October 23, 2017
Abstract art is made for emotion. It’s open and free, a democratic form made for the artist to interpret their feelings and for the viewer to interpret from there. It makes the viewer question what it represents, if anything at all. It’s a surprising art form, and sometimes the most surprising thing about it is where it’s located.
The Haskell Gallery, located in the Jacksonville International Airport pre-security, has been housing art for over 20 years. Its newest addition is Abstraction: Bold Beautiful, showcasing abstract works by three local artists. “This show is one of the most exciting public arts demonstrations I’ve ever made,” says Jen Jones Murray, Program Coordinator of the JIA Arts Commission. The exhibit gives Jacksonville residents pride for their city, and visitors a taste of what the Bold City is like aesthetically. It offers fearless works and daring colors. It challenges them to open their minds and think of Jacksonville in a new way. The exhibit features painter Rob Middleton, painter Cynthia Walburn and installation artist Stephanie Cafcules.
“I like to think there are elements of conflict and resolution in my paintings.”
Rob Middleton’s paintings are swaths of deep colors, zig-zagging lines and broad brush strokes. Viewers can try to follow them with their eyes, but will likely get lost when one meets a pool of a different color or a jagged line. They’ll wake up from a trance and fall into the next painting a few steps later. Middleton hopes that viewers will be inspired and challenged creatively, and that they will then find peace through his works. “I like to think there are elements of conflict and resolution in my paintings,” Middleton says. But that being said, he doesn’t want to mandate how people react to them. “I think it’s important to stress that people can interact with art on their own terms,” he says. “I’m trying to make pieces that are open and free, that you can see as much as you want in or nothing at all.” He added that the paintings may even be an antidote, for some, in the face of all the messaging we are constantly receiving.
The paintings may even be an antidote, for some, in the face of all the messaging we are constantly receiving.
Cynthia Walburn’s paintings are smooth and contemplative, resembling pools of water with light shining through. Walburn creates shadows that feel as though they could glimmer in the corner of your eye. She is constantly inspired by nature, and uses painting as a personal meditation. Born in Southern California and growing up in South Florida, Walburn has always lived near the water. She is inspired by the way light reflects off the water, how sunlight affects colors in the sky and the way the wind affects dunes on the beach. Walburn reflects nature in a subtle ways. She paints from a meditative and introspective place, in order to reflect the internal, not the external. “My hope for people looking at the work is that they’ll have their own interpretation and their own experience, and that I’m not dictating what they see,” Walburn says.
Stephanie Cafcules, Haskell Gallery,Jacksonville International Airport Arts Commission A Bold Beautiful Abstractions, Photo from Jen JonesStephanie Cafcules’ installations are mind-bending. In one, a layer of royal blue paint is draped across a table, resembling a glossy tablecloth that might pool into your shoes. Cafcules calls these her paint pours. She lets thick layers of paint dry and then works with it like fabric. Another resembles a glacier, jutting out from a wall. She is diverse and skilled. Her pieces are based on the psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia, in which the mind responds to unfamiliar stimulus by trying to find familiar patterns in it. “Like when you see animals in the clouds or faces on rock formations,” she explains. Cafcules’ only installs her work once she’s allowed to see the space she’ll be working in. At JIA, she’ll be installing one extensive piece. According to Murray, Cafcules will create an abstract wonderland, as it will be the corner of the L-shaped gallery. Cafcules knows she’ll be using wire mesh screen, but other than that doesn’t know what she’s going to create. A preview of her idea is bright blue, coiled, and ribbon-like. It’s a material not seen on her website, so the exhibit will be a completely new side of Cafcules. She hopes the exhibit will offer travelers a different perspective. “Maybe one of these pieces will open their minds a little bit more. Because I know non-representational and abstract is not necessarily for everybody,” she says. “But all of our pieces complement each other.”
Each artist is accomplished in the art world. Middleton has works in the private collection of Preston Haskell, for whom the gallery is named. Walburn recently completed a commission for Two Creeks Restaurant that encompasses an entire wall. Cafcules has been featured in countless galleries over the years, whether it be for her encompassing, instinctive installations or her mind-bending sculpture.