Both exhibitions will be on view at The Mennello Museumfrom May 19 to June 18.
OUR ORLANDO presents the work of five rising local artists who have shaped the visual fabric of The City Beautiful through art — enriching nearly every surface of the physical city. Their individual methods range in form and technical experimentation from calligraphy and comic arts to murals and the digital arts. These are the voices and visual architects who create the landscape of our Orlando.
The artists of OUR ORLANDO are collectively tied together by their keen use of art as a tool to tiptoe the line between playful and serious subtexts — creating an inviting and often funny image with weighty meanings. They all successfully navigate living and working as artists in our community. Many apply their art toward evoking thoughtfulness, introspection, and even action on behalf of the viewer. All artists exhibiting in OUR ORLANDO identify as digital artists, multimedia artists, illustrators, muralists, and designers in contrast to the universal titles of artist or sculptor. Their non-traditional materials provide the opportunity for art to exist in our everyday world. Like Pop Artists before them, OUR ORLANDO artists force us to question the hazy, if at all present, line between commercial art and high art.
Katherine Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education and curator of OUR ORLANDO, first began working with the artists nearly a year ago in the creation of a widely-distributed Pulse coloring book for the Orlando United Assistance Center. The coloring book was brought to life in order to create a moment of respite for those seeking assistance after the Pulse tragedy. The coloring book work was each independently created in compassionate and financial support, having run print editions with proceeds donated to charities such as the One Orlando Fund, Equality Florida, The Center for Orlando’s LGBTQ + Latinx communities and first responders. The five OUR ORLANDO artists, along with three other local artists, generously donated their art for the production the Pulse coloring book, which soon thereafter evolved into a partnership with The City of Orlando in creating a fence mural that currently wraps around Pulse Nightclub.
In the exhibition’s premiere year, OUR ORLANDO features new and never before exhibited works from Katrina Constantine, Hillery Powers, Chris Tobar Rodriguez, Andrew Spear and Rhett Withey.
Katrina Constantine is a comic artist and illustrator from Orlando, Florida. Specializing in digital art, Constantine began teaching herself to illustrate digitally in 2001 and launched her own blog, Kicking Cones, in 2010. She turned her artwork and blog following into a full-time career. Inspired by Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and Sam Brown (Explodingdog), Constantine constructs witty and touching illustrations infused with meaning in short comics featuring her dogs, famous penguins and a cast of light-hearted, personified flora and fauna. Constantine animates portraits of her canine subjects, placing them in detailed, atmospheric landscapes. She pushes and evolves her methods, moving beyond outlined and flattened color fields of streamlined, easy-to-read images into dense textural digital layers of shiny, clean dog fur and playful grass. Her goal is to enable the viewer to see and connect with another side of a misunderstood dog breed by depicting her pit bull mixes in heartwarming scenes. These honest and comical portraits are true to her own loyal and loving dogs’ daily larks.
Hillery Powers is a designer and hand lettering artist originally from Hammond, Indiana. She studied Art History abroad in Italy while pursuing dual Studio Art and Advertising degrees from the University of Central Florida. She began her career in New York City and Big Sur, California, as an artist travelling across country discovering a passion to cultivate local arts communities, which she now applies to her home in Orlando. Co-founding Local Love Orlando and working with Macbeth Studio, Powers facilitated the creation of Local Love Nights to raise funds and awareness for small local organizations, like Zebra Coalition and Deux Mains Designs. Her art begins as a simple photo booth backdrop – large scale, lively, internet-ready and open for modern portraits. The concept; however, goes deeper into the idea of shared images in our social world, and is about the power of disseminating accessible and sharable information. For Powers, her creative works are a way to inspire action to stand up for, and aid, the marginalized in our community.
Chris Tobar Rodriguez is a multimedia artist and graphic designer born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Tobar began his career as one of the youngest in his class at the Art Institute in Chicago before moving to Orlando to pursue a recording arts degree at Full Sail University. While in Orlando, Tobar discovered an admiration for the design of typography, color, and expression and completed his degree in Digital Art and Design. Tobar is a co-founder of the Orlando street artist collective B-Side Artists and his work has been shown nationwide. Combining photography, illustration, typography and pulsating colors, Tobar creates a symbolic language representative of personal and, sometimes, isolating, experiences. Inspired by notions on how the mind communicates with the soul, hints of color pull the viewer up and away from dark; an underlying but ever-present contrast. For the artist, each object portrayed represents a universal metaphor surrounding life — a weightless wish guiding one’s desire in the form of a feather on the back of an arrow, which either misses or pierces the chosen mark. The symbols Tobar uses describe a journey of becoming oneself through these actions of hope and aim.
Andrew Spear is a mural artist and illustrator born on the South Shore of Boston in 1973. He attended the Art Institute of Boston and The Ringling School of Art and Design before heading to New York City where he developed his notable graphic techniques in fine art and set design before settling in Orlando. Earning a popular reputation for murals around town of thin lined sheet-music meets pop-culture figures and scenes, Spear’s careful lines meld organic and geometric areas of highlight and shade that teem with energy, excitement, and vibrancy. Harnessing the stroke of a pen into a signature style is not the end, and Spear’s resolve to unceasingly generate new and exciting work has led to a commitment to harness and elevate materials not often exhibited in the art world by pursuing a medium and new subject matter through colored pencils.
Rhett Withey is a design artist who was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. He serves as a board member of The American Institute of Graphic Arts Orlando Chapter and is a lead designer for BIGEYE advertising. Withey explores and illustrates the monsters and characters of our collective imaginations in humorous scenarios around Orlando, citing familiar landmarks and locales. Employing black graphic lines and large areas of color, Withey’s goal is to make the viewer smile, and even laugh. His stories marvel with admiration around the places and spaces we inhabit every day — from the depths of Lake Eola where we paddle innocently on the surface to the dumpsters on Church Street after our nights out on the town. Beneath the humor, there is wit. Even the strongest willed can feel the uneasiness of the world and may dream up terrors when surrounded by nothing but the deep, dark, and empty landscapes of the mind. The dark; however, swiftly rebounds when the monsters of our mind are revealed, pulled from the shadows and manifested.
AMERICAN YOUTH: OUR IDENTITY
Supporting and fostering the creativity of Orlando’s talented teen artists, AMERICAN YOUTH: OUR IDENTITY aspires to empower rising high school artists throughout Orlando, providing a space for engagement and conversations about their art. A common thread among the artists of OUR ORLANDO is the important role their high school educators played in their lives — pushing them to pursue their dreams in the arts. The local community was asked to submit artwork of all media based on the theme of identity — an array of overlapping or distinct qualities one uses to recognize self, a person, or group.
Katherine Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education and curator, states: “I am elated to highlight the work of these five talented artists who contribute to Orlando’s bourgeoning arts culture. In the city, we are fortunate to see their art every day on the walls of our favorite restaurants and shops, in our galleries, and even on our shirts. Their work is so deeply rooted in our daily lives that it is essential to take a closer look and to consider their gifts with fresh context. Each artist has created new and never before seen pieces for this show.” She continues “I observed this wonderful craving from the artists to devote their time surpassing previous technical boundaries and unexplored concepts they had not been able to pursue until this point, to demonstrate their greatest works yet.”
OUR ORLANDO and AMERICAN YOUTH: OUR IDENTITY are curated by Katherine Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education and is organized by The Mennello Museum of American Art.
Please join The Mennello Museum of American Art in celebration of the opening of OUR ORLANDO and AMERICAN YOUTH: OUR IDENTITY.
The City of Orlando, Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, The Mennello Museum Board of Trustees together with Executive Director, Shannon Fitzgerald, invite you for an evening celebrating the work of the incredibly talented artists in our community.
Preview & Opening Reception
Friday, May 19
Public Opening Reception
Free for members | $5 for visitors
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.