Mara Art Gallery Highlights Women Artists with Summer Show

Arts & Culture

Pictured: "Scape" by Mara Torres. Photo by Rick Benitez.

When Mara Torres opened her studio/gallery in the Rosemary District last August, she knew it would be a tough year. But she also knew exactly why she wanted to. “To bring in other artists,” she says. “To collaborate. To build.” And through the months of the pandemic, Mara Art Studio & Gallery weathered on, hosting shows and myriad classes taught by its namesake. Now, almost one year later, Torres celebrates the spirit of community and perseverance with an exhibition titled Womxn Together For Art, currently on display.

Showcasing the work of nine local artists—all women—the pieces on display reflect a curated diversity of style and medium. Eschewing the minimalist aesthetic so in vogue for modern exhibition, paintings and photos and sculptures are splashed across every wall and on every surface—and stepping through the front door of the gallery feels something akin to entering an artist wonderland. High and low, this way and that, a flash of color or alluring shape draws the eye.

Paintings by Jana Millstone pair with porcelain from Joan Libby Hawk for a stark and sophisticated opening salvo. Torres’ large-scale abstract works, frenetic and complex, hang alongside the quiet beauty of ships in the night, captured by Lisa DiFranza’s painterly hand. Dramatic photography from Ringling College student Mikenna Bowers shares space with energetic and illustrative still life work by Judy Robertson and an abstract diptych from Grace Howl, made with “Acrylic, Enamel, Mixed Media & Love.” Debra Kealkahn’s oil painting tribute to “Peter’s Old Blue 1955 Ford” injects a dose of realism into the show and mixed media work by Midge Johnson rounds out the line-up.

Each participating artist was invited by Torres herself—“I knew who I wanted,” she says—and it’s a hands-on approach that translates quite literally to her artist’s process. When faced with an empty canvas, Torres does not begin with an image, an emotion or even a brush, but with her hands. “I just start feeling the canvas,” she says. Dipping her hands in white or light blue paint, she explores it further, finding her way anew each time until she’s ready to attack the project in a frenzy, using everything from paints and pastels to charcoal and markers, stencils and spraycans to palette knives and toothbrushes.

On a certain level, it’s akin to the exploration that Torres hopes gallery-goers can engage in when visiting Womxn Together For Art, to give themselves to the work and see what comes. 

Currently on display, Womxn Together For Art runs through September 24 at Mara Art Studio & Gallery. Summer hours are announced weekly or by appointment.

Pictured: "Scape" by Mara Torres. Photo by Rick Benitez.

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