academia," the professors display a contrasting reverence for form and creativity. While Hnatysh typically works as a painter, he has put down the canvas and taken to paper for a series of mostly black-and-white drawings. Created during a yearlong break from academia, the drawings show that Hnatysh's surrealist tendencies are grounded in the classical forms of the masters. His incredibly detailed compositions deal with fictional, aquatic subject matter, often depicting half-human sea creatures. Drawn with a near-mathematical precision, Hnatysh's works show his skills as a draftsman; everything is strategically placed in a chronology that moves the viewer from one logical point to another. Created with a similar sense of precision, McCoy's ceramic pots are an exercise in utility. There's not much pomp and sash here, but that's not the point. It's about process. The result is equal parts design and execution. After sculpting his pieces to finished form, McCoy lets the kiln give them surface decorations like the dripping, melted effect that adorns the sides of Porcelain Ice Cream Bowl or natural gradients like the red-to-bronze transitions in White Stoneware Bottle. Although Hnatysh and McCoy use different media and different styles, their calculated pragmatism is apparent. You can almost hear them telling their students, "Results, results, results!" (Through November 20 inside the Ritter Art Gallery at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 561-297-2966.) -- Jason Budjinski


"Diana, A Celebration" is even more lacking in actual art than last year's Vatican show at MoA. We get battered childhood toys, a few dozen of Diana's steppin'-out gowns, photographs of the Spencer family estate, a looped tape of Elton John singing "A Candle in the Wind," a very valuable-looking tiara (the impression of value reinforced by the presence of two edgy guards hovering next to it), and the Wedding Dress. Ah, the Dress. It's big, all right. There are 25 yards of silk taffeta in it, 100 yards of tulle crinoline, and 150 yards of veil netting, and it's mounted on a faceless mannequin in a 30-foot-long glass case; every inch of its 25-foot train is on full display. But somehow, it doesn't live up to the hype. Those blousy sleeves, the beaded bodice, the lacy collar, the little bows, the embroidered hem line -- they all add up to one clunker of a gown. This was before Diana discovered herself as a public figure, of course, and you're left with the impression that the royal matriarchs, Queen E. and the Queen Mum, had her tightly in their clutches. The dress must have been suffocating to wear. Pictures of Diana in it somehow bring back a long-forgotten impulse to rescue her -- to leap into that vast froth of fabric and drag her coughing and gasping back to shore -- and the show prompts a similar impulse. Can we drag the real Diana out of there? (Through December 31 at the Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500.)

"Colors of the Heart, Mind, and Soul" -- Pamela Larkin Caruso's minimalist oil paintings and idiosyncratic portraits prove that small differences in color, form, and composition can express vastly different emotions. Caruso's emphasis on subtlety is best exemplified in her "Hearts" series, in which each piece portrays similar subject matter from a close perspective, accentuating minute variations through the smallest details. The difference between the feelings exuded in her paintings Slight and Intuition lies mostly in Caruso's color choices. The light-brownish tint of the former, as if drained of its natural crimson red, offers far less emotion than the latter's mix of blue, white, and mauve. The figures in Caruso's portrait series, however, are as individual as a fingerprint, from the plaintive, middle-aged woman in Anchors Away to the tense, teeth-chattering subject in Chocolate Truffles. (Through November 19 at the Palm Beach Community College Eissey Campus, 3160 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-207-5015.)

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