Sculptures brighten Sarasota skyline

Monumental works of art reach to the sky and hold the ground in an outdoor exhibit that opens Sunday on Sarasota's bayfront.

Sarasota Season of Sculpture, with more than two dozen pieces, stretches along North Tamiami Trail with works by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists as well as noted local and regional artists. The exhibit, the fourth biennial event sponsored by Season of Sculpture, runs to May 26.

"It's quite an exciting time," said Brenda Terris, executive director of Sarasota Season of Sculpture.

In an interview last week, Terris awaited the arrival of "Dance," a sculpture made from 12 cars by American artist Dustin Shuler. The piece was installed just outside One Sarasota Tower at 2 N. Tamiami Trail.

Also scheduled to arrive was "Star Pointer" by John Henry, also an American artist. The work is 70 feet tall.

"That is three times the size of 'Unconditional Surrender,’ ” Terris said, referring to the controversial work by J. Seward Johnson Jr. depicting the famous "V-J Day Kiss in Times Square," a World War II-era photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

The 25-foot tall statue, which was placed in Times Square to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, was part of Season Three of Sarasota Season of Sculpture.

Passionate reaction to Johnson's "Unconditional Surrender" ranged from couples who identified with the figures and wanted their picture taken beneath the statue, to anti-war protesters who marked it with graffiti, to a citizens movement's objection to it for aesthetic reasons. "Unconditional Surrender" is currently on exhibit at the Port of San Diego until February 2008.

Terris hopes Season Four will provoke as an intense community discussion about public art.

"Whatever you think about a piece is fine," Terris said. "The point is we want you to feel passionate about your perspective on art. There is something for everyone in this exhibition."

Some artists are returning, such as Jorge Blanco, a Venezuelan-born sculptor who now lives in Sarasota. Christine Desiree, a Ringling College graduate and creator of "High Voltage" returns with a work entitled "Pulse." Gillian Christy, an artist from Iowa who has achieved prominence before her 30th birthday, exhibits "American Dream." Philip Jackson, an international artist who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II as Royal Sculptor for Windsor Great Park, has two pieces in the show, "Serenissima" and "Moon Struck."

For the first time, the Season of Sculpture has partnered with Ringling Museum of Art, and will exhibit one work off the bayfront on the Ringling property. "Louis Armstrong," a work by the late Niki De Saint Phalle created in 1999, is inside the gate at the entrance to the John M. McKay Visitor Pavilion.

"Louis Armstrong," approximately nine feet tall, depicts the famous musician in polyfoam, resin, steel, and even stained glass, mirrored glass, stones and gold lead.

"The materials are such that a higher level of surveillance would be prudent," said Stephen D. Borys, the Ulla Searing Curator of Collections at the Ringling, who helped coordinate the installation.

“ ‘Louis Armstrong' is adjacent to the Historic Asolo Theater, and it's an energetic piece," Borys said. "It will be the first thing you see."

Borys said the Ringling is "delighted" to collaborate with Season of Sculpture, which brings a lot of excitement to Sarasota.

"This show will be almost precedent setting, and we are delighted to partner with them," he said.

Another first for the Season of Sculpture are ATM-type map dispensing machines, one at the entrance to Marina Jack's and the other at the northern end of the exhibit. The machines, purchased with a grant from the Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation, will provide a free map of the exhibit in exchange for the visitor's zip code and number of people in the party. The machines will also be capable of taking donations via debit card or credit card.

A symposium on public art is held as part of Season Four of the Season of Sculpture, March 7-9. The panel includes E. John Bullard, Director, New Orleans Museum of Art; Valerie Fletcher, Senior Curator of Modern Sculpture and Painting, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Washington, D.C.; and Jeffrey Grove, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Admission to the symposium is free.

For more information about the symposium and the exhibit, log on to the Web site, www.sarasotaseasonofsculpture.org.

Roberta C. Nelson, staff writer, can be reached at 748-0411, ext 2121.

Artists represented in Season of Sculpture, Season Four

What: Sarasota Season of Sculpture, an outdoor exhibit of monumental sculpture by local, regional, national and international artists

When: Today through May 26. A public ribbon-cutting ceremony is 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Bayfront in downtown Sarasota

Admission: Free. Maps of the exhibit are available free from two automated kiosks at Marina Jack's entrance and the north end of the exhibit.