The State of the Medium at ArtCenter Manatee



In keeping with the season, experts predict flooding at ArtCenter Manatee this Friday, as the halls and galleries fill to the brim with watercolors from across the state, marking the opening of the Florida Watercolor Society 47th Annual Exhibition. Taking over all three galleries inside ArtCenter Manatee, 100 watercolor paintings will be on display, culled as the cream of the crop out of more than 600 submissions from Florida watercolorists. Juried by award-winning architect and watercolor artist Thomas Schaller, ArtCenter Manatee is one of only three stops for this annual traveling exhibition.

On display from September 7 through October 26, the exhibition offers a wide-angle look at the state of the medium, beyond the perspective or peccadilloes of one particular artist and into a broader assessment of the possibility. And the state of the medium is strong says Schaller, if this exhibition is an indication. (Hint: it is.) “It’s a show that everyone in the society should be proud of,” he says, “because it represents some of the best of the best, and, to a degree, where watercolor is, where it has been and where it might be going.”

And while each artist showing in the exhibition merits attention on their own, it's the combined effect of all that makes the FWS Annual Exhibition its own particular experience. Abstract abuts figurative, portraits hang next to landscapes, some artists pour and others work with watercolors so dry they challenge the definition—but when the only unifying aspect is the medium itself, it’s the medium that shines. This is something Schaller appreciates. “If I had a mission as a watercolor artist,” he says, “it would be that I want watercolor to be seen as the equal in terms of value. I feel passionately that watercolor is equal to any medium.” And examining the submissions for this year’s exhibition, he feels vindicated. “These are works that could stand shoulder to shoulder with any painting anywhere,” he says.

Not that this made his job any easier. “It was brutal,” says Schaller. “I knew I was in for it when I agreed, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how difficult it would be.” Still, the end result made it all worthwhile. "This show, for me, probably displays better than most any show I've seen recently," he says.

The Florida Watercolor Society 47th Annual Exhibition opens at ArtCenter Manatee this Friday, September 7 and runs through October 26. An opening reception will be held September 28, from 5:50pm to 7:30pm. At the end of October, the show travels on to the Elliott Museum in Stuart and then to Winter Garden.

Pictured: "High Above" by Lynn Ferris.

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