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Collaborative ‘Skyway’ exhibition opens today at MFA

Bill DeYoung

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Curator of Contemporary Art Katherine Pill at a recent preview of "Skyway 20/21" at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg. The work: Gabriel Ramos, b. 1987, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. "Mi isla," 2021. Painted PETG plastic, magnets and stainless steel standoff pins. MFA photo.

Using the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as a metaphor for connectivity, the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg is one-quarter of a partnership that has curated, and is exhibiting, works by 49 artists and art collectives from Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties – each of those with a close and direct link to that magnificent, estuary-spanning edifice.

In 1954, when the Skyway first opened, this counties-coming-together was trumpeted as “Hands Across the Bay.” This alliance is the artistic extension of that golden-oldie phrase.

Dolores Coe, American, b. 1949, “Perimeter,” 2019, oil on canvas. Photo courtesy Pat Blocher.

Skyway 20/21, as the exhibition is called, is a collection of contemporary works that will be presented between the four participating museums – the MFA (opening today and running through Aug. 22); Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art (June 20-Sept. 26); Tampa Museum of Art (June 3-Oct. 10: and USF Contemporary Art Museum (June 14-Sept. 1).

Following an open call for submissions, the artists were selected by the museum curators and guest juror Claire Tancons, an independent curator and scholar whose practice takes a global focus on the conditions of cultural production.

The Skyway 20/21 exhibition is happening concurrently, but with all different artists and different artwork at each venue.

In St. Petersburg, the featured artists are Robert Aiosa, Dolores Coe, Keith Crowley, Becky Flanders, Dakota Gearhart, Bassmi Ibrahim, Morgan Janssen, Ezra Johnson, Karl Kelly, Savannah Magnolia, Jon Notwick, Lynne Railsback, Gabriel Ramos, Matthew Wicks and Janelle Young.

Savannah Magnolia, American, b. 1996, “Chemical Inhalation,” 2019-2021, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy Savannah Magnolia.

Works by these 15 artists, in various media, were chosen to address Florida’s natural environment, from stunning beauty to imminent threats.

“Some of the artists celebrate and honor the natural world, such as Lynne Railsback’s watercolors of highly realistic native plant life, or Karl Kelly’s abstract response to the Floridian landscape,” said MFA Curator of Contemporary Art Katherine Pill.

“Others take an investigative approach, as seen with photographer Jon Notwick, who sheds light on the military test sites that sit below our parks and forested areas, and sculptor Robert Aiosa, whose site-specific work looks at the social, economic and environmental impacts of our built environments, and the histories that live beneath.”

The exhibition opens today. Details here.

Dakota Gearhart, American, b. 1983, “Life Touching Life (Episode)” (video still), HD 4K video, 10:45 minutes. Photo courtesy Dakota Gearhart.

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