Wednesday, April 22, 2015

An Evening at St. Pete's Museum of Fine Arts

Last week, I dragged my sweet (but not very arty) husband downtown to check out the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete. Browsing the galleries was an item on my winter/spring bucket list and every Thursday the museum offers discounted evening admission: $5 after 5 p.m. Win-win! Two of the current exhibitions were of particular interest to me: "Monet to Matisse: On the French Coast" and "Life's a Beach: Photographs by Martin Parr." Though they both share a coastal theme, these shows are very different in tone, style and medium. And yet, the museum stacks them on top of each other, so to speak. Whether you like it or not, you have to go through "Monet to Matisse" to get to "Life's a Beach." Not that I minded, but I did think it an odd choice. Nevertheless, G and I enjoyed both galleries. 

Walking through "Monet to Matisse," we and our fellow museum patrons were quiet, respectful, reflective. The works on display are imbued with a feeling of serene calm, and were painted by some of the greats: Claude Monet and Henri Matisse, of course, as well as Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The exhibition explores and compares, for the first time, Impressionist and Modernist visions of the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of France. Some of the works are detailed and realistic, while others are foggy memories and quick first impressions of a time and place. Unsurprisingly, my favorite piece was one by Monet, of a cottage set on a cliff. I adore the dappled pastel colors and the way the sea seems to be shimmering in the distance.

My favorite artistic medium is photography, so I was excited to see "Life's a Beach," especially based on the photo used to market the exhibition (above). But that didn't fully reveal the strange, humorous and fantastic images British photog Martin Parr captured with his lens. The mood of the show was a total surprise to meattendees were openly laughing and making fun of the scenes and subjects depicted—and while it was not at all what I expected, it was a delightful little journey just the same, showcasing beachgoers across the globe, in their complete unfettered and often unflattering glory. The colorful photographs, literally and figuratively, proved Parr's words true: You can learn a lot about a country by looking at its beaches: across cultures, the beach is that rare public space in which all absurdities and quirky national behaviors can be found.”

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take photos inside the temporary exhibitions but I could snap away inside the museum's permanent collection. We didn't have much time to explore those galleries, as we had an impromptu birthday dinner to attend, but we ran through a few rooms of what I would describe as modern and contemporary art—which is right up my alley. If you're an art lover like me, you can check out some of my favorite pieces, after the jump...

[ Sea of Grass—Sunset (1982), by Jimmy Ernst ]

[ Attala (1958), by Fredric Karoly ]

[ Canto II (1997), by Theo Wujcik ]

[ Dancing on the Street Pave in Gold (1996), by Mary L. Proctor ]

[ Right: Cafè Madrid (Mr. and Mrs. Chester Dale) (1926), by Guy Pène du Bois ]

[ Cityscape with Sun (1927), by Squire J. Vickers ]

[ White Abstraction (Madison Avenue) (1926), Georgia O'Keeffe ]

[ Village GirlLily Cow (1915), by Robert Henri ]

[ Window #14 (1981), by William Pachner ] 

[ Landscape 39 (1974), by William Pachner ]

[ View of My Homeland (1979), by William Pachner ]

[ View of My Birthplace (1958), by William Pachner ]

Thanks for looking and reading! Hope you enjoyed this mini tour of the MFA.

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